Supporting South Sudan on the Path to Peace: The View of a United Nations Volunteer
“One thing is abundantly clear: everyone is tired of the war. The people cry and hope for peace.”
This is the feeling that will linger with United Nations Volunteer, Marko Miljevic, as he prepares to leave South Sudan after four years of service as a Civil Affairs Officer.
Originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marko Miljevic joined the United Nations Mission in South Sudan at a time when the country was emerging from the 2016 violence and beginning its long journey towards peace and recovery.
“At that time, I realized that the very idea of peace seemed almost mythical to most citizens in South Sudan. This was understandable given the country had been experiencing conflict for a protracted period of time,” he says. “However, one thing has remained clear and true – there is limitless potential for development once peace is established in this resource-rich country.”
This potential has inspired him throughout his time in South Sudan.
“With a particular focus on protecting civilians, all my efforts have been geared towards communicating with parties to the conflict and bringing them together to mutually identify community-led solutions,” he says.
“I have met many people, ranging from government representatives to women traders in the local towns and villages as well as ‘monyomiji’ (youth) from different tribes to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the peace process.”
Most of his days are spent in continuous dialogue on the value of peace and the pathways to achieving it. One project he is particularly proud of is bringing together youth from the Imurok Payam to engage in peacebuilding through sports and art.
“What stood out to me was the huge turnout and enthusiasm of the communities during the event. More than 200 people turned up and demonstrated tremendous spirit and a sense of togetherness. It was clear that they were tired of fighting and desperately wanted peace so they could rebuild their lives.”
While he is deeply passionate about his work, there have also been many challenges.
“Deeply rooted customs mixed with low educational attainment presented major obstacles for peaceful coexistence among some South Sudanese communities. One thing I often had to keep in my mind was that conflict was almost always imminent and it was my role, and that of my colleagues, to help prevent it rather than to manage its consequences.”
As he prepares to leave the country, Marko is proud of the efforts made by his team to bring people together during the difficult transition from war to peace.
“It is my hope that our collective efforts and service will go beyond bringing peace to the country, to also give the people of South Sudan prosperity and hope for a better future.”
He’s particularly proud and honoured to have served as a UN Volunteer.
“To me, being a volunteer often means going beyond the description of an assignment by utilizing different, innovative approaches to tackling challenges in order to make a positive difference to the lives of local communities.”
He shares a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that has inspires him to keep volunteering for humanity in the hope it will provide the same inspiration for those he is leaving behind.
“There is no way to peace - peace is the way”.