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Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in the German Bundestag on extending the UNMISS mandate

12.02.2020 - Speech

What is unfolding in South Sudan is in every sense a humanitarian tragedy. Of the 12 million inhabitants, 7.5 million are currently dependent on humanitarian assistance. Four million have been forced to leave their homes and, following heavy rainfall and last year’s floods, a major plague of locusts is currently putting harvests at risk.

On top of all that comes the man-made suffering. Violence is unfortunately still the order of the day. The ceasefire which is in place has not yet brought about enough change here even though it was recently confirmed by all sides. So, although so-called political violence between the conflicting parties has dropped considerably, unfortunately the same cannot be said of the level of violence as a whole. This is, in fact, increasing. That is why the 2018 peace agreement needs to be rapidly implemented in its entirety and the haggling over jobs and money that we keep seeing finally needs to stop. The focus must at long last be put on the wellbeing of the population of South Sudan.

Esteemed colleagues, time is again running short. However, open questions on internal border demarcation and on setting up a new security sector can be resolved with good will, with a readiness to compromise and with the help of the region’s political leadership. The key element of the international engagement is and remains the UN peace mission UNMISS. It brings together the military, civilian and humanitarian aspects. It has protected many civilians from disaster and has upheld at least a framework for order. Politically, UNMISS supports the peace process, also by monitoring the ceasefire. It is often the reports provided by UNMISS which enable the United Nations and ourselves to exert political pressure on the individual parties. UNMISS is furthermore hugely important for the human rights situation in the country. The Human Rights Council in Geneva uses UNMISS reports and in future it will have to be these reports which will serve as the basis in order to hold war criminals, of which there are far too many in the country, to account, as underpinned in the peace agreement.

For this reason, this mission remains essential, also looking to the future.

But the humanitarian emergency also makes UNMISS crucial. Allow me to mention two examples. There are military observers on the supply ships on the Nile who negotiate safe passage every time the ships pass through the checkpoints of the various parties. Almost 200,000 people are still living in camps protected by UNMISS.

Esteemed colleagues, the challenges faced by the mission are huge but the support we are offering is just as comprehensive. Whether in New York or from representatives of the United Nations on the ground, we hear time and again just how much the work of our soldiers is appreciated. As military observers, they are quite simply the eyes and ears of the entire mission and they secure vital access for human rights observers and civilian aid workers. For this reason, I would like to use this opportunity here in the Bundestag to extend my best wishes to the soldiers and their families and to thank them most warmly for this extraordinary dedication, often in extremely difficult conditions both psychologically and physically, and for the important work they are doing there, work which is anything but easy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are also supporting the UNMISS goals politically in dealings with those in office in Juba but also when the mandate is being negotiated in the United Nations Security Council. In 2019, we again supported the UNMISS Trust Fund. It finances what we call peace dividends, for example, the reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees or repairs to health and education facilities that have been destroyed. Support for survivors of sexual violence is also financed through this fund. After all, Germany is one of the largest donors to humanitarian assistance in South Sudan, also in bilateral terms. In the last three years alone, we have made available 235 million euros to this end. Transitional aid and development projects to the tune of 185 million euros are also designed to alleviate the humanitarian emergency.

Esteemed colleagues, we are sending a message to the people of South Sudan with this mission and this support: we are not leaving you to your own devices on the long road towards peace. By voting in favour of this draft mandate, which I ask you to support, we are sending a message to our soldiers and civilian aid workers: we are behind you as you perform this difficult task.

Thank you very much.

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