Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Eugene Owusu, closing remarks at the UN General Assembly High-Level Panel on the Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan, New York, 22 September 2016
This is an incredibly important event, at what is indisputably a critical juncture for South Sudan.
Since you have already heard from many compelling speakers, I will keep my own remarks extremely brief and focused on just four key points that I would like you to take away from today:
The first point is that the guns must stay silent: and where they are silent, they must continue to stay silent: Sadly, in the course of this meeting, I received reports that fighting has broken out in Wau with heavy tanks. The guns indeed must stay silent. As Humanitarian Coordinator, I cannot say this enough: The people of South Sudan are tired. They need peace.
They need hope. They need to be able to live in their own homes and plant their own crops, without fear that they will be displaced, attacked or raped.
The second point is that attacks against aid workers and aid assets in South Sudan must cease immediately: You have all heard about the heinous events that took place in the Terrain Hotel on 11 July, as well as the reprehensible looting of food, seeds, tools and equipment in the days that followed. These events have shaken our humanitarian community in South Sudan to the very core. While we have stood in solidarity with the survivors and mourned the loss of our colleague, this is simply not enough. Firm and concrete action must be taken to prevent such attacks in the future.
As an immediate and symbolic step, the rhetoric around aid workers must shift from one of suspicion and hostility, to one of respect and appreciation. Humanitarians in South Sudan are there for only one reason – to assist the vulnerable and those in need. Every single person in South Sudan must be made aware that the authorities will not allow impunity for attacks against aid workers.
The third point is that the barriers to free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need must be lifted: The humanitarian needs in South Sudan are beyond reckoning.
And yet, we spend hours upon hours, week upon week, navigating a complex web of denials, interference and obstruction. This has to stop. There is a crisis in South Sudan and we need to be able to respond to it. I really welcome the constructive dialogue that we have established with the new Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Mr. Hussein Mar, in seeking solutions to these issues, but I would like to stress that positive intentions and promises to act will not be sufficient. We expect and must have swift action.
Finally, as we are gathered here today with so many Member States in this room, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without thanking you for your generosity, but also calling on you to dig deeper: The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan shows no signs of abating. On the contrary, the needs, as you have heard today, continue to deepen and spread. Many of you in this room have given generously. Our appeal is now more than 54 per cent funded. But the task ahead is enormous. In the coming months, as the roads start to dry up, we will have a brief window of opportunity to move relief supplies to some of the hardest to reach areas around the country.
Before we can do so, we need to be able to purchase those supplies. I count on your continued generosity, which I assure you is not taken for granted. In my travels around the country, I have heard repeatedly, from South Sudanese from all walks of life, of their appreciation for the assistance that they receive. In our moments of frustration and uncertainty regarding the trajectory of the country, it is these people that we must remember. They are counting on you; they are counting on the world more broadly not to forget them.