After a long weekend meeting with stakeholders and diplomatic missions in South Sudan capital Juba, the United Nations Under Secretary General for Peace Operations concluded a series of meetings and promised the people of South Sudan the full support of peacekeepers and humanitarians as they make the difficult journey from war to peace.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix was given a honorary farewelled treatment with a special guard of honor provided by Chinese peacekeepers at the UN House base in Juba as he wrapped up his four day visit to the conflict affected country. His mission was to encourage increased momentum in the implementation of the peace agreement.
After a long civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives, the warring parties signed the Revitalized peace agreement in 2018. However, implementation continues to stagnate with key issues still unresolved, including the graduation and deployment of unified forces along with broader security sector reform.
Despite several existing challenges, the USG heard first-hand the challenges faced by representatives from myriad humanitarian agencies trying to help communities across South Sudan, despite shaky resources. There are more than eight million people in need of assistance due to ongoing conflict as well as the impact of the worst flooding in 60 years.
According to humanitarian workers, food insecurity this year is the worst in a decade with 7.2 million people severely acutely food insecure. There has been three years of unprecedented flooding. Last year’s floods were the worst for 60 years, affecting 480,000 people.
Also in attendance of the farewell was World Food Programme Representative and Country Director, Matthew Hollingworth who further submitted that they are seeing subnational conflict across the whole country at a time when, actually, the whole world wants to see the political gains that have happened since the unity government came into place last year strengthened.
He added that at a time when there are many political and humanitarian crises in the world, the attention, energy, and financial resources of the international community is stretched thinner than ever. However, the USG reassured South Sudanese that their plight remains a priority for the UN and donor countries.
From the look of what’s happening in the country, the situation here remains difficult, and we are aware of that. However, the UN representative assured everyone that the commitment from our colleagues at the UN, colleagues involved in humanitarian efforts, peacekeeping, development aid, protecting women, protecting girls, protecting children, their commitment is very, very strong and will continue, to do our best to help support the South Sudanese people moving forward.
That support includes the full range of peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities, ranging from protecting civilians to supporting the constitution-making process and preparations for elections so South Sudanese citizens have the right to elect their leaders and determine their own future.
Additionally, the UN representative said they want to see the peace process supported because only through stability and peace, will yield the development and longer-term support from the humanitarians having the necessary impact to make this country a more prosperous and peaceful nation.
Conclusively, Lacroix also spoke about the need to create a safe environment for civil society and media to operate, which is particularly important in the lead-up to elections.
He said “It’s very simple. The UN stands for freedom of expression. We stand for wide open civic space,” The USG also reiterated the necessity of meeting the target set out in the peace deal for at least 35 percent representation of women across all governance structures and more importantly the role of women and the empowerment of women in South Sudan is absolutely critical to achieving peace.
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