8480th Security Council Meeting: Report of Secretary-General on South Sudan

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08-Mar-2019 02:10:22
Sexual violence persists in South Sudan despite recent political strides, top United Nations official says while briefing Security Council at 8480th meeting.

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Meeting to discuss the evolving situation in South Sudan against the backdrop of International Women’s Day, The Security Council heard today that sexual violence against women and girls persists in spite of the young nation’s recent political strides.

David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), briefed the 15-member Council on the “considerable” progress achieved since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in September 2018. Commending the efforts of regional partners in brokering the Agreement, he said opposition leaders are now moving freely around Juba, the capital, and engaging in the peace process. Meanwhile, refugees are beginning to return home and there have been rapprochements between Government officials and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO).

“Many people are alive today who might not have been without the [peace] Agreement,” he emphasized. Nevertheless, significant challenges remain, including delays in implementing the timetable set out in the Revitalized Agreement and the lack of a resolution on boundary issues. Warning that “a peace that falters will generate frustration, anger and a possible return to violence”, he stressed that sexual violence must end if displaced people are to feel safe enough to return home. The Government must work to end impunity, he reiterated, noting that UNMISS is helping to build the justice system’s capacity to deal with such crimes. A United Nations-supported court will open this month, with jurisdiction over crimes of a sexual or gender-based nature, he said.

Angelina Nyajima Simon Jial, Founder of the non-governmental organization Hope Restoration South Sudan, also briefed the Council, dedicating her remarks to women around the world who continue to fight for their rights. Describing the mass rape perpetrated near the town of Bentiu in late 2018 as a symptom of a much deeper problem, she said women and girls in South Sudan suffer some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence. Whereas groups like Hope Restoration South Sudan work to provide protection and life-saving services, their lack of resources makes operations difficult, she said, pointing out that the bulk of available resources goes to United Nations agencies and international organizations, with the smallest portion funding national groups.

“We cannot build a strong and vibrant civil society in South Sudan with these constraints,” she stressed, warning that the country’s hopes for peace will fade without the participation of local groups. Much funding previously allocated has dried up, she noted, asking: “How do you tell someone who has been subjected to horrific acts of violence that you can no longer help?” While it is encouraging that the United Nations 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan prioritizes such programming, the Security Council must include local non-governmental organizations in the UNMISS mandate and request that donors support them, she said.

As Council members took the floor, many welcomed recent strides by the parties concerned and commended them for putting South Sudan’s broader interests above their own. However, several speakers sounded the alarm over high levels of sexual and gender-based violence — including the use of rape as a weapon of war — and called for intensified political commitment to address such heinous crimes.

Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate expressed concern over significant delays in achieving the goals for South Sudan’s pre-transition phase. The parties must “come to grips” with the substantive issues, notably by inserting provisions in the transitional constitution, establishing the Independent Transitional Boundary Commission and putting transitional security arrangements in place. Noting that security sector reform should allow for the unification of belligerents and creation of a disciplined army, he said transitional justice bodies should also be established — notably a hybrid court — and echoed the Secretary-General’s call to strengthen the UNMISS mandate and render it more flexible.

The representative of the United States said that today’s observance of International Women’s Day is a reminder that “we must do everything possible” for the millions of women still facing staggering levels of violence in South Sudan. While welcoming the fact that the Revitalized Agreement seems to be holding, he noted the failure of previous accords and called upon the Government to demonstrate its full commitment. The United States provided $845 million in assistance to South Sudan in 2018, he recalled, cautioning that such aid “is not infinite” and will require the Government to take responsibility for its people.

Emphasizing the need to avoid past mistakes, the Russian Federation’s representative commended the important role played by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in helping to reach the Revitalized Agreement. He went on to state that his delegation does not share the Western opinion that sanctions pressure and the imposition of the arms embargo made the peace process possible. “The Council should not take credit for the success of regional mediators,” he stressed, describing the Agreement as a demonstration of the principle of “African solutions to African problems”.

South Sudan’s delegate said that his country’s security, peace and economic situation has “improved noticeably” since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement. Implementation is progressing “slowly but surely,” he added, noting that President Salva Kiir Mayardit is touring the Greater Bahr El Ghazal region in the company of opposition leaders. Refugees are now returning voluntarily in large numbers and the economy is in the early stages of recovery, he said, adding that consumer goods are available and prices are dropping in Juba’s markets. Yet, challenges persist, including inadequate funding, he noted. However, the Government will carry on, “using whatever means and resources are available”, he stressed, urging the Council to work with regional partners to convince outstanding opposition groups to join the peace process.

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Peru, Belgium, Poland, South Africa, China, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Indonesia and France.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:20 p.m.

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