With only eight months remaining until the end of South Sudan’s Transitional Government, Security Council members expressed dismay with the country’s worsening humanitarian crisis and stressed the urgency of preparing for elections and keeping the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement on track.
Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told the Council that the window of opportunity for the country to meet its critical benchmarks is closing. In the months ahead, national leadership is needed, along with resources and a visible commitment by South Sudan’s leaders to fulfil their responsibility under the Peace Agreement. The necessary steps must be taken for the country to exit the transitional period. Acknowledging the serious humanitarian crisis permeating the country, he said that he strongly believes that the only viable course of action remains the Revitalized Peace Agreement’s implementation, in letter and in spirit. This includes women’s full and proper participation in all the mechanisms covered by the Peace Agreement. He urged the continued commitment of the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its member States, the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and members of the international community.
Ghada Mudawi, Acting Director, Operations and Advocacy Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that, since her last briefing in late 2021, “most humanitarian indicators have deteriorated” in South Sudan. Subnational violence continues and women and girls face serious risks of gender-based violence when fighting breaks out. Along with severe economic challenges, conflict and climate shocks have created a dire humanitarian situation. “When it gets as bad as in South Sudan, the spectre of severe hunger and even famine results,” she pointed out. Climate-related shocks are the primary driver of humanitarian needs and the country now faces its fourth year of above-average rainfall, which has disrupted the agricultural season and constrained food production. Collective action on climate mitigation and adaptation is needed, as are durable solutions for the 2 million people internally displaced, and the 2.3 million refugees.
Lorna Merekeje, South Sudanese human rights defender, civil rights activist and peace advocate, outlined the multiple uncertainties faced by her country’s people: a worsening economic situation that has escalated prices for basic food commodities; shrinking space for civic engagement; and escalating violence and human rights violations. While the country anticipates upcoming elections, as provided by the Revitalized Agreement, the parties do not seem to be sufficiently committed to fully implement them. Since the Agreement’s validity will end in a few months, she underscored the need to urge its guarantors to support the people of South Sudan in designing a concrete road map for the country after such validity ends.
“The country is deeply fragmented and bleeding,” she said, and noted that, after the signing of the Revitalized Agreement, the hope for peace and stability in the country has paradoxically been accompanied by intense intercommunal conflict. She called on the Council to authorize UNMISS to facilitate or host periodic engagements between the Government and civil society to build confidence and support forward thinking for South Sudan.
The representative of Ghana, also speaking for Gabon and Kenya, welcomed the Government’s efforts to implement the Revitalized Agreement, particularly the facets related to creating the Necessary Unified Forces; agreement on the army’s command-and-control structure; opening of humanitarian corridors; and the development of an action plan to begin public consultations on the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. He urged the parties to carry out an inclusive dialogue and forge consensus on a road map for the rest of the transition period, including the conduct of elections. Turning to the security situation, he expressed concern over the surge in communal violence and urged the Government to address these conflicts, including conducting peace dialogues to address existing grievances.
The representative of France welcomed the April agreement on single joint command of the armed forces. She called on all parties to agree on a date for elections and prepare for them. A legal framework to facilitate elections must be adopted and the authorities must also create favourable conditions for elections by guaranteeing respect for fundamental freedoms. She also was concerned about increased restrictions on the Mission’s freedom of movement and asked authorities to provide increased cooperation. She also noted the significant increase in the European Union’s humanitarian assistance for South Sudan and called on authorities to do more to protect humanitarian workers.
The representative of South Sudan agreed with the Secretary-General that no party should make unilateral decisions that may affect the future of stability the country. Emphasizing that this appeal should also include the international community, he expressed hope that the coming months will be spent in closed consultation by all parties to the Agreement, including the international community.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, India, Ireland, Mexico, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, China and Albania.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:45 a.m.