On 9 May, the leadership of the warring sides in South Sudan’s civil war signed another formal ceasefire agreement. Only time will tell whether the warring factions can gain the confidence of the people of South Sudan will honour the already tenuous ceasefire in the long-term. Even if the ceasefire holds, the severe impact and consequences of the present situation will require a larger humanitarian response and continued political engagement by the international community to avoid political paralysis within an active conflict.
The conflict has had, and continues to have, a devastating impact on the security and human rights of the civilian population of South Sudan, targeting, threatening and disempowering a significant portion of the population based on their political and/or ethnic identity, as well as their physical location, or gender. It has been described as a “crisis of protection”, and has dramatically increased food insecurity and vulnerability to famine across the country. By the end of 2014, it is estimated that one in every two South Sudanese may be affected by the conflict and its consequences including through direct violence, illness and famine.
Reports documenting acts amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity (committed by armed actors) during the violence over the last five months have been published by UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Human Rights Division, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others. To complement existing reports, the Protection Cluster in South Sudan in conjunction with its partners have produced an updated Protection Trends Analysis, outlining current trends and changes in the situation since the initial report released on January 19.2
The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the main protection risks in South Sudan, how protection threats have evolved since the outbreak of the conflict, and outline emerging and specific threats experienced by the civilian population. Physical security caused by violence remains the single largest protection threat in South Sudan. Deliberate targeting of the civilian populations, including specifically women and children, and widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and property, such as markets, homes, health facilities and livelihoods, has had a devastating impact on the people of South Sudan. Although these and others protection threats are described in this report as distinct, they remain fundamentally interlinked requiring a cohesive protection and assistance response that is sensitive to the broader context.
Since January 2014, increasing attention has been paid to how the international community addresses protection issues and its impact on conflict dynamics. While there is willingness among humanitarian actors working in water, food security, or shelter to integrate protection concerns and do no harm approaches into their responses, the lack of financial and staffing support represents the single most significant constraint to ensuring that protection approaches are fully mainstreamed.
It is also clear that humanitarian actors alone cannot address the significant and enduring protection threats faced by South Sudan. In these regards, the visits of the United Nations Secretary General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide are welcome signals of the commitment of the international community to promote accountability and lasting political and national solutions to the current crisis. Sustained engagement, both from the donor and diplomatic community, is an essential precondition to effective humanitarian response.