Sudan and South Sudan - Security Council, 8931st meeting
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Sudan and South Sudan - Security Council, 8931st meeting

While noting certain progress in the implementation of South Sudan’s Revitalized Peace Agreement, officials told the Security Council today that a flagging constitutional process, inadequate aid funding and persistent security, humanitarian and environmental challenges are threatening the sustainability of the peace process overall.

Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), presented the latest report on the situation (document S/2021/1015) and outlined several positive developments in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. The first high‑level meeting of all members of Government since that agreement was signed in 2018 concluded on 29 November, parliamentary appointments have continued and the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has reconstituted and appointed members of nine state assemblies. Further, the country’s Council of Ministers has adopted legislation that — once approved by South Sudan’s Parliament — will guide the permanent Constitution‑making process and pave the way for elections.

While he welcomed these steps, he stressed that “they are not sufficient if the peace process is to be sustained”. He expressed concern over restrictions on the civic space in advance of elections planned for 2023, and over the slow operationalization of the country’s Parliament that threatens to delay critical legislation that would facilitate Constitution‑making and electoral preparations. Turning to civilian protection, he underscored that “the Mission is doing all that it can” to support the Government in this responsibility, including through the flexible deployment of temporary operating bases that enable rapid humanitarian assistance, stabilization and security for returning displaced persons. He added that the Mission is also working to address climate-related security risks, given the increasing frequency of droughts and severe floods in South Sudan.

Wafaa Saeed, the Director of the Coordination Division of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, also briefing the Council, pointed out that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated since September. The country is facing its highest levels of food insecurity since it gained independence in 2011 and, between April and July, 7.2 million people were estimated to be in a crisis phase, of which 2.4 million were in an emergency phase. Further, increased food insecurity, illness and poor access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation are heightening malnutrition levels among children under the age of five, with about 1.4 million estimated to be acutely malnourished and in need of treatment in 2021 — the highest number since 2013.

Noting that South Sudan remains among the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers, she detailed conflict and violence directed at such individuals and their assets, as well as the operational interference, bureaucratic impediments and physical‑access challenges impacting the humanitarian response. Turning to funding, she warned that the scope and scale of humanitarian needs and challenges are “outstripping our ability to adequately respond”. While the 2021 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan is funded at about 68 per cent, many sectors — such as health, nutrition, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene — are severely underfunded. More is needed, by more donors, to provide early funding for the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires $1.7 billion to support the 8.4 million people in need.

Also briefing the Council was Hai Anh Pham (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan, who provided an overview of the Committee’s 2021 activities. These included the Chair’s visit to South Sudan from 16 to 20 November, during which the Chair and his delegation met with varied stakeholders concerning the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. Turning to the arms embargo, he noted that the Committee received one exemption request in 2021, which was granted.

In the ensuing discussion, many Council members expressed concern over slow implementation of the Revitalized Agreement, stating that this inertia has led to an increase in subnational violence that further frustrates efforts to address a dire humanitarian situation. Some speakers, underlining the importance of establishing transitional security arrangements and the Constitutional framework for upcoming elections, called on the international community to provide resources and capacity‑building assistance to the Government towards these ends. While several members stressed that the Government must protect the civic space and address human‑rights violations, still others drew attention to positive developments in the peace process, urged those present to support efforts to negotiate rather than engage in finger-pointing and called on the Council to reconsider sanctions measures.

The representative of the United Kingdom was among the speakers stressing that slow implementation of the Revitalized Agreement has grave consequences for ordinary South Sudanese, calling for the country’s leaders to redouble their efforts towards this end in 2022. He also joined other delegates in refuting the argument that the arms embargo is responsible for the lengthy delays in graduating the Necessary Unified Forces, recalling that an exemptions procedure remains in place for the Government’s legitimate security needs.

The representative of the Russian Federation, underlining the importance of swiftly establishing such unified forces, echoed others’ concerns over ongoing clashes between Government forces and opposition groups and over reports of sporadic intercommunal conflict. Welcoming positive developments in other areas, however, she called for reconsideration of the sanctions regime against South Sudan as the country normalizes.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also speaking for Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, similarly urged the consideration of lifting sanctions measures given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. She further stressed that security challenges cannot be delinked from prevailing socioeconomic and humanitarian difficulties in the country, which have been exacerbated by COVID‑19 and the adverse effects of climate change.

Viet Nam’s representative, speaking in his national capacity, pointed out that, despite remaining challenges, South Sudan is one of the African nations on the Council’s agenda with overall positive developments in the past two years. He concurred with other speakers, however, that the country’s increasing economic and humanitarian challenges must be addressed as over half the population is affected by food insecurity. It is important that the sanctions regime be regularly reviewed, he added.

Addressing the Council, the representative of South Sudan stressed that implementation of the Revitalized Agreement has been “slow, but steady”. While widespread intra‑ and intercommunal conflict continues, such conflict has started to decline since the formation of state governments. Noting the displacement and suffering caused by droughts and floods in his country, he called on the international community to assist the Government with both addressing the immediate needs of affected populations and implementing long‑term adaptation and mitigation measures. Also underscoring that the Revitalized Agreement’s financial weight is too heavy for the parties thereto to bear alone, he called on the Council and the international community to “stop sitting on the fence, cherry‑picking”. “Let’s put our money where our mouths are”, he urged.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Ireland, Mexico, India, Estonia, France, Norway and China.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 11:45 a.m.