Remarks by Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, on International Day of UN Peacekeepers

29 May 2024

Remarks by Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, on International Day of UN Peacekeepers

Near Verbatim

Minister of Federal Affairs, the Honourable Losuba Ludoru Wongo

Excellencies, members of the diplomatic community.

My fellow United Nations colleagues and peacekeepers.

Distinguished guests.

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the official commemoration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.

Every year, on this day - the 29th of May - we honour the more than two million women and men who have served as United Nations peacekeepers since the first mission was deployed in 1948.

Importantly, we also pay tribute to the 4374 peacekeepers who have given their lives since that time in the cause of peace across the world.

Today, we particularly remember 14 of our colleagues serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan who sadly passed away in the last year. We take the opportunity to again express our deep condolences to their families.

Their sacrifice will never be forgotten, and their legacy inspires us to continue all efforts in the pursuit of peace.   

For 76 years, United Nations peacekeepers have made a tangible impact on the communities they serve.

They have saved and changed lives in some of the world’s most fragile political and security situations and have helped many countries navigate the difficult path from war to peace.

Today, more than 76,000 civilian, military and police personnel are deployed in 11 peacekeeping missions.

The challenges they face are greater than ever.

But they persevere to protect civilians, prevent violence, support political settlements, and build sustainable peace.

Here in South Sudan, around 18,000 civilian and uniformed peacekeepers serve with courage and determination to implement our mandate.

They carry out a wide range of tasks.

Protecting civilians.

Deterring violence.

Facilitating the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

Monitoring and investigating human rights violations and abuses.

Bringing communities together to reconcile and resolve conflict.

Supporting political processes and election preparations.

And helping to secure peace and progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

This year, the theme for the International Day of UN Peacekeepers is “Building Better Together”.

It promotes the importance of peacekeeping as a collective endeavour which can only succeed with the support of many partners.

This theme resonates strongly here in South Sudan where we rely on the support of the Government and people, as well as with regional and international peace partners, including the African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC).

These strong and enduring partnerships are more important than ever as we confront a growing catalogue of challenges across all fronts – economic, humanitarian, political and security.

UNMISS is doing its utmost to help overcome these challenges.  

We are intensifying efforts to bring political leaders together to build consensus and increase momentum in the implementation of the peace agreement.

This includes facilitating forums for leaders and representatives of political parties at the national and state levels as well as dedicated sessions for women and youth leaders to support more inclusive decision-making and governance processes.

We are also providing significant support to preparations for elections, including technical assistance and training for electoral bodies.

Another priority is to help build the capacity of South Sudan’s institutions and public services, including the justice sector to more effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate crimes, particularly sexual and gender-based violence.

This includes building 23 courts, prisons, police stations and training centres this year as well as helping to deploy mobile courts which bring justice to communities where it has been missing for far too long.

Further on the infrastructure front, we continue to maintain 80 kilometres of dikes and berms in Bentiu, protecting 300,000 people stranded on a tiny sliver of land surrounded by 4500 square kilometres of flood water.

Our engineers are also repairing 2000 kilometres of roads across Warrap, Western and Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes and Upper Nile, which helps to promote economic activity and peacebuilding efforts among these communities.

In protecting civilians, we are taking a more mobile, agile and nimble approach, including establishing temporary bases in conflict hotspots, such as Koch, Maridi, Jamjang, Tambura and, most recently, in Abiemnhom.

Our presence and patrolling helps protect vulnerable communities, including displaced families, who are caught in the crossfire of intercommunal conflict. It provides a secure environment for humanitarian workers to reach those in need. And it enables feuding groups to safely come together to resolve their differences and grievances through dialogue rather than violence.

While progress is being made in the journey towards peace and stability, there is still much to be done.

Fresh momentum must be injected into the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement which remains the only route towards enduring peace.

Urgent action is also needed to meet the minimum political and technical preconditions required for peaceful and credible elections so that the people of South Sudan have the opportunity they deserve to choose their leaders and own their own future.

On this note, I’d like to reiterate the UN’s position on elections so there is no misunderstanding.

The United Nations supports the sovereign right of the Government and people of South Sudan to conduct their own elections.

Our role has been to provide technical and other assistance for electoral preparations and to support the establishment of the necessary preconditions, as agreed by the parties themselves, so that elections are free, fair, credible, and peaceful and do not become a driver of conflict.

This is in line with our core mandate from the UN Security Council to prevent a return to civil war in South Sudan.

And it is why we are working intensively with the parties and regional peace partners in support of the shared prize of elections.

Ladies and gentlemen.

On this special day, I would like to end my remarks by thanking our dedicated peacekeepers for their immense contribution to peace.  

Our national staff, who strive every day to build a brighter future for their communities and country.

Our international colleagues, including more than 400 UN Volunteers, who work far from home and their families in difficult conditions to support this country on its path to peace.

I’d like to make special mention of the more than 2000 women peacekeepers serving with UNMISS, whose contribution improves the effectiveness of the Mission and makes a tangible difference to the lives of those they serve.  

Lastly, to the people of South Sudan, we thank you for your support, your resilience, and your determination to overcome all obstacles and enjoy the better future that you so deserve.

You are our partner in peace.

Thank you.