South Sudan: the situation of women and children is extremely worrying [fr]
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 16 November 2018
I would like to thank Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Mr. Smaïl Chergui and Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for their very enlightening briefings. I would like to mention three major issues of concern for France.
First, the difficult situation and the suffering of women in South Sudan, who remain marginalized. That was the main focus of the joint mission that the briefers conducted as part of the women and peace and security agenda. I thank them for having done that. It was essential in order to highlight that common priority. It was also an important example of the joint work of the United Nations and the African Union.
France shares the comments that the briefers made and is deeply concerned about the seriousness of the facts brought to light in the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2018/250), which highlights hundreds of cases of gang rape and genital mutilation used as weapons of war, often leaving irreparable scars. France condemns in the strongest terms those criminal acts, of which women and children, because they are the most vulnerable, are the primary victims.
We urge that the joint communiqués and commitments be fully implemented, that those responsible be identified, tried and punished, including those in the ranks of the army and that the protection of women, as well as the investigative mechanisms, be strengthened. In that regard, France calls on the South Sudanese authorities to strengthen the specialized police units by ensuring women’s access to them. We support the efforts of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), UN-Women and Special Representative Pramila Patten to ensure that what has been promised on paper is translated into action and made a reality.
France hopes that the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015) concerning South Sudan makes full use of the sanctions against those who commit and sponsor sexual violence. The cooperation between the Panel of Experts on South Sudan, UNMISS and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict is essential in that regard.
The situation of children is also extremely worrying. The report of the Secretary-General on that subject reminds us that since 2014, more than 600 children have been victims of sexual violence (see S/2018/865, para. 54), and those are only verified violations. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher. We must act, and we welcome the fact that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mrs. Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, has visited the field, as has the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, which will discuss the draft conclusions in the coming days.
The second major issue that I wish to address today is the revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed on 12 September. It provides for the involvement of women and young people in the peace process, which is crucial and which, I hope, will guarantee its success.
The signing of the Agreement is an encouraging development, which, on behalf of France, I wish to once again commend. My country hopes that the Agreement reached will lead to a lasting and inclusive peace. That is our hope and that of millions of South Sudanese women and men who yearn for peace and a better life. We do not want peace on paper alone.
The current period is crucial for the success of the peace. Now is the time to build trust among the parties, strengthen the ceasefire, win the support of the people, and make the security and institutional arrangements necessary for the implementation of the Agreement. In that regard, we welcome the holding of the first meeting of the National Pre-transitional Committee in Khartoum on 21 and 22 October. We call on the parties to continue in that direction.
Finally, on the third issue, I would like to say a word about the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, which must continue to mobilize us. Seven million South Sudanese still need humanitarian aid and nearly half of the population is severely malnourished. The first signs of the positive impact of the peace agreement in terms of improving the food situation and humanitarian access are encouraging. It is essential that they endure over the long term. It is also crucial to do everything possible to protect humanitarian personnel, who continue to be the target of attacks, and to continue our efforts to ensure that such crimes do not go unpunished.
The Security Council can count on France’s ongoing commitment with regard to such issues.