UNMISS refocuses peacekeeping approach to be fit-for-purpose in South Sudan

UNMISS David Shearer Press Conference Juba Protection of Civilians

The UN's top envoy in South Sudan, David Shearer, outlined plans for a more agile, proactive and fit-for-purpose UNMISS at his press conference in Juba today. Photo by Gregorio Cunha/UNMISS

3 Mar 2021

UNMISS refocuses peacekeeping approach to be fit-for-purpose in South Sudan

Juba, 3 March 2021: The changing political and security situation in South Sudan combined with the successful re-designation of UN protection sites is enabling the peacekeeping mission to reach more people in need and build the capacity of local police and the justice system to protect their own citizens.

During a briefing to the UN Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said the upcoming mandate renewal will guide the change in approach so the mission is “fit-for-purpose” going forward.

The changes include redeploying troops from three UN Protection of Civilians sites (POCs), which are now conventional displacement camps under the sovereign control of the Government, to areas where communities face the threat of intercommunal fighting. 

“We have established numerous new temporary bases and significantly increased patrolling to hotspots bolstered by troops previously confined to static duties at POC sites,” said David Shearer. “Most of these are integrated missions – involving civil affairs and human rights staff - to bring communities together, deter violence and address underlying causes.”

Peacekeeping engineers from seven different countries are also building and improving 3,200 kilometers of roads. 

“I can’t overstate the tangible impact of this work – it is an often-overlooked legacy of our peacekeeping,” said the SRSG. “In a country with just 400 kilometers of paved road, improving roads boosts communication, increases trade, jobs – and most critically, it builds peace through linking communities.”

The changes follow a significant reduction in political violence in the world’s newest nation since the signing of a peace deal in 2018. A transitional government, presidency and Council of Ministers have been formed. The full complement of state-level leaders is also in place.

However, David Shearer said that progress towards peace remains slow with the Transitional National Legislature yet to be reconstituted and minimal efforts towards constitution-making, transitional justice, and economic reform. The mission is, therefore, boosting its support in these areas.  

“Peacekeeping is just one means of providing protection. More important in the long term, is to help create a protective environment where all citizens benefit from the rule of law,” he said.

“So, we are looking to redeploy staff and resources to build the capacity of important justice institutions. That puts the onus and responsibility for protection where it should be – with the South Sudanese.”

These efforts include building the capacity of the national police, courts, and justice system, prioritizing technical support for security sector reform, and assisting preparations for elections.

“The reality is that the peace process remains extremely fragile. Many citizens are wary about the political will – they fear that the positive progress will collapse,” said David Shearer.

“It is for those people that we, the international community, must remain united and committed to pushing the peace process forward. We can’t sit on the sidelines as spectators. Look back four years. That’s what failure looks like and it’s in no one’s interests.”

For media queries contact: unmiss-spokesperson@un.org