I’d like to talk briefly about two key issues.
Firstly, the renewal of the UNMISS mandate by the UN Security Council.
As you’ll be aware, I travelled to New York recently to brief the Security Council on the political, security and humanitarian situation.
A major focus of my discussions was about how to make meaningful progress with the implementation of the peace agreement and what UNMISS can do to support the process.
I’ll speak in more detail about that shortly.
But first, I’d like to acknowledge the Security Council’s decision to extend UNMISS’ mandate for another year – until 15 March 2020.
This decision enables us to continue with our current efforts to protect civilians and build durable peace in South Sudan. Our troop numbers remain unchanged at a maximum level of 17,000 and our police personnel at 2101. Our focus on protection of civilians, monitoring and reporting on human rights, facilitating the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance and supporting the peace process remains the same.
However, there are some changes that were made in response to requests from UNMISS, that, I believe, will make a positive impact on our work.
On our political mandate, the Security Council added a provision for UNMISS to provide technical assistance and or advice to the peace process. This is very important because it allows us to be more flexible and proactive in our support, for example providing experts to assist the various committees if they need our help with security arrangements, the boundaries issue, constitutional and administrative legal matters, transitional justice and accountability as well as electoral processes.
The mandate also now points directly to efforts to build confidence and to help mediation and peace-building across the country. This is something we are very focused on.
I’m pleased to see that at least 76 separate rapprochements have taken place between the parties at a local level. UNMISS has, and will continue, to support these discussions.
Another significant change made by the Security Council is the inclusion of the facilitation of safe, voluntary and dignified returns as part of our core Protection of Civilians mandate.
While tensions and clashes are continuing in some parts of the country, including around Yei, the overall level political violence has diminished.
That means that many displaced families are beginning to feel more confident about returning to their homes. For example, the number of people living in POC sites have come down from 205,000 before the Peace Agreement was signed to about 193,000 today – and it continues to drop – with people wanting to return home before the rainy season to plant.
UNMISS is actively supporting the returns process. We have transported people by barge, helicopter, and in convoys of trucks to areas of potential return so they can assess for themselves whether it is safe to go home.
We will never force people to leave a protection site. But we should do everything we can to realise the dreams of people who want to rebuild their lives in their own home. To deny them that wish is wrong.
As a result, hundreds of people have now left the Bor POC to move back to New Fangak and Akobo, for example. The same is happening in Wau where the number in the POC is down from around 39,000 eight months ago to around 14,000.
And we will continue to work with humanitarian partners to ensure that families have a safe and supported environment to return to, particularly in terms of access to basic services.
Overall, our new mandate enables us to continue, and actually to step up, our efforts to support the peace process in support of IGAD.
My very strong view – and it’s one that I shared with the Security Council – is that there is no Plan B. There is only a Plan A – the peace agreement that we have in front of us – and this path forward.
But, for it to have a chance to work, the agreement needs to be supported.
A peace that falters will generate frustration, anger and a possible return to violence, that could equal that of 2013 and 2016. We cannot allow that to happen.
Like others, we have our concerns about the peace process. Progress lags behind what is expected. But there is no perfect process. And for our part, UNMISS is committed to continuing to focus attention and resources on making it work.
Certainly, a year ago, most of us, including myself, did not believe we would be where we are today. We have arrived at this point because of the commitment of the parties and the leadership and drive largely from IGAD, most particularly Sudan.
And for that reason, it is absolutely critical that IGAD continues to play a robust and active role in the months ahead.
There are challenges ahead of us. Many of the obstacles today were unresolved when the peace agreement was signed. They are tough issues.
We need a clear roadmap – and detailed, realistic work plans – for the international community to invest in the process. The Government must also step up and take the lead by making a strong financial contribution.
It is important that the various committees do not become bogged down in minutiae and procedural discussions at the cost of making real progress.
But most importantly, we must all come together and get in behind the process so that concrete outcomes are achieved.
The cost of failure is unthinkable. So, the responsibility lies with all of us to move forward together to make this agreement a reality.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan