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Remarks by Ambassador Schulz during the UN Security Council VTC Meeting on UNMISS, June 23, 2020

23.06.2020 - Speech

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First of all, I would like to thank our briefers, SRSG David Shearer and Edmund Yakani for their insightful comments and observations.

Madam President, South Sudan is once again in a very tough situation. We have talked about the fragile peace process and the dire humanitarian situation many times in this Council. But now, the challenges are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a very serious threat to the country, particularly its fragile health and social systems that are quite ill equipped to handle it. So we understand that South Sudan cannot face the Coronavirus alone and needs assistance. We stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan. In that context, we would also like to reiterate the Secretary General's call for a global ceasefire and to urge all South Sudanese parties to focus on the common enemy: Covid-19.

However, it is crucial that interventions to contain and address the virus do not detract from South Sudan's longer term objectives. In other words, they must not weaken the commitment to tackling persistent challenges to the consolidation of lasting peace.

Talking about the peace process, we have heard in the presentations where we stand on this. We acknowledge the achievements made by South Sudan in the past months. In particular, the formation of the transitional government in February was a very important step towards making the implementation of the peace agreement possible in the first place. Having said that, we also have to note the serious challenges that our briefers reminded us of: the political impasse and the escalating violence are serious threats to the implementation of the peace agreement that, unfortunately, has slowed down considerably.

So we would like to encourage all actors to implement outstanding critical tasks and urge the transitional government in particular to address the key question of transitional security arrangements and formation of unified security forces in line with the provisions of the peace agreement. Needless to say, respect for the ceasefire is, of course, absolutely crucial to make this all possible.

Now we do welcome progress on the distribution of governorships and hope that their swift appointment will fill the security vacuum. This might help to reduce tension and violence in the regions, and particularly in Jonglei state. But the security situation, as we have heard this morning, remains a cause of grave concern.

We would also like to commend IGAD for contributing to the peace process and welcome their continued support for the parties in accelerating the implementation of the outstanding tests. We urge the region to remain committed to this in spite of their own Covid-19 related challenges and support the search for concrete solutions based on consensus between the parties.

The peace process has to be inclusive to be sustainable, and the involvement of women and civil society must be strengthened. So we would like to encourage all political actors to respect that 35 percent of posts should be given to women. Unfortunately, the transitional government right now, as we speak, still falls short of this aim and we see only 25 percent realized right now.

Another important issue is the extension of the sanctions regime and arms embargo that continues to contribute to the stabilization of South Sudan. With key elements of the peace agreement still awaiting implementation, the arms embargo remains at this point a key element to support the successful implementation of the peace agreement, and is in line with the African Union's efforts to silence the guns.

This Council has demonstrated its ability to reach a compromise, and I would like to congratulate the twelve members of this Council who voted in favor of extending the sanctions recently.

On UNMISS: I would like to commend the mission for its tireless efforts to implement its difficult mandate in South Sudan. I would like to pay tribute to SRSG Shearer and his team of brave peacekeepers doing their utmost to assist the people of South Sudan in their quest for durable peace, especially now with the Covid-19 challenges on top of it. We would like to commend the mission's assistance to the national Covid-19 response effort. We feel it is completely unacceptable, how unwarranted and widespread restrictions on the movement of U.N. personnel impede lifesaving and critical work carried out by exactly those peacekeepers. Each SOFA violation is obviously one too many. We would like to call on the government and on all those responsible to enable the mission to do its important job.

We appreciate the continued support of UNMISS to the national justice sector, including two mobile courts to hold perpetrators of crimes, including those of conflict-related sexual violence to account, and to the corrections systems. We would like to congratulate UNMISS on the results of the performance evaluation, and encourage the mission to build on this and further improve its performance.

Now, before closing, let me say one word on the humanitarian situation that our briefers have reminded us of. It is sad to see that now 1.6 million more South Sudanese need humanitarian assistance, but of course we understand how dire the situation is. Since the projected impact of Covid-19 on the population is deeply concerning, improving the humanitarian situation must remain at the center of our efforts. This includes unimpeded access for humanitarian access. We encourage the government to implement operational procedures which do not lead to restrictions of humanitarian duties.

Another issue is the lack of accountability that continues to characterize the human rights situation in South Sudan. All parties have to be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. It is a key responsibility of the government and should build on the steps taken with UNMISS support on mobile courts and also take steps to fully establish transitional justice as stipulated in the R-ARCSS.

In conclusion, Madam President, the people of South Sudan face really serious challenges. They deserve better and we need to support them to the extent possible, and particularly South Sudan's starving children. The leaders of the region and the international community must live up to their responsibilities. Germany will continue to stand by the people of South Sudan through our contribution to UNMISS and through humanitarian and development assistance. I call on all of us to redouble our efforts to make peace in South Sudan a reality.

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