Permanent Representative Says Constitution Reserves 35 per cent of Private, Public Sector Positions for Women, as Delegates Encourage Parity
While the situation for many people in South Sudan remains bleak, a year of relative peace has kick-started a process of transformation that is improving lives, with one-time enemies coming together to chart the way forward for the world’s youngest nation, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
Last week’s meeting in Juba between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), was an important development, said David Shearer, who is also Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest reports on the country.
During their talks — held one year after warring parties signed the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan — President Kiir and Mr. Machar recommitted to forming a Transitional Government by 12 November. “The peace process remains precarious, but progress is being made,” he said, emphasizing that progress depends on sustained goodwill between the parties and a collective, unrelenting focus by international partners, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union.
UNMISS, meanwhile, is rebalancing the deployment of its “Blue Helmets” and moving away from static protection at protection-of-civilian sites in favour of confidence-building patrols, he said. However, the Government must take the lead in creating safe and supported communities, he said, adding that a South Sudan that is truly at peace will no longer require United Nations protection sites.
Indeed, the formation of a Transitional Government will be an opportunity to look ahead to free and fair elections, he said, as well as the expansion of political space. Currently, there is mounting resentment among South Sudanese, who are among the world’s poorest people, towards wealth-amassing members of the elite. Criminality remains a serious problem and he reviewed the Mission’s effort to help rebuild South Sudan’s judicial system, including the deployment of mobile courts to more remote areas.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members looked forward to their visit to Juba in October and welcomed last week’s talks between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as an opportunity to break the political impasse. They also hailed the fact that a nationwide ceasefire is largely holding. However, they expressed concern at the ongoing humanitarian situation and warned of the danger of the Ebola virus crossing over the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The road ahead has been charted,” said South Africa’s representative, drawing attention to myriad grass-roots initiatives and urging South Sudan’s leaders to do more to converge with the people. He expressed concern over violent incidents among opposition groups and intercommunal tensions. Describing the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis as “an affront to us as humanity”, he urged international stakeholders to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction.
Last week’s developments gave new impetus to the reconciliation process, said the Russian Federation’s delegate, and the decision to extend the transitional period to 12 November, while difficult, was justified. He added that progress was assisted by regional actors, not the arms embargo, and that his delegation anticipates a review of the sanctions.
Offering a different view, the representative of the United States said the peace process has focused too much on political elites and too little on people’s suffering. But there is still time for the parties to advance peace before the November deadline. “The people of South Sudan have stressed that durable peace is possible if women play a full and meaningful role in public life,” she added.
On that point, South Sudan’s delegate said the Constitution designates 35 per cent of all private and public sector positions for women. “This is more than a lot of you in this room can say,” he assured.
Describing the meeting between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as an important step, he said the two leaders held discussions on how to best implement the Revitalized Agreement. “The most important outcome of the two-day discussion is that both sides agreed to form a Transitional Government by 12 November,” he said. He also drew attention to last week’s visit to Juba by the new Prime Minister of Sudan, who discussed with President Kiir a range of issues that will ensure peace and prosperity in and between their countries.
Also speaking were representatives of France, Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, China, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea and the United Kingdom.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and 11:37 a.m.
DAVID SHEARER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on the situation in South Sudan (document S/2019/722) and planning for the protection of civilians in that country (document S/2019/741). Noting that the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan was signed a year ago last week, he said the recent visit to Juba by Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), at the invitation of President Salva Kiir, was an important development and opportunity to discuss critical unresolved parts of the peace agreement. Publicly, their demeanour appeared conciliatory, and such meetings must continue. Importantly, the two men recommitted to forming a Transitional Government, thus maintaining the momentum for peace and bolstering confidence among South Sudanese people. “The challenge remains, of course, to show tangible results,” he said, emphasizing the need for progress on the unification of security forces, political consensus on the number of states and boundaries, and determining vice-presidential positions. Non‑signatories to the Agreement must meanwhile move from violent opposition to constructive participation.
One year on, peace is starting to pay dividends for the citizens of South Sudan, he said. The ceasefire largely continues to hold, political violence and displacement have decreased markedly, and the opposition and Government are working together on implementing key elements of the Agreement. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report documents a slight improvement in food security, while the return of displaced families and refugees means more crops are being planted. Still, around 6.3 million people — or 54 per cent of the population — remain food insecure with limited access to health care. Child malnutrition is meanwhile on the rise. Humanitarian access is improving, emboldening aid workers to make plans to reach more remote areas, but administrative impediments remain frequent. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has registered 594,000 returnees since the peace agreement was signed, while 17,000 displaced persons have left UNMISS protection sites, with 180,000 remaining.
At the Council’s request, he said the Mission has reported on planning for protection-of-civilian sites, detailing the challenges of prolonged displacement and impediments to return that include perceptions of security, lack of health and education in return areas and concern about the fragility of the peace process. To reflect the changing security environment, UNMISS is rebalancing the deployment of peacekeepers, moving away from static protection at protection-of-civilian sites in favour of confidence-building patrols. However, the Government must take the lead in creating safe and supported communities, he said, adding that a South Sudan truly at peace will no longer require United Nations protection sites.
The formation of a Transitional Government is an opportunity to look ahead to free and fair elections that would create the space for establishing political parties and discussing policy options, he said. Currently, there is mounting resentment among South Sudanese, who are among the world’s poorest people, towards elites amassing wealth. The Government budget is 46 per cent higher than 2018 with no indication of how a $496 million financing gap will be closed. There is also little transparency about where oil revenues are being spent. Spending on health care was reduced 16 per cent this year, there have been no Government spending reports since the first quarter of 2017/18 and civil servants — including teachers, health workers and police officers — have not been paid in months. Noting that criminality remains a serious problem, he said the Mission is helping to reform and rebuild South Sudan’s judicial system. Mobile courts staffed by South Sudanese judicial officials have expanded beyond Bentiu and Malakal, and in the coming weeks, they will try hundreds of serious cases, including those involving sexual and gender-based violence.
While the situation for many South Sudanese remains bleak, the last year of peace has kick‑started a process of transformation that is improving lives, he said. That could not have happened without the ceasefire or the confidence generated by the peace process, for which South Sudan’s leaders and international partners deserve credit. Across the country, former enemies are sitting amicably across the table, planning a future together. In partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union, UNMISS is working alongside South Sudan’s leaders to lay strong foundations for sustainable peace. “The peace process remains precarious, but progress is being made,” he said. Maintaining momentum remains vital, but that depends very much on continuing goodwill between the parties and a collective, unrelenting focus by international friends to support the formation of a Transitional Government.
KELLY CRAFT (United States) said that, one year ago, South Sudan’s leaders signed a peace agreement which has helped local reconciliation efforts gain traction. Unfortunately, the peace process has focused too much on political elites and too little on people’s suffering. While the humanitarian numbers are shocking, statistics fail to really capture the suffering of South Sudan’s people. Meanwhile, the Government and other actors continue to impede the assistance and conduct military operations that brutalize their own people. Nonetheless, there is still time for the parties to move closer to peace before November’s political deadline, she said, urging them to formally establish a hybrid court with the help of the African Union. “The people of South Sudan have stressed that durable peace is possible if women play a full and meaningful role in public life,” she added.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) welcomed the trip by Mr. Machar to Juba, encouraging both him and President Kiir to renew their commitment to holding such direct meetings as soon as possible. Underscoring the need to abide by quotas for women, as noted in the agreement, she said women must be encouraged to participate in public life. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is “alarming”. Intercommunal violence and food scarcity must be addressed, and humanitarian workers and medical staff protected. “This is a duty and obligation on which we cannot compromise,” she underscored, expressing concern over widespread human rights violations. All parties must come together to form a hybrid court with the help of the African Union. While protection-of-civilians sites are essential, it is essential to protect all South Sudanese wherever they may be in the country.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) welcomed the meeting between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as an important demonstration of political will. The continued implementation of the Revitalized Agreement has led to a significant reduction in violence. However, attacks by non-signatory groups persist and he expressed concern over the high levels of crime and human rights violations. The perpetrators, notably for sexual violence, must never go unpunished. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said people’s suffering is exacerbated by a lack of security and growing food scarcity. Access to clean water and sanitation is essential in helping people return to their homes.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), welcoming the first meeting in two years between President Kiir and Mr. Machar, said the international community must focus on political, humanitarian and security issues going forward. He congratulated Ethiopia for its mediation efforts and encouraged all parties in South Sudan to be truly engaged in order to give peace a chance. Given a lack of resources for the Revitalized Agreement, support from the international community is a number-one priority. Noting a lack of progress in implementing transitional justice, he said Côte d’Ivoire fully supports the Secretary-General’s recommendation on the protection of civilians, which must reflect the principles of the rule of law, human rights and accountability.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said the commitment of the two leaders to meet regularly and to participate in mediation efforts with non‑signatory rebel groups is an important development. Hopefully, the deadline for establishing a transitional Government will prod the parties towards progress. He called on all parties to the conflict to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access, given that the number of people facing food shortages is higher than ever. He also underscored the impact of climate change and flooding in certain parts of South Sudan. He advocated for the provision of comprehensive services to survivors of sexual violence, as well as the deployment of mobile tribunals and prosecutors to areas lacking judicial services. Overall, it is essential to take advantage of the current momentum to assert political will and step up peacebuilding efforts, with the participation of women and young people.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) said last week’s meeting between President Kiir and Mr. Machar was a significant step in the right direction. With the end of the extended pre-transitional period approaching, he emphasized that the Revitalized Agreement remains “the only game in town [and] we have to make it work”. All parties must hold regular face-to-face dialogues to build confidence and resolve outstanding issues, he said, calling also for the timely and transparent disbursement of funds pledged for implementation of the Agreement. While encouraged to see the ceasefire holding across South Sudan, he expressed regret over sporadic clashes among non-signatories in Central Equatoria. Underscoring the dire humanitarian situation, he said a durable solution must be found for the 1.8 million internally displaced persons and 2.3 million refugees. He said the international community must contribute more to the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, which so far is only 45 per cent funded, adding that South Sudan is also struggling to find money to meet its Ebola preparedness target.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) welcomed the meeting held last week in Juba between President Salva Kiir and SPLM/A-IO leader Riek Machar and stated her continued belief that implementation of the Revitalized Agreement is crucial for durable peace and stability. Highlighting the urgent need for parties to accelerate implementation of the Agreement — security arrangements and number of States and their boundaries in particular — she called on all signatories to work together in a spirit of goodwill and compromise, and to spare no effort to prepare for the formation of the Transitional Government in November. Reiterating the importance of the role that IGAD and the African Union play in enforcing and monitoring implementation of the Agreement, she stated that only a unified international approach can help to maintain positive momentum in the peace process. While the permanent ceasefire continues to be largely respected across South Sudan, the persisting humanitarian crisis, intercommunal violence and serious human rights violations perpetrated by Government and opposition forces continue to be a source of serious concern and she called on authorities to fulfil their obligations to protect civilians.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that, while the meeting of Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir marks an important step for building trust, progress in implementing the peace agreement in South Sudan is needed. He urged all parties to address key questions, such as security arrangements, the establishment of security services and the number and boundaries of states. The 12 November deadline is looming and interested countries and organizations need to cooperate. “Regional actors are key to supporting the peace process,” he said, expressing concern about ongoing violence against civilians, particularly women. UNMISS is indispensable for supporting South Sudan and its people, and the continued obstruction of its work is unacceptable. “Freedom of movement of UNMISS remains — as for all peacekeeping missions — essential for an effective implementation of the mandate,” he said, welcoming the report’s update on the protection‑of‑civilian sites.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said trust between South Sudan’s political leaders is essential for the peace process to succeed, noting a reduction in political violence even as intercommunal violence and sexual abuse persist. All parties must move forward rapidly on security arrangements, the status of Juba, finalizing the internal boundaries and the full release of implementation funds. The involvement and follow-up of regional actors is indispensable to the Agreement’s implementation. Sexual violence and other rights violations continue to affect entire communities, he said, calling on all parties to extend the rule of law and invest funds in establishing essential services. Any return of displaced people must be voluntary, safe and dignified. Urging the Government to end the culture of impunity, he called on officials to investigate all cases of sexual violence and bring perpetrators to justice. “This is a crisis which is entirely manmade,” he said, referring to the humanitarian situation in the country.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said the face-to-face meetings between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar will help unlock the political impasse which has stalled the implementation of South Sudan’s Revitalized Agreement. “The road ahead has been charted,” he said, noting that the accord’s implementation is vital to addressing instability, and humanitarian and human rights crises. Encouraging attention to the causes of conflict, he drew attention to myriad grass-roots initiatives and urged South Sudan’s leaders to redouble their efforts to converge with the people. Welcoming that the cessation of hostilities continues to hold, he nonetheless expressed concern over violent incidents with opposition groups and intercommunal violence. The magnitude of South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis and the resulting human suffering is “an affront to us as humanity”, and he urged international stakeholders to contribute to post-conflict reconstruction and development programmes and to resettle internally displaced persons and refugees. The forthcoming Council visit to South Sudan, which South Africa will co-lead, will provide further impetus to the parties to implement the Revitalized Agreement, he added.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said achieving stability in South Sudan still faces serious challenges, noting that certain parties have yet to join the peace agreement and that the humanitarian situation remains alarming. Effective implementation of the peace accord is the only way to solve South Sudan’s issues. “The parties to the conflict must seize this opportunity,” he stressed, urging the international community to continue to provide financial and material support to South Sudan. Regional countries and organizations have a critical role to play and the international community should enhance its coordination with both IGAD and Sudan to consolidate mutual trust. Calling for greater humanitarian and economic assistance, he said the protection-of-civilians sites are not a durable solution to mass displacement. The international community must help the displaced return home and assist South Sudan in addressing food shortages.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) urged South Sudan to optimize the two remaining months to form a Government. Calling on non-signatories to join the peace agreement, he stressed that transitional justice in post-conflict countries is of paramount importance to peace and reconciliation. The international community must step up its support in the areas of education, health and the dignified return of displaced people. “Hunger plays a key role in the relapse into conflict,” he said, and while protection-of-civilians sites are important, the main responsibility to protect the people of South Sudan lies with the Government.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said the parties must demonstrate the political determination required for full and timely implementation of the peace agreement. Emphasizing that an inclusive political solution is the only way to achieve peace, she looked forward to progress on transitional arrangements. She expressed regret about fighting between Government forces and opposition groups, as well as the prevalence of sexual violence, stressing that no effort must be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice. Humanitarian personnel also require a more secure environment in which to operate. Welcoming direct contact between President Kiir and Mr. Machar, she likewise applauded efforts by IGAD, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, as well as the African Union Commission. The international community must continue to support regional and subregional efforts and those by neighbouring countries so that South Sudan’s leaders can move forward without hesitation towards a definitive peace.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) urged both parties in South Sudan to ensure that last week’s meeting in Juba was just the first of many. The response of the South Sudanese people to the peace agreement is inspiring. He commended UNMISS for its reconciliation efforts, particularly at the subnational level, saying: “It is not all about the big men meeting in choreographed ways in smoke‑filled rooms.” Emphasizing that conditions are not yet conducive for the return of displaced persons and refugees, he said all parties must play their part to create a safe environment, noting that accountability will be essential in that regard. The people of South Sudan need to see safety and security develop, as well as credible action to end sexual violence and the demilitarization of towns and buildings. While the ceasefire continues to hold, a humanitarian crisis nonetheless remains, he said, citing the United Kingdom is among the country’s largest donors. He urged the parties to continue to meet, and the region to remain focused on South Sudan, expressing hope that the Council’s October visit to Juba will give a timely boost to the peace process.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity to stress the importance of what happened in Juba. Last week’s meeting gave new impetus to the reconciliation process, he said, adding that the decision to extend the transitional period to 12 November, while difficult, was justified. He called on non-signatories to join the peace process as soon as possible, welcomed efforts by IGAD and Khartoum, and emphasized the potential for interaction between the United Nations and regional organizations. Progress in South Sudan was assisted not by greater sanctions or the arms embargo, but rather, by the contribution of regional actors, he said, underscoring the Russian Federation’s expectation that agreement will soon be reached on a range of issues that would prompt a review of the sanctions regime.
AKUEI BONA MALWAL (South Sudan), addressing the Council’s myriad calls for women’s representation in his Government, underscored that 35 per cent of all private and public sector positions have been designated for women in the Constitution. “This is more than a lot of you in this room can say,” he assured. Describing the critical meeting between President Kiir and Mr. Machar as an important step — “as there are only two months left in the six-months‑extended period” — he said the leaders held a series of discussions over the course of two days on how to best implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement. “The most important outcome of the two-day discussion is that both sides agreed to form a Transitional Government by 12 November,” he said.
In Sudan, meanwhile, IGAD and the African Union succeeded in stabilizing the revolution, he said. Those regional mediations led to the establishment of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and a hybrid-civilian/military executive cabinet, led by Abdallah Hamdok as Prime Minister. On 12 and 13 September, South Sudan welcomed the first visit to Juba of Sudan’s new Prime Minister, during which President Kiir and Prime Minister Hamdok discussed security, border issues and economic cooperation that would ensure peace and prosperity in and between the two countries. The two visits to Juba have had a direct impact on peace prospects, new constructive relations and economic engagement between the Sudan and South Sudan, he assured, commending Japan, South Africa, China and Egypt for supplying material for cantonment, and all countries for helping to address humanitarian needs.