It’s Not Government Policy to Obstruct Mandate of Peacekeeping Mission, nor Hinder Aid Delivery, Says Permanent Representative
Despite initial progress, implementation of the peace accord in South Sudan had been disrupted, the senior United Nations official in that country told the Security Council today, as he urged members to speak in one voice in persuading all parties to lay down their arms and return to negotiations.
Urging the members also to help address the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis as he briefed the 15-member Council, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said the world’s youngest country was beset by economic and humanitarian challenges. Some 7.6 million people needed aid, and so far, only 66 per cent of the funding requested had been received.
Mr. Shearer said the number of people displaced had risen to nearly 4 million during the first half of 2017. Of those, 2 million had fled to neighbouring Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, combatants were increasingly targeting civilians and aid convoys, he pointed out, urging the Government of South Sudan to do more to promote a positive attitude towards humanitarian efforts and remove bureaucratic impediments like additional taxes and fees on humanitarian organizations.
While local conflicts flared — their impact magnified by the proliferation of automatic weapons — security threats were more likely to come from civil unrest sparked by potential economic collapse, he continued. The economic crisis was further fuelling public frustration and undermining the Government’s capacity to deliver services to its people. Civil servants, in many cases, had not been paid for months.
For its part, UNMISS would soon open a permanent presence in parts of the country to deter violence and human rights abuses. “But, ultimately, it most critically depends on how the Government and opposition forces behave,” he added. The Mission was working with its humanitarian partners to align efforts better to focus on protecting civilians. With the space for compromise over the 2015 peace agreement narrow, the central conflict-resolution strategy must be political mediation via the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) high-level revitalization forum.
Festus Mogae, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, briefing the Council via videoconference from Juba, said his Commission remained focused on its mandate to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement and was committed to supporting IGAD in its upcoming revitalization forum.
He said that the forum constituted the best path to restore peace and rebuild governance in South Sudan, while national dialogue could play a complimentary role. The Commission’s working committees had conducted a full evaluation of the status of the implementation of the peace agreement and prepared a report that was under consideration. The document was scheduled to be finalized in October and presented to IGAD to form the starting point for discussions as part of the revitalization process.
Many Council members expressed concern that the window of opportunity to implement the peace agreement was slipping away. Urging that all sides to the conflict end the violence and return to talks, they also stressed the need to alleviate the suffering of South Sudan’s people and hold human rights violators and spoilers of peace to account.
The representative of the United States warned that the promise of hard-won independence was slipping away. “Each month, we have watched the situation in South Sudan become worse,” she stressed, expressing disappointment that the Council had failed to stem the flow of weapons into the country. For its part, the United States would not wait to act.
The Russian Federation said it was unfair to pin all blame for the crisis on the Government, emphasizing that the ceasefire could not be implemented without reciprocal measures by the opposition parties. He added that the implementation of an arms embargo would not alleviate the crisis, but, rather, further compound the situation. In its recent visit to the region, the Council had heard first hand that regional players were weary of stepping up sanctions pressure, he recalled.
The representative of China said that all parties to the conflict must return to the political track and demonstrate enhanced coordination aimed at a political settlement. Regional actors must seize the opportunity to become more involved in the mediation process, although full respect must be given to the leadership role of the Government in dealing with its country’s internal affairs.
Responding to the speakers, the representative of South Sudan said that his country had recently conducted a series of meetings on the situation there. His Government now intended to analyse and review the messages it had received including from the African Union Peace and Security Council ministerial communiqué issued on 20 September. It hoped to come out with more policies that would enhance cooperation and improve communications between the Government and UNMISS.
He also added that it was not his Government’s policy to obstruct the mandate of UNMISS, nor hinder humanitarian access. There remained difficult circumstances and challenges to the Mission’s operations, but there were also signs of improvement and some progress.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Japan, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, France and Bolivia.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.
DAVID SHEARER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said that the situation in the country, which approached the end of its rainy season, was beset by social, economic and humanitarian challenges. The Government of South Sudan appeared to be emboldened by its recent military gains, including in some key strongholds of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) loyal to Riek Machar. Deep mistrust of military forces, exacerbated by human rights abuses, fuelled their flight into neighbouring countries. Across the country, the opposition remained deeply fractured and had suffered significant military setbacks in recent months. The economic crisis was further fuelling public frustration and undermined the Government’s capacity to deliver services to its people, he continued. Civil servants, in many cases, had not been paid for over four months. Localized conflicts continued to flare, their impact magnified by automatic weapons. Noting the growing discussion around moving swiftly to elections, he stressed that such a ballot must be inclusive and credible.
The United Nations had estimated that some 7.6 million people in South Sudan needed aid, he said, adding that so far only 66 per cent of the funding needed had been received. Meanwhile, the number of people displaced had risen to nearly 4 million during the first half of 2017. Of those, 2 million had fled to neighbouring Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, the splintering of opposition forces had had a negative consequence for humanitarian efforts, with combatants increasingly targeting civilians and aid convoys. Urging the Government to take a more positive attitude towards humanitarian partners, he said that removing bureaucratic impediments including additional taxes and fees on humanitarian organization was critical.
For its part, UNMISS was taking a robust, nimble and proactive approach, he continued, adding: “We are far from the conditions for safe return in most areas.” The Mission would soon open a permanent presence in certain parts of the country to deter violence and human rights abuses. It was also working with its humanitarian partners to align efforts better. “But, ultimately, it most critically depends on how the Government and opposition forces behave,” he added. Efforts were being undertaken to identify criminal elements within the sites and eject them to reinforce the civilian character of those places.
He said he was engaging the Government over unresolved issues and looked forward to reaching out to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and the African Union to meet with Chiefs of Defence Staff from IGAD regional protection force troop contributors and the Government in Juba. The situation in Juba had changed in the past two years, he noted, adding that security threats were more likely to come from civil unrest sparked by potential economic collapse. Bolstering UNMISS forces with the regional protection force would enable the Mission to focus on protecting civilians. With the space for compromise over the 2015 peace agreement narrow, the central conflict resolution strategy must be political mediation via the IGAD high-level revitalization forum. The United Nations would continue to support the national dialogue on the condition that it remained transparent and inclusive. The Security Council and the wider region were critical in convincing parties to compromise and find peaceful solutions.
FESTUS MOGAE, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, briefed the Council via videoconference from Juba, noting that the scale of the fighting in South Sudan had changed over the last month, with reports indicating that there had been relatively fewer clashes. Nevertheless, the fighting continued to lead to the displacement of civilians, and the situation concerning in Upper Nile State remained tense. The displacement of 3,000 civilians into Ethiopia had been reported, and there was fighting and armed robberies in some places. Intercommunal tensions had been reported in some areas, he said, highlighting that the humanitarian crisis persisted, with 6 million people suffering from food insecurity and inconsistent humanitarian access.
Continuing, he said the Commission remained focused on its mandate to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the peace agreement and was committed to supporting IGAD in its upcoming high-level revitalization forum. He noted that the Commission had held a workshop to review a comprehensive report on the status of the implementation of the peace agreement. Once complete, that report would be presented to IGAD, representing the Commission’s contribution to the revitalization forum. As part of its enhanced oversight role, the Commission had formulated six working committees, aligned with the six substantive portions of the peace agreement. The working committees had held a total of 38 meetings to date, and engaged bilaterally with the transitional Government and other stakeholders. As part of that work, the working committees had conducted a full evaluation of the status of the implementation of the peace agreement and prepared a report that was under consideration. He expected the final report to be published by 6 October. Once that document was finalized and adopted, it would be presented to IGAD and was intended to form the starting point for discussions as part of the revitalization process.
Overall, the Commission believed that, despite initial progress, implementation of the peace agreement was seriously disrupted in July 2016, and today, little substantial progress had been made in the implementation of the key provisions of the peace deal, he said. Implementation was modest, at best, he stressed. Fundamental to the report, was the irrefutable fact that a permanent ceasefire continued to be violated by all parties, with impunity. As a result, security had deteriorated to a detrimental level. Despite progress, the Commission was greatly disappointed that after two years, there were several transitional institutions and mechanisms that had not yet been established. Further, there had not been progress in the Constitution-making progress.
There must be an immediate ceasefire and an end to all forms of violence, he stressed. There was a fundamental need for the demonstration of political will by the parties to the conflict to undertake the implementation of the agreement. All obstructions to the delivery of humanitarian aid must be removed. The Security Council, in collaboration with IGAD, the African Union and international partners should put in place mechanisms to force compliance. The upcoming IGAD revitalization forum constituted the best path to restore peace and rebuild governance in South Sudan, while national dialogue could play a complimentary role, if implemented credibly and inclusively.
NIKKI HALEY (United States) said the people of South Sudan were suffering and the promise of their hard-won independence slipping away. Six months had passed since the Council demanded parties to cease fighting and return to the negotiating table. “Each month, we have watched the situation in South Sudan become worse, not better,” she added, expressing disappointment that the Council failed to stem the flow of weapons into the country. The Government had also not responded to the pleas to create an inclusive Government. The impact on children had been especially severe, she said, noting that 17,000 children had been abducted and forced to join armed groups. The Mission’s operations were continuingly frustrated. For its part, the United States would not wait to act, as it had earlier in September when economic sanctions were imposed on anyone who had denied humanitarian access and tried to obstruct peace. Urging leaders to stop the violence, she expressed support for the IGAD proposal. Different parties to the conflict must use the next several weeks to commit themselves to the peace process. The international community must also do more to resolve the conflict. To the people of South Sudan, she added: “We have not given up on you.”
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that signatories to the peace agreement had demonstrated that they are deaf to the suffering of their own people. There had been gang rape, recruitment of child soldiers, and attacks on schools and hospitals. Non-governmental organization had reported that those starving were too afraid to collect life-saving aid because they believed they would be attacked on their way home by militia. That suffering was forcing millions to flee, creating the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world. “Suffering on this scale cannot be allowed,” he said, urging the international community to act and speak with one voice. Commending the efforts of the United Nations and regional partners, including IGAD, he said that a concerted and united push from all countries in the region was critical. The laying down of arms by all sides must remain the top priority. Success would require all the parties, particularly the Government, to demonstrate the political will necessary to achieve peace. Elections at this stage would be premature, he added, stressing the need to ensure consequences for those who sought to obstruct peace.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that the civilian population was suffering the worst effects of the prolonged crisis in South Sudan, which was due to the actions of the political leaders in that country, who had put their ambitions above those of the people. Some 4 million people were displaced, he said — 1.9 million internally displaced and another 2 million refugees. More than half of the population was suffering from serious food insecurity. Yet, most alarming was that the situation had not yet hit bottom and there had been no tangible progress in implementing the peace agreement. Humanitarian personnel had to grapple with limits to access and direct attacks from all parties in the conflict. He urged the parties to fulfil their commitments to put an immediate end to the hostilities and urged the South Sudan Government to restore political freedoms that were necessary for peace. It was of utmost importance to ensure an environment of security and respect for humanitarian personnel to help those most in need.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said the ceasefire violations and humanitarian access restrictions in South Sudan must stop. While calling upon the country’s Government to cooperate fully with UNMISS, he said the Security Council must also stay united in sending a strong message to both the Government and the opposition. In highlighting the human costs of the conflict, he said a third of South Sudanese remained internally displaced or are refugees and half of the population was food insecure. To ensure that the people got help, the international community must continue to fund the Humanitarian Response Plan. Japan had supported those efforts by announcing on 19 September that it would provide $3 million in emergency grant aid for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However, he stressed, the only solution to those challenges was through an inclusive political process. Japan supported IGAD-led efforts on the high-level revitalization forum and welcomed the African Union Peace and Security Council’s 20 September communiqué which indicated that IGAD’s efforts represented a “unique window of opportunity” and a “last chance for the parties to really achieve peace and stability”.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) stressed that the stabilization of the situation in South Sudan would only be possible through a ceasefire and an inclusive national reconciliation progress. He noted the progressive implementation of President Salva Kiir’s initiative to launch a nationwide dialogue involving all peoples, with the aim of ending the conflict in the country. He welcomed efforts by UNMISS to achieve intercommunal reconciliation at the local level. The humanitarian repercussion of the crises had affected the entire region, spurring surging refugees flows to neighbouring countries. It was unfair to pin all blame for the crisis on the Government. Mr. Kiir had announced the ceasefire, but it could not be implemented without reciprocal measures by the opposition parties. The implementation of an arms embargo would not alleviate the crisis, but, rather, would further compound the situation. In its recent visit to the region, the Security Council had heard first-hand that regional players were weary of stepping up sanctions pressure. He called upon South Sudan and troop‑contributing countries to facilitate making the regional protection force operationally ready. He also noted the mediation efforts of Kampala and Nairobi, although there needed to be closer coordination between those processes.
BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said that the national dialogue launched in2015 must be inclusive and commended the efforts of those stakeholders working to bring peace to South Sudan. In that context, the international community must speak with one voice. Noting that the conflict in South Sudan could not be resolved exclusively through political negotiations, he said effective strategies must also focus on sustainable economic growth and rebuilding infrastructure. He expressed regret that military operations had continued, leading to a sharp escalation in the food insecure and the displaced. He urged all parties to lay down their arms, cease fighting and end their attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers. All perpetrators and violators of international law and international human rights law must be held accountable, he stressed.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) called for the high-level revitalization forum to be swiftly convened and for parties to engage in good faith. As only a political solution would end the crisis, an immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties was paramount. For its part, the Council must remain unified in its support for intensified regional efforts, and to that end, stand by its presidential statement adopted on 23 March, including by preparing for further measures if needed, “in lockstep” with the African Union Peace and Security Council. He called on South Sudan to facilitate efforts by UNMISS and humanitarian groups, and to ensure that relief workers were protected. He expressed regret that the Mission’s ability to monitor and verify alleged human rights violations, including sexual violence, had been hindered by movement restrictions. Encouraging UNMISS to support women’s participation in peace efforts, he stressed the importance of establishing the hybrid court to combat impunity and deter atrocity crimes.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said that, as the continued fighting in South Sudan caused so many to flee their homes, neighbouring countries were called on daily to buffer that “human haemorrhage”. Working for a shared solution meant putting an end to the wound on the African continent. That remained a moral imperative. Gender-based violence and the recruitment of children into armed groups was slowly destroying the young country. There could never be peace in South Sudan without justice. In the last two weeks, small but important steps had been made, particularly in regards to bilateral meetings in New York. He welcomed the African Union and the Security Council in a high-level summit uniting efforts to support the IGAD process. As the crisis was regional in nature, it was up to IGAD to lead reconciliation efforts.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said the crisis in South Sudan had no military solution. Rather, the political process was the only viable option to address the challenges and he called on leaders to demonstrate political will, and prove through their actions that they were committed to peace. “The fighting must stop,” he said, as no political process would succeed under the “whizz of bullets”. All stakeholders must cease hostilities and commit to a permanent ceasefire without preconditions. Political dialogue must be inclusive, transparent and independent, with the national dialogue committee enjoying support from all major groups in South Sudan. As outlined in the 20 September ministerial communiqué, that committee must also not be perceived as a replacement for full implementation of the agreement and IGAD-led revitalization process. He looked forward to the high-level revitalization forum to create momentum for implementing the agreement, stressing the need for all actors to “speak with one voice”.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said that, in the face of daily tragedies, UNMISS and humanitarian actors continued to provide critical assistance to the people of South Sudan, which was one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers. In that context, she recalled the 18 humanitarian workers that had been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of 2017. She firmly condemned attacks and access restrictions placed against humanitarian actors. Such attacks were facilitated by the proliferation of weapons in the country, she said, which was a reminder of the importance of considering the imposition an arms embargo against South Sudan. The protection of civilians remained imperative. The deployment of the advance regional protection units was encouraging; although she lamented that it had only taken place more than a year after the Council’s resolution. She underscored the importance of moving the political process forward. A lasting settlement to the crisis could only be political and achieved with regional support. The smooth coordination of the reconciliation forum was the ticket to success. It was critical to continue to work to promote inclusive and nationwide dialogue. The struggle against impunity was also of great importance for lasting peace in South Sudan.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China) said that since the beginning of the year, the transitional Government had been committed to resolving the crisis in South Sudan. National dialogue had been launched and IGAD was preparing for the upcoming high‑level revitalization forum. During the recent General Assembly, the United Nations, African Union and IGAD held a high-level meeting on South Sudan, he recalled. Parties that attended that meeting enhanced communication and reached consensus, which was a welcome development. The situation in South Sudan was very fragile and the country needed continued international engagement. All parties to the conflict must return to the political track and demonstrate enhanced coordination aimed at a political settlement. Regional actors must seize the opportunity to become more involved in the mediation process, although full respect must be given to the leadership role of the South Sudan Government in dealing with its country’s internal affairs. Only by mobilizing the initiatives of the transitional Government could the assistance of the international community be effective. There must be greater attention paid to the need for economic assistance to address the root causes of the conflict. He went on to note that there were more than 1,000 Chinese peacekeepers currently serving in UNMISS and that his country also provided food aid to the country.
PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said that the first step towards peace must be the immediate cessation of hostilities. While the Government of South Sudan had declared a ceasefire, “we know this has not occurred”, he added. The solution to the conflict must come through a credible political process and the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Highlighting the critical role of the African Union and IGAD, he noted that the recent peace and security communiqué had called for the parties to make every effort to stop the conflict and restore the peace. It was essential that those processes complement one another. In that context, ensuring accountability would help reconciliation efforts, he continued, expressing support for the establishment of a tribunal to investigate and prosecute crimes. Uniting regional forces would also help extend support to civilians and deliver humanitarian aid.
AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan) said that, although there were allegations in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the security and humanitarian situation in his African nation, it was not his Government’s policy to obstruct the mandate of UNMISS, nor hinder humanitarian access. There remained difficult circumstances and challenges to the Mission’s operations, but there were also signs of improvement and progress that his Government hoped to build upon. His Government hoped to expand its close consultation and cooperation with the leadership of UNMISS on the issue of the Rwandan advance team of the regional protection force with a view towards building a lasting trust.
South Sudan’s delegation to the General Assembly’s general debate conducted a series of meetings on the situation in the country, as well as the leadership of United Nations agencies and funds, he highlighted. That delegation had received several messages from the international community during those meetings, including the African Union Peace and Security Council ministerial communiqué issued on 20 September in New York. His Government intended to analyse and review those messages and hoped to come out with more policies designed to enhance cooperation and improve day-to-day communications between the Government agencies and UNMISS.