Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in South Sudan (via VTC)

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 15, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Special Representative Shearer, for your dedication to South Sudan and for your briefing today. Under-Secretary-General Lowcock, your briefing on the humanitarian situation is a reminder that we all need to come together to fight hunger in South Sudan. And to my colleague from Vietnam, we appreciate your update on the activities of the South Sudan Sanctions Committee today.

Mr. President, today the United States welcomes progress in implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement, forming a national unity government and building institutions. We also welcome the December 9 announcement by South Sudan’s presidency of an agreement to promptly appoint officials to state and local government and the Transitional National Assembly. The United States looks forward to these appointments being completed as soon as possible. We also fully recognizes the efforts – domestic, regional, and international – that support achieving peace in South Sudan.

However, for many in South Sudan, peace remains elusive. My colleagues met a group of displaced persons in South Sudan just last week. They were just a few of the more than 1.6 million who remain unable to return to their homes due to the unstable security situation. A representative from that group told us “Everyone is saying peace, peace, peace, but we don’t see it. There is no peace.”

Violence at the sub-national level continues to cause civilian casualties, women and girls continue to be subjected to conflict-related sexual violence, and humanitarian workers, as was noted earlier, continue to be killed. Floods and violence continue to threaten the civilian population, particularly in Jonglei State, where humanitarian actors will need full, safe, and unimpeded access to address the famine that is happening today. As the recently released Integrated Food Security Phased Classification data tell us, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese are in immediate danger of starving to death in conditions we have not seen since 2017, when famine was last declared.

Now is the time for all of us, particularly South Sudan’s leadership, to redouble efforts to ensure purposeful implementation of the peace process. The government must work quickly to build trust, consolidate the gains of peace and continue to make progress, particularly in the areas of governance, security arrangements, and transitional justice. Implementation must take into account the needs and perspectives of women and girls, youth, and internally displaced persons, and it must yield tangible benefits for the people of South Sudan. This must include full, effective, and meaningful participation of women in all spheres and in all levels of political leadership and the peace process.

It must also encourage full implementation of the Chapter 5 provisions of the peace agreement related to transitional justice, including the establishment of the Hybrid Tribunal, a reparations authority, and a truth and healing commission. These justice efforts are critical to stopping the cycle of violence and supporting recovery. We also encourage a greater leadership role for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and other regional partners who continue to have a vested interest in the stability of the region.

Mr. President, the United States remains the largest provider of humanitarian assistance funding in South Sudan and we have increased that assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Fiscal Year 2020, the United States provided nearly $982 million in humanitarian assistance to support the response to the crisis in South Sudan and for South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries. However, the needs clearly outpace the funding. Donors need to immediately and significantly increase their funding contributions to South Sudan in order to save lives there.

We continue to be a steadfast supporter of UNMISS and its life-saving work to protect civilians in conflict. We welcome and encourage continued UNMISS deployments in Jonglei and elsewhere to provide protection and deter violence against civilians.

The protection of civilians, including displaced persons, remains an essential task. As UNMISS continues to transition Protection of Civilian sites to IDP camps and turn security responsibility over to the South Sudanese government, we urge meaningful coordination and transparency with the humanitarian community and with displaced persons themselves. Any future transitions should be based on security conditions as well as the wishes and needs of displaced persons.

Mr. President, next year we look forward to beginning the process to renew the mandate for UNMISS. We plan to work closely with South Sudan, and all of you, to ensure UNMISS can respond to and address the current challenges in the country.

Mr. President, on sanctions, the Security Council has committed to an ongoing review of all sanctions measures on South Sudan, and is working to establish a clear benchmarking process to assess the arms embargo. Repeated public statements by South Sudan’s leadership that the arms embargo should be removed to allow for the purchase of weapons to supply the unified forces are disingenuous. There is already a clear exemption procedure for the arms embargo that the government of South Sudan can use if it requires any arms or materiel to support the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.

I don’t need to remind this Council of the devastating consequences to stability in the region and for the people of South Sudan when government and opposition forces used their weapons to wage the deadliest civil war Africa has seen in decades, often using these weapons against civilian men, women, and children.

Mr. President, we call on South Sudan’s leadership to engage in a serious conversation about tangible steps it can take to assure the international community that any weapons in the government’s possession will not be turned against civilians or used to undermine the peace process. The United States stands ready to support South Sudan in this endeavor.

In closing, Mr. President, the United States is committed to a better future for the people of South Sudan. We are here to work with the transitional government, and with the other members of this Council, to enable peace and prosperity for the country and for the region.

Thank you, Mr. President.