South Sudan - Security Council Open VTC

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15-Dec-2020 01:32:32
South Sudan’s peace process ‘linked to strength of international engagement’, Special Representative tells Security Council.

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After much progress in the peace process in South Sudan earlier in 2020, implementation is now lagging and needs urgent attention from the international community, the United Nations top official in that country told the Security Council today.

“Momentum in South Sudan’s peace process is linked to the strength of international engagement,” David Shearer, Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a briefing on developments since September.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report (document S/2020/1180) on the newly independent and conflict-steeped country, he said that 2020 saw the formation of a transitional Government, created through compromise by the parties and led by President Salva Kiir with First Vice-President Riek Machar. In addition, 9 of 10 Governors appointed in the last quarter have resumed their functions, although all other state and county executive and legislative positions remain vacant. As well, the Council of Ministers is meeting and most national institutions are functioning, at least at a basic level.

“These achievements are to be commended. But progress is lagging,” he said. Arrangements to unify security forces are stalled and a dispute over governorship in the Upper Nile, which is also halting the appointment of country commissioners. This hold-up leaves a local vacuum of power and makes it difficult to nip in the bud brewing intercommunal violence. It is understandable, he added, that international attention in the Horn of Africa has been drawn elsewhere, but focus must be renewed on South Sudan to avert a resurgence of volatility. At the same time, he urged the parties to take concrete steps to breathe fresh life into the peace process.

So far in 2020, he said, more than 2,000 civilians have died in local-level conflict which is being “weaponized and turbocharged” by external actors acting in their own economic or political interests. Given a “perfect storm” of humanitarian threats, he said that historically, the dry season exacerbates these problems, with competition for scarce resources like grazing land and water raising tensions between farmers and cattle herders.

Anticipating this, UNMISS has established five new temporary bases in conflict hotspots in line with its “proactive, robust and nimble” approach. Integrated military and civilian teams are in place right now, to deter violence, de-escalate conflict and support reconciliation between parties. The Government’s refusal to enable Mission access to many areas has hampered this work, although restrictions have recently eased.

The addition of a multi-donor trust fund to bring reconciliation, stabilization and resilience together will target the underlying causes of violence through a wide partnership. UNMISS’s engineering contingents have also undertaken a major roadbuilding programme that will build peace through interregional trade and communications. Meanwhile, at the national level, the Mission is promoting inclusive dialogue on vital aspects of the peace process.

He said that the transition of the protection of civilians sites to conventional displacement camps has started, due to the wind-down in intense conflict and continued need for humanitarian access. In the past three months, Bor, Wau and Juba sites have transitioned smoothly, through consultation with all stakeholders. Planning is under way at other sites as well, but transitions only take place when the conditions are right, he added. At all sites, the Mission remains engaged in support of the displaced communities. In addition, United Nations police officers are collocated with their national counterparts, providing them with training for community policing as the Government assumes ownership of the sites with UNMISS technical support.

The changes, he said, followed the recently completed independent strategic review of UNMISS. Heeding the review, the strategy going forward will have as its central goal political progress in a regional context, while providing protection to those who need it most through a nimble profile that will allow for a gradual downsizing of overall force numbers. It will also focus on strengthening the South Sudan National Police Service and addressing impunity through increased support to the justice system, building on the success of the mobile courts. Preparations must also begin for elections and focus must intensify on security sector reform and, ultimately, disarmament and reintegration, he added.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said people in parts of South Sudan are on the brink of famine today. The global Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) real-time quality review identified five counties in Jonglei, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States — Akobo, Aweil South, Tonj East, Tonj North and Tonj South — where 5 to 10 per cent of the population is living in IPC 5. That means they face “catastrophe”, or famine, levels of food insecurity. In some places, the number of people in IPC 5 is set to increase between now and July 2021. While the analysis at the country level is being finalized, the IPC Famine Classification Review Committee presented a “famine likely” situation in western Pibor County last week. “I think it would be fair to say that our fears from September have now materialized in these six counties,” he said.

Violence remains one of the main drivers of severe food insecurity in South Sudan, he said. In the first half of 2020, four successive waves of major violence in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area displaced nearly 160,000 people. In Warrap State, where three counties with IPC 5 classification are located, nearly 100,000 people were displaced due to violence between May and June. Two consecutive years of intense flooding have worsened the situation. More than half a million people in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, and close to 400,000 people in Warrap State, have been affected by the compounded effects of flooding and fighting. COVID-19 and its socioeconomic impact has made life even harder as South Sudan’s economy keeps contracting, driven by the drop in oil prices. Essential commodity and food prices are spiking as the exchange rate depreciates and inflation takes hold.

To stave off famine, the Central Emergency Response Fund and South Sudan Humanitarian Fund are critical tools in the international community’s response. South Sudan received $39 million from the Response Fund in 2020 and a substantial proportion towards food insecurity. Humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations in the country are scaling up a multisectoral response in all six counties. Yet, the international community needs more funding to ensure food and livelihoods, health services and other life-saving programmes are supported in the six counties and across the country. The South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 is the largest ever, with nearly $2 billion needed. Yet, only two thirds is funded as of December. He credited humanitarian colleagues in South Sudan, most of them South Sudanese. The humanitarian response in the country has kept millions of people from sliding into famine. Aid agencies have assisted more than 6 million people across the country in 2020. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and partners have already treated nearly 600,000 children affected by severe or moderate acute malnutrition, with a 94 per cent recovery rate. “This shows how effective support can be, if people get the help they need and aid workers are able to do their job,” he said.

Three key actions are necessary to prevent famine in the country, he said, adding “the time to avert looming famine in South Sudan is now”. First and foremost, efforts to find political solutions to end the violence must continue. Humanitarian partners are concerned that a spike in violence in early 2021 is likely as the dry season starts in Pibor and other parts of the country. Secondly, humanitarians need sustained support from the Government of South Sudan for safe and unhindered access to people in desperate need. Finally, humanitarian partners need to urgently scale up assistance, including protection efforts, on a “no-regrets basis”, in areas facing severe food insecurity.

Dang Dinh Quy (Viet Nam), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan, said that, since the beginning of 2020, it received three exemption requests to the arms embargo, two of which were granted. Also, four exemptions requests were received concerning the travel ban and asset freeze measures, all of which were granted, he reported, encouraging Member States to continue strengthening their cooperation with the Committee and the Panel of Experts.

The members of the Panel of Experts have been unable to travel to that country since the outset of this mandate due to the coronavirus pandemic, he continued. The Committee’s work has equally been affected by COVID-19, with most of its meetings held via videoconferencing. However, the Committee has continued to work efficiently to fulfil its mandate. To date, it has met on one occasion in person, and on four occasions in closed videoconferencing. On 7 February, the Committee heard a presentation by the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts in a meeting open to all Member States, concerning the Panel’s interim report (document S/2019/897).

In April, the Committee received a presentation by the Panel of Experts concerning the Panel’s final report (document S/2020/342) and discussed the recommendations contained in it through a written format. In a closed videoconference on 25 June, the Committee heard a presentation by the Panel of Experts in a meeting open to South Sudan’s neighbouring countries, concerning the Panel’s final report and heard a briefing by the Permanent Representative of the Sudan in his capacity as Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the group’s most recent efforts to support the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement in South Sudan.

In a closed videoconference on 7 August, the Committee heard a presentation by the Coordinator of the Panel of Experts on its work plan, he continued. On 16 October, again in a closed videoconference, the Committee received a briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. Finally, in the closed video conference held on 20 November, the Committee heard a presentation by the Panel on its interim report and discussed the recommendations contained in it.

Following those briefings, Security Council members took the floor, commending the advances made in South Sudan and calling for accelerated progress in implementing the revitalized peace agreement. Many, welcoming the engagement of regional actors, including the African Union and IGAD, urged non-signatories to accede to the agreement. Expressing concern over sexual violence and other human rights violations, several speakers called for operationalization of special courts that had been proposed to combat impunity. Council members also stressed the need to ensure the participation of women and youth in the country’s efforts. Some, in addition, urged review of the sanctions regime with a view towards lifting the measures, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, while others stressed the need to keep weapons out of the hands of armed groups, endangering civilians and the peace process.

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