UNMISS chief outlines achievements and challenges

from UN Mission in South Sudan
Published on 15 Feb 2013 View Original

15 February 2013 - UNMISS was having extensive talks with the South Sudanese government on early conflict warning systems, but also faced challenges in detecting threats, the mission’s head said in Juba today.

Speaking at her first press conference this year, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Hilde F. Johnson said UNMISS would continue to share early warnings, although the organization could not be everywhere at all times.

“After the shoot down of the helicopter, we have had new aviation procedures that restrict our monitoring,” she said. “There are also limits to what we can do and where we can operate.”

Ms. Johnson said protection of civilians remained a core priority of the UNMISS mandate, despite the challenges. She added that the main responsibility for protection lay with the government and its national security forces.

“We continue to update - and implement - contingency plans, deploy integrated civilian-military assessment missions across the country, and redeploy our police and military to areas where they are most needed,” she said.

Ms. Johnson urged the government to identify and bring perpetrators to justice, calling for maximum restraint to prevent reoccurrence of recent violence in several parts of the country. She welcomed the government’s initiative to start a national reconciliation and healing process.

“Historical grievances continue to affect relations between communities and individuals,” the SRSG said. “Such a (reconciliation) process has great potential for nation-building … Furthermore, the Constitutional Review Process is essential for national reconciliation…”

She urged the national legislature to ensure the Constitutional Review process would be given enough time for consultation with people and communities down to the county level.

“UNMISS is leading the coordination of international partners to support the process. And we are all ready to assist on multiple fronts,” Ms. Johnson said. “The Constitutional Review process is a great opportunity for strengthening the national identity… This opportunity should not be missed.”

Addressing the human rights situation, she said UNMISS was disturbed by reports of threats, intimidation, harassment and attacks against journalists, civil society and human rights activists, saying the government needed to tackle this.

“It is positive that South Sudan has agreed to become a pilot country for the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity,” she said. “UNMISS, UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) will work together with other national and international partners to support this process.”

SRSG Johnson said the country’s relationship with Sudan and other security challenges had consumed much energy and resources, but there had been considerable progress in several areas supported by UNMISS and its UN partners.

She highlighted the establishment of institutions that were putting in place a democratic foundation through “core legislation on political parties and elections”, transformation of the South Sudan National Police Service and establishment of a national Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Council.

Deputy SRSG Toby Lanzer, who also serves as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, said that different agencies had implemented projects of significant value to the people of South Sudan over the last year and a half.

“(The) World Food Programme’s food for assets project in 2012 helped communities across South Sudan not only enhance their resilience to shocks but also put food on the table,” said Mr. Lanzer. “The Ministry of Health, with support from UN Population Fund, established the first Diploma Midwifery Education Programme in South Sudan to respond to the gap of skilled midwives and nurses and to reduce maternal deaths.”

Other examples included the fully equipped maternity ward which the World Health Organization recently handed over to Jonglei State health authorities and the release of 254 children from the armed forces in 2012 through the joint efforts of UNICEF, UNMISS, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and other government partners.

Despite these efforts, Mr. Lanzer said vast challenges remained and that the humanitarian community was struggling to respond in areas where it was needed due to a funding shortage.

“We have only received 15 per cent funding of the $1.16 billion that we requested for in our Consolidated Appeal for 2013,” Mr. Lanzer said.

“We shall continue to reach out to donors and advocate on behalf of South Sudan, but we also must be realistic. Donors are undergoing their own austerity too,” he said.