Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on South Sudan
National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on South Sudan, 16 November 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr President,
Thank you very much to USG Jean-Pierre Lacroix, AU-Commissioner Chergui and Executive Director Phumzile for your briefings and for your very active engagement in South Sudan including this joint visit. I think this trip, again, shows the strong partnership between the AU and the UN, and that is all very welcomed. You have all brought to our attention the horrible situation for many women and girls in South Sudan, and for the need for them to have a meaningful political participation.
I just returned from South Sudan last week, having led a visit of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The historic and significant developments in the Horn of Africa, triggered by the Eritrean-Ethiopian reconciliation, have dramatically changed the dynamics in the region and opened a new chapter of peace and cooperation. That dynamic also provides a new positive momentum for South Sudan, and that needs to be built on. In this regard I want to commend IGAD and the facilitators for their efforts in having reached the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict.
This agreement is now the only game in town and we must all weigh in to ensure its implementation. I was in South Sudan only three days, but the people you speak to all testify to a new atmosphere of hope for peace. The region’s continued engagement in monitoring progress and holding the parties to account will be vital, and this Council must continue to support their efforts. We believe that the Council should be actively engaged and that means acknowledging progress made by the South Sudanese parties, as well as pointing out where they fall short of their commitments.
What is needed now is clear political will to implement what has been agreed upon and to engage in genuine peacebuilding and reconciliation. We welcome the steps taken so far, including the reduced levels of fighting. At the same time we are concerned by continued reports of military clashes. A complete cessation of hostilities by all parties, the Government and armed groups alike, must be unconditional, as all of our briefers has pointed out this morning. This is a prerequisite for a meaningful political process. There must be consequences for violations of the Agreement, including through targeted measures against those that incite violence or seek to derail the peace process.
The spirit of inclusivity must be safeguarded in the coming political process. The process will only be viable if it includes all stakeholders, in particular youth, women and civil society. We strongly welcome the provisions for including 35 percent women in the Transitional Government, as an increase in the political representation of women is crucial for lasting peace.
Part of the way forward will also be to advance accountability and transitional justice mechanisms, including through establishing the Hybrid Court. The culture of impunity for crimes committed in the conflict, not least acts of sexual violence, must come to an end. Sexual and Gender Based Violence is now a stand-alone sanctions criteria which should serve as a stern reminder.
We also remain strongly concerned by the continued dire humanitarian situation. Rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of relief across South Sudan must be assured. Humanitarian workers are doing admirable work and must be allowed to carry out their work safely. I have stressed the need for the government to build trust and support all those people working on the humanitarian side. Revisiting the issue of registration fees is one urgent way for the government to move forward.
The conflict in South Sudan has had a devastating effect on the children in the country and has left deep scars in the next generation. The Revitalized Peace Agreement represents an opportunity to now finally turn a corner and make the protection of children a priority. We were encouraged by the commitment to improve the situation of children affected by armed conflict expressed by our interlocutors during the visit. But of course, action is key. The demobilisation, release and reintegration of hundreds of children in 2018 and the recent accession by the Government to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children in Armed Conflict are important positive steps.
During the visit we presented recommendations to the Government on the way forward. This included the need to work with the United Nations to expand the current Action Plan which is focused on recruitment into a comprehensive Action Plan that would address all grave violations against children. Another important recommendation we made was to continue to facilitate the release and reintegration of children as part of the implementation of the Peace Agreement, and to allocate sufficient funds for the reintegration of former child soldiers. In this regard, the Security Council should also consider whether the mandate of UNMISS should be adjusted to this new situation, including the possibility of adding a stronger emphasis on DDR and a capacity building component.
We also did a field visit to the towns of Bor and Pibor in eastern part of the country. We met with children affected by the armed conflict and visited reintegration programs for previous child soldiers. It became very clear that reintegration of children cannot take place in a vacuum. If there are no schools or health services, the reintegration will not lead to the desired results for these victims themselves nor for society as a whole. Hopefully the agreement now signed, will also trigger the Government, with the support of the international community to invest in long-term development.
Protecting the children of South Sudan is our moral obligation. But it is also an investment in the future, critical to prevent conflict and sustain peace. The challenges ahead for the country are immense, and the path to peace will be very difficult. We must not be naïve. But the Revitalized Peace Agreement provides an opportunity that must now be seized upon. This Counsel should step up its engagement in the next few months - working closely with the region, encouraging progress and making sure that the parties live up to their commitments. Including women and protecting children should be a priority for all the reasons that we have heard in the briefings today.
Thank you very much, Mr President.