United Nations

United Nations 4 Mar 2020

"South Sudan moves further along the road to sustainable peace" - Special Representative


UN Special Representative for South Sudan David Shearer attributed the progress in the country to the "political willingness of two men who put the interests of their country first" and said, "We often speak of courage in war and battle. But peace also requires courage."

Addressing the Security Council via teleconference from Juba today (04 Mar) Shearer highlighted the positive developments that have moved the country further along the road to sustainable peace. He paid tribute to the political willingness of President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar for putting the interests of their country first in their agreement on a transitional government.

Shearer added that relief was the overwhelming feeling expressed around the country, with the consensus being that the priority is to form the transitional government so that the peace agreement - and the country - can advance. He said parties were now negotiating over the allocation of ministerial portfolios.

He noted that the new government could prompt positive change, with internally displaced people and refugees being able to return. Already around 800,000, according to IOM, have come back since the signing of the 2018 peace agreement.

SOUNDBITE (English) David Shearer, Special Representative of Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):
"The first joint statement from the new presidency - that's the President and the Vice Presidents together - urged people from POC sites, protection sites, and neighbouring countries to return to their homes. Their collective message is significant and is timely, coming ahead of the rainy season and also the planting season. The message does, of course, put onus on the new government to ensure that areas of return are safe for those coming back."

For its part, the UN Mission has stepped up its protective presence to build confidence in the areas of return. However, the Special Representative said the lack of basic health and education services in rural areas has discouraged returns.

Shearer said the new government faces daunting challenges on day one that will test its unity, particularly the need to move on the transitional security arrangements where implementation is dangerously lagging. He added that the new government also faces a precarious humanitarian situation in many states, especially with extensive flooding last year which destroyed crops, contaminated water supplies, and led to the loss of livestock.

The Special Representative said the international community would likely lean on the side of caution as to not repeat past mistakes, which he said was fair, but added that it could not totally step back to wait to see what happens before making a commitment.

SOUNDBITE (English) David Shearer, Special Representative of Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS):
"Our actions can push South Sudan further toward sustainable peace; our inaction can help condemn it to failure. In the past weeks, its leaders have shown leadership. It is hoped that will continue. But it is imperative there is no reneging of the peace agreement or of the ceasefire. International partners must remain engaged — both in solidarity and, at times, with pressure — to encourage compromise in order to achieve and maintain the unity."

Briefing by Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, on the situation in the Middle East (Yemen) during a Security Council Open VTC.

The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, today (14 May) told the Security Council that "the United Nations has provided a feasible roadmap to the parties," and it is now up to "those with arms and power, to make the decisions to achieve the objectives set out there."

At the end of March, the Special Envoy shared draft agreements on a nation-wide ceasefire; humanitarian and economic measures; and the resumption of the political process with the Government of Yemen and with Ansar Allah.

Griffiths said, "I firmly believe that all these measures are necessary and indeed overdue. They are not new issues; the UN has been calling for progress on those issues for a long time, including in Sweden, 16, 17 months ago. They are there for the people of Yemen. They are not there for the interests of one party or another, but for the people of Yemen. And the parties should be able to agree on how to move forward with them quickly. And I emphasize the word should."

The Special Envoy said, "the outcome is in the hands of the parties" and added that the Council "has a vital role to play in supporting them, and through them the Yemeni people, along the path toward peace."

Griffiths also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic downturn threaten to cause even more adversity in the country.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ad Interim, Ramesh Rajasingham, told the Council that "peace is the best chance Yemen has to contain COVID-19," and added that "this is essential not just for public health, but for the sake of millions of Yemenis who, even before this pandemic, were exhausted after five years of a war they never wanted."

For his part, Yemeni Ambassador Abdullah Ali Fadhel Al-Saadi, said "the continuous manipulation and hampering with the coronavirus pandemic issue by Houtie militias, their adoption of obfuscation policy and the lack of transparency regarding the actual number of cases, hinders the efforts to fight the pandemic and puts the lives of millions of Yemenis at risk."

72 confirmed cases, including 13 deaths, have been reported in Yemen. Sixty-two of these cases were reported in just the last ten days.
South Sudan on Sunday announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, a United Nations staff member, becoming one the last African countries to confirm the virus. But, years of civil war and low funding have left the world's youngest nation with a fragile healthcare system, raising fears that the virus - if left unchecked - could quickly spread. Sheila Ponnie reports from Juba.
More than five million people in South Sudan rely on food aid to survive and the coronavirus pandemic is making their lives even harder.
The outbreak is slowing down humanitarian operations that deliver essential food supplies.
Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan reports from Juba.
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