Tomorrow (10 August), Security Council members will hold consultations on South Sudan, focusing on the link between conflict and hunger as well as recent developments in the peace process. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock and Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom will brief Security Council members during the consultations.
The Netherlands, together with Côte d'Ivoire, Kuwait and Sweden (co-penholders of resolution 2417 adopted on 24 May, on the thematic issue of conflict and hunger) initially requested a briefing under “any other business” from Lowcock on the food security risks in South Sudan. The request follows the circulation to the Council of a 6 July white paper by OCHA, drawing its attention to unprecedented levels of hunger and malnutrition in the country. Ethiopia subsequently requested that the meeting include a briefing on recent developments in the peace process, and in light of this, it was decided to hold the meeting in consultations instead of under “any other business”.
Resolution 2417, which was preceded by a thematic briefing on conflict and hunger organised by the Netherlands on 23 March under the agenda item “maintenance of international peace and security”, “recalls the link between armed conflict and violence and conflict-induced food insecurity and the threat of famine”. It “requests the Secretary-General to report swiftly to the Council when the risk of conflict-induced famine and wide-spread food insecurity in armed conflict contexts occurs, and expresses its intention to give its full attention to such information”. While this resolution was adopted unanimously, some members expressed concerns about the Council’s approach to hunger in the lead-up to the adoption. Ethiopia wanted to ensure that the resolution applied solely to conflict situations, and language was incorporated to address its concerns, such as the additional references to “armed” conflict and “conflict-induced food insecurity.” Similarly, Russia expressed its reservations about the Council discussing as a thematic issue food insecurity and hunger, which can have numerous causes. It noted that the Council already addresses the issue when it arises in country situations under discussion.
Lowcock’s briefing tomorrow is expected to provide an update on the food security situation in South Sudan, including the impact of the lean season, which typically runs from May to July. He may also address the issue of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the safety of aid workers. Lowcock will most likely reiterate the alarm expressed about food insecurity in OCHA’s white paper. The paper, which is not a public document, apparently emphasises that the conflict and broader insecurity, including clashes between parties to the conflict and criminality, continue to decrease food production and access to food. It also refers to instances of entire villages being burned down, forcing people to flee and further limiting their access to food. Regarding the dire conditions facing aid workers in South Sudan, the paper reportedly notes that violence against these workers makes it harder to respond to food insecurity. Over 100 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict erupted in December 2013.
The findings of the white paper echo ongoing concerns expressed by the Secretariat.
In his most recent 90-day report on South Sudan (S/2018/609) of 14 June, the Secretary-General said that the conflict “has limited the population’s safe access to arable land, disrupted livelihoods and left significant segments of the population highly dependent on humanitarian assistance, all contributing to high levels of food insecurity.” He further noted that in the absence of sustained assistance and access, around 7.1 million people in the country (63% of the population) could become severely food insecure in the coming months. This is according to the latest analysis of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification released in February 2018. Similarly, at the 28 June public briefing on South Sudan (S/PV.8299), Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita maintained that “the continued fighting in South Sudan has had a direct impact on the humanitarian situation, in general, and food security, in particular.” Hunger and malnutrition have reached record levels, and 1.75 million people are on the brink of a catastrophe, she said.
The Council has repeatedly noted the impact of food insecurity in South Sudan. Resolution 2406 of 15 March, which renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), recognised “the dire humanitarian situation and high levels of food insecurity in many parts of the country”. Similarly, resolution 2428 of 13 July, which imposed an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions, expressed grave alarm and concern at the conflict, which had led to “great human suffering”, including “conflict-induced food insecurity and threat of famine” in the country.
Discussion on the link between the ongoing conflict and the food security situation is expected to be a key issue during consultations, with the Netherlands, Côte d'Ivoire, Kuwait and Sweden likely to be especially keen to highlight this connection, while China, Ethiopia and Russia may seek to reiterate their general positions on food security as a thematic issue, as they did earlier this year.
Haysom is expected to provide Council members with an update on the peace process and recent developments. On 27 June, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar and other opposition parties signed the Khartoum Declaration, declaring a permanent ceasefire, which has been repeatedly violated, and the intention to adopt security arrangements aimed at building an all-inclusive national army, police and other security organs. It also stipulated that a “Revised Bridging Proposal”—intended to address key outstanding power-sharing and security issues—be concluded by the end of the current round of talks in Khartoum before a transitional period of 36 months will commence ahead of national elections.
Following further negotiations between the parties in July facilitated by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Kiir and Machar signed an Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance and Responsibility Sharing in Khartoum on 5 August. After initially refusing to do so, other parties, including the South Sudan Opposition Alliance and Former Detainees, also signed the agreement. According to the agreement, during a transitional period, Kiir will remain president, Machar will be first vice-president and four other vice-presidents will be nominated. There will be 34 ministers and 550 members of parliament, in accordance with the number of representatives from the different parties set out in the agreement. An Independent Boundaries Commission will be appointed to consider and make recommendations on the number of states and their boundaries. The agreement was welcomed by the Secretary-General; the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat; the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission; and Special Representative and head of UNMISS David Shearer.
Council members may be interested in hearing about the level of commitment of the parties towards implementing the latest agreement, given what the Council called in resolution 2428 the “continued and flagrant violations” of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) and the 27 June Khartoum Declaration.
They will also likely be keen to hear from Haysom what the next steps in the peace process will be, and the role of the Council in this regard. In so far as the agreements concluded in Khartoum on 27 June and 5 August dealt only with outstanding governance and security issues, a final agreement still needs to be signed by the parties that will address revitalisation of other aspects of the ARCSS, such as humanitarian issues, economic management, and justice and reconciliation. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Heads of State and Government issued a communiqué on 5 August, stating that al-Bashir will continue facilitating talks between the parties until this agreement is signed. It was also agreed that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will be “deploying a team of experts to support the finalisation of the process.” Today (9 August), the IGAD Council of Ministers convened an extraordinary session in Khartoum on the situation in South Sudan, reportedly including discussion of a detailed timetable to implement the revitalised peace agreement.