Statement by Mr. Guang Cong, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Political at the 27th RJMEC Plenary Meeting [As delivered]
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
I thank RJMEC for convening this meeting and for the opportunity to address you today.
Let me start by acknowledging the recent major developments related to the peace process.
I welcome the expressed re-commitment of the transitional government to implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement announced by the High-Level Standing Committee on 21 February. UNMISS congratulates the parties for demonstrating political cohesion to preserve the R-ARCSS peace framework which should now be matched by renewed impetus to accelerate its implementation.
In recent weeks, South Sudan has acceded to four international conventions and passed into law the (i) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol; (ii) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (iii) Protocol to The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol); and (iv) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This sends an important message about the country’s commitment to improve the rule of law and uphold human rights. We are also encouraged that the parties have agreed on the provisions of the National Security Services Act. With this, the finalization of security-related legislation should be consolidated in a timely manner.
I congratulate the successful hosting of the Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Peace, led by His Holiness Pope Francis, and welcome President Salva Kiir’s announcement to resume the Rome Process under the auspices of the Community of Sant'Egidio. The visit’s preparations and conduct demonstrated what can be achieved when South Sudanese are united in a common effort. We endorse the messages of peace, reconciliation and good governance from the Pope, the Archbishop and the Moderator.
I support the messages emanating from the recent International Conference on Women’s Transformative Leadership, convened by the government in Juba and supported by the United Nations. The conference has carved out an important space for women and girls to embrace their role as change agents.
The consistent and timely efforts of the regional partners is demonstrated by the recent visit of the African Union Peace and Security Council and serves to deepen the continent’s capacity to leverage key outcomes in South Sudan.
These engagements demonstrate the commitment of the international community to support South Sudan to consolidate its peace.
While I acknowledge the efforts to ensure the completion of Phase 1 of the graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces, the deployment of the graduated forces and commencement of Phase II are already behind the roadmap stated timelines. I therefore call on the parties to finalize a formula for the harmonization of ranks and structures, welfare and deployment of the graduated troops, and commence Phase II as soon as possible.
To meet key benchmarks contained in the Roadmap, it is important to expedite the work. This means that the constitution-making process should start as soon as possible so that South Sudanese have the opportunity to participate and provide input for a new social contract with the Government that reflects their priorities and aspirations. This will also be a critical barometer for civic and political space.
It is also essential to expedite the deliberation of the Elections Act to allow for the reconstitution of the National Elections Commission (NEC), an essential element of preparation for a free and fair electoral process. Timely progress will demonstrate the intent to exit the roadmap with peaceful and democratic elections.
I therefore call on the parties to fast-track the reconstitution and operationalization of other indispensable bodies such as the Political Parties Council, the Reconstituted National Constitutional Review Commission (RNCRC), and the establishment of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC). Further delays will have a domino effect on subsequent benchmarks.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan reminds us of the imperative for the parties to deliver on their commitments in the Revitalized Peace Agreement. However, continuing insecurity in parts of the country and attacks against humanitarian personnel and assets have been hampering the efforts of humanitarians to reach the affected citizens. Humanitarians continue to sacrifice their lives in line of their service – with three South Sudanese humanitarians killed since the start of 2023. Humanitarians need unimpeded access and timely and sufficient funding to reach those in need. In December 2022, the humanitarian community in South Sudan released the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2023. The Plan requires US$1.7 billion to reach 6.8 million of the most vulnerable people with urgent vital support. We call upon partners to continue responding generously to the Humanitarian Response Plan.
We urge all concerned parties to facilitate unhindered access to the Nile River corridor, which is an economic lifeline for the delivery of goods and services, along with humanitarian assistance, particularly to vulnerable communities.
The security situation in Upper Nile, Jonglei, the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, the adjacent areas to Abyei and cattle-related violence in Lakes and the Equatorias continue to be a source of concern. These conflicts, if left unabated, threaten to unravel hard-won peace gains and the momentum of the peace process. While we welcome the recovery and return of some of the abducted women and children, once again, we strongly condemn the practice of such abductions.
We encourage national actors to make further efforts to address the root causes of conflicts and strengthen security institutions and accountability structures to assure citizens of their safety and justice. Meeting these challenges requires the government to contribute resources, and take concerted actions to protect its citizens by preventing and mitigating subnational violence.
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
We know too well the implications of missed timelines. As we embark on a critical, make-or-break year, UNMISS calls on the Government and all the parties to redouble their efforts to implement the Roadmap, address ongoing sub-national conflict, and sustain peace and stability for all South Sudanese. UNMISS – in concert with IGAD, AU, RJMEC and partners - remains ready to continue its support of the peace process.
I thank you