Four years ago, I stood in Juba with masses of proud citizens and watched the flag rise for the first time over the newest member state of the United Nations, South Sudan. I will never forget the sense of joy and hope. Those memories are all the more painful to recall today as we mark the fourth anniversary of a country where hope is in short supply.
The South Sudanese people face suffering, unconscionable levels of violence and unspeakable sexual abuse. Instead of the progress and development for which we all hoped and in which the international community invested, more than 1.6 million people have been displaced, including over 150,000 now seeking refuge in UNMISS protection sites. Some 4.6 million face severe food insecurity and over 600,000 have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries.
The violence that has ravaged South Sudan over the past 18 months proves that there can never be a military solution to this conflict. I therefore call on all leaders of South Sudan -- particularly President Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar -- to prove their leadership by investing in a political solution and immediately concluding a comprehensive peace agreement. At the same time, the international community must take decisive steps to help end the fighting.
Political leaders on both sides must make unequivocal public statements that the targeting of civilians will not be tolerated. All parties to the conflict must know that those responsible for serious human rights violations will be held accountable for their actions.
Brave and dedicated humanitarian workers and United Nations staff continue to operate in dangerous and dire conditions. I demand that the parties respect international humanitarian law and ensure unfettered access to those in need.
I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to support a political solution in South Sudan while continuing to make every effort to provide vulnerable populations with protection and humanitarian assistance. I commend the efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union to prevail upon the parties to forge a political solution. It is important that we show the parties a single way forward, with the full support of the region and the international community.
Peace, development and human rights are the birthright of all the people of South Sudan. The promise of a new nation that they celebrated four years ago must finally be redeemed.