Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom's Remarks at International Day of UN Peacekeepers, South Sudan
I would like to begin by thanking the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr. Albino Bol Dhieu, for being with us on this special day.
I also acknowledge Ambassador David Buom Choat, the Director of International Organizations, for joining us today.
Thank you also to our other honoured guests and UNMISS personnel across the country who are unable to join us in person for this event.
Today, we come together to honor the more than one million men and women who have served with courage and distinction as United Nations peacekeepers here in South Sudan and across the world.
We pay particular tribute to the 83 peacekeepers who have lost their lives since the inception of UNMISS, including 18 of our colleagues who have passed away in the last year.
They have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of peace. We honour and remember them as well as their families and friends who have lost a loved one while serving under the UN flag.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize one of our peacekeepers who was a finalist in the 2020 Military Gender Adviser of the Year Awards. Lieutenant Colonel Rose Zinenani Nalibwe was praised for her tireless efforts to integrate gender perspectives into military functions at UNMISS. We thank her for her commitment.
I would like to, again, pay my respects to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. As your partners in the peace process, we deeply appreciate the Government’s support for the work of the UN in South Sudan.
I want to share with you what we, at UNMISS, are doing to advance peace.
I arrived in Juba to take up the role of SRSG five weeks’ ago. Although I’ve spent almost 20 years working in greater Sudan, I decided, it was important for me to get out of the Juba bubble and visit all 10 states to understand how we can best support the peacebuilding process.
During my many meetings with state authorities, their messages were consistent. They need help to prevent subnational conflict, boost infrastructure, and support grassroots efforts towards reconciliation and peace.
While it is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government and its security forces to protect citizens from violence, we are doing everything we can to help create a secure environment for returnees and refugees.
Our military peacekeepers are taking a nimble, robust, and proactive approach to the protection of civilians. We are rapidly deploying troops to conflict hotspots, setting up temporary bases and intensifying patrols to deter conflict.
We are also doing everything we can to protect humanitarian workers and supplies and secure access to humanitarian services, often life-saving goods and food, including rebuilding 3,500 kilometers of roads by our engineering contingents. This work is vital to improving trade, access to basic services, and to enable communities to trade and connect.
We are working with political and traditional leaders as well as civil society to push the peace process forward. Our priority is to provide technical assistance to build the capacity of local institutions, reform the security and justice sectors, and to progress important elements of the peace deal, such as constitution-making and, ultimately, free and fair elections.
This is not something that we can do alone – it must be in support of South Sudanese stakeholders and in partnership with the international community. The process must be led and owned by the people of South Sudan to ensure that the peace that is achieved is sustainable.
The theme of today’s commemoration is “Youth – Leading the Path to Peace”.
It is particularly relevant to our work here in South Sudan. We ourselves have many young peacekeepers – civilian and uniformed – who are strongly committed to helping this country achieve durable peace. We thank them.
As on all such occasions, I reiterate the Mission’s zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse. UNMISS has a good conduct and discipline record, but we expect only the highest standards in this regard.
As we all know, South Sudan has a very young population with more than 70 percent aged under 30. This makes the role of youth as ambassadors for peace even more important. They are leaders today, and of the future, so their participation in conflict prevention, reconciliation, and the peace process is vital. If they are ignored by the process and marginal to its implementation, they will be the first to be disillusioned. But if they are implicated in it, they will be the first to defend it. We acknowledge their contribution.
Like all other peacekeeping missions, we are facing the great challenges of delivering on our mandate while supporting the national-led effort to respond to COVID-19. The virus continues to pose a significant threat to us all. But it will not deter us from our efforts to support South Sudan in its quest for peace.
It is only with durable peace that young people across this country will get the opportunity they deserve to reach their full potential.
So together, let us stay strong and commit to working as partners in peace to build a better future for all.