Opening Remarks at the Press Conference by Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to South Sudan, Mr. David Shearer Juba – 14 September 2017
Good morning and thanks for joining me at this briefing.
I’d like to focus on two main issues today…the upcoming annual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York which I will be attending;
I’d like to give you details about two key events taking place in New York which concern South Sudan;
I also want to update you on our Protection of Civilians or POC sites.
Early next week, I am leaving for New York to attend the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The General Assembly is made up of the 193 Member States of the UN.
South Sudan, is as you, know the 193rd and newest Member State.
The General Debate is the annual get-together of the leaders of those Member States.
There are additional meetings on the sidelines, including two on South Sudan which I will attend. For your information, Radio Miraya will be reporting on these events.
The first meeting on Wednesday, the 20th, will assess the current humanitarian situation in the country.
The objective of this meeting is to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and to mobilize international support to meet urgent humanitarian needs.
The UN Humanitarian Office, OCHA, has just released its latest statistics on the crisis … which I’d like to highlight …. to give you a sense of the scale of the challenges faced.
The number of people displaced in South Sudan rose to nearly four million during the first half of this year. That includes 1.9 million who have been internally displaced and two million who have fled to neighbouring countries – one million in Uganda alone.
This displacement follows conflict in Jonglei and Upper Nile, and insecurity in the Equatorias. The total number of people in real need of aid in South Sudan has risen to 7.6 million.
To reach these people – with food, health care and education support – of course, costs a lot of money.
The current humanitarian response plan is budgeted at US$1.64 billion. So far 66% of that funding has been received.
A large number of dedicated NGO personnel, many of whom have been working in South Sudan for many years, deliver this assistance on the ground.
UNMISS, as you know, has a key role to play … indeed it’s part of our mandate … to support the work of our humanitarian partners, when needed.
That can mean assisting with security for road convoys for the delivery of relief aid or providing a protective environment in crisis hotspots where humanitarian staff are working.
I am sure the event in New York will also highlight the importance of ending impunity for attacks against civilians and humanitarian workers.
Only last week a driver for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed when a relief convoy in opposition-held territory was attacked in Western Equatoria. That brings to 18, the number of aid workers who have been killed in South Sudan in 2017.
The second event I will attend in New York is a High-Level meeting on South Sudan which is being convened by the United Nations, with co-facilitation by the African Union and IGAD.
This meeting will consider the revitalization of the political process in South Sudan. What is likely to come out of the meeting?
I’m expecting a solidarity of purpose from the UN, AU and IGAD – for those organizations to agree a stated commitment to reach a political settlement and support the revitalization of the peace process. I anticipate that discussions will centre on plans for the upcoming IGAD-led High-Level Revitalization Forum…..the important role it can play to update the Peace Agreement and the steps needed to create the conditions for national elections in South Sudan.
The National Dialogue will also be discussed.
The position of the UN is that that the National Dialogue is – and should be – a South Sudan-led process. The UN has provided financial, logistical support and is bringing experts from around the world to train and advise when we have been requested.
I have made it clear to the Steering Committee we will continue our support so long as the National Dialogue continues to be transparent and genuinely inclusive – true to the principles they have stated. So, the UN sees the National Dialogue as a positive step in the overall pursuit of peace – as well as an opportunity to inject new life into the 2015 peace agreement.
We hope it can contribute to peace, reconciliation and nation-building.
However, for the National Dialogue to enable free discussion and bring all parties together, a cessation of hostilities is required.
This is particularly the case in the coming weeks as the Steering Committee moves out to the regions of South Sudan. It is difficult to see how it can effectively do its job, if fighting is going on all around.
I’d like to say a few words about UNMISS’s role in the protection of civilians.
Around 11,000 internally displaced people left UNMISS POC sites around the country since the beginning of the year. That is good news, but UNMISS still continues to shelter some 213,000 people.
We know that the vast majority of those people want to return home, so UNMISS and our humanitarian partners are always looking at opportunities to support their voluntary return.
It’s important to remember that it is primarily the responsibility of the government to protect its civilians. However, there are some areas where security is improving and people are voluntarily returning home to restart their lives.
We have some good examples of effective collaboration, especially in cases where UNMISS has increased its peacekeeping patrols.
Yesterday I was in Wau.
More active patrolling by National Security and the police in Wau has substantially improved security. I spoke to the governor and security agencies of this potential cooperation to accelerate return.
We also need to ensure that humanitarian services are boosted outside the POCs and that the IDPs themselves are ready to return home.
The POC sites were originally created because there was a need, and I’m convinced that we have saved thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives, by providing that sanctuary.
It is worth restating that our mandate requires us to protect civilians; this includes not just those living in POC sites but also the almost two million displaced people around the country and those people who are still living at home.
UNMISS patrols are continuing to push further into the countryside extending the peacekeeping presence to places like Yei and other hotspots.
I’d like to finish there and I’m happy to take questions.