Secretary-General Urges Strong, Unified Push to Restart South Sudan Peace Talks amid Ruthless Human Rights Abuses, Spectre of Full Economic Collapse

21 September 2017

Secretary-General Urges Strong, Unified Push to Restart South Sudan Peace Talks amid Ruthless Human Rights Abuses, Spectre of Full Economic Collapse

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the high‑level event on South Sudan, in New York today:

Thank you again for attending this important event.  We are once again at a crossroads in South Sudan.

I am grateful to Prime Minister Hailemariam [Desalegn], who chairs the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development]; Chairperson [Moussa] Faki [Mahmat]of the African Union [Commission] had to leave to go to Angola for the presidential ceremony, but we have the distinguished Commissioner on Peace and Security representing him, and I’m very grateful to both of you, and to both IGAD and the African Union, for the extraordinary cooperation that we have been enjoying until now, and that will go on, I’m sure.

The situation in South Sudan continues to be of grave concern.  Close to 4 million people are displaced within South Sudan or in neighbouring countries.  Roughly 6 million are severely food-insecure.  More than 200,000 civilians remain on United Nations Mission for South Sudan (UNMISS) bases for protection.  Human rights abuses continue across the country with a ruthlessness that defies reason.  South Sudan faces the spectre of complete economic collapse.  Yet, rather than using the country’s resources to secure the well-being of their people, the prevailing approach continues to be the pursuit of military victory.

How distant the hope of a prosperous South Sudan that we all felt in the moment of independence.  How faded our vision for the peace and stability of our Organization’s newest member.  Our countless attempts to bring the parties to terms have led to nothing but broken promises and cycles of recrimination.  The signatories to the August 2015 peace agreement have demonstrated time and again that they are unyielding to the will of the international community and deaf to the distress of their people.

It is not clear what more can be done when those in power ignore our pleas for peace.  But, we cannot allow them to silence our call.  We must continue to push for a peaceful resolution of the conflict with as much unity and pressure as we can apply.  We must also continue to call for protection and humanitarian concerns to be addressed immediately, and for unhindered access to civilian populations.  This will require determination and a commitment to use all the tools at our disposal to compel the parties to choose peace.

I welcome IGAD’s vision on the way forward, as articulated in its communiqué of 12 June.  The High-Level Revitalization Forum provides a critical opportunity to bring the signatories back to the table, along with other important stakeholders that have emerged since the signing of the peace agreement.  The work that IGAD has done under Ethiopia’s chairmanship to consult civil society and others with respect to this initiative represents an important step forward in creating a robust and inclusive forum for discussion.

It remains to be seen whether the Government’s National Dialogue will evolve into the type of broad and representative undertaking necessary for success.  The onus is on the Government to make this initiative genuine and inclusive, rather than something done simply as a token display of commitment to peace.

The delegations and individuals in this room have stood with the people of South Sudan over the course of the country’s tragic journey since independence.  Our shared objective today must be to determine what concrete measures we can take, collectively and individually, to bring the fighting to an end and the parties back to dialogue.

We must agree on how we can best support IGAD in its efforts to revitalize the peace agreement, especially through the High-Level Revitalization Forum, and how we can apply our leverage on the parties to heed the will of the international community.  The people of South Sudan cannot afford another missed opportunity to bring peace and stability to their long suffering.

For information media. Not an official record.