On 15 July 2021, UNMISS launched its Peace Fellows Program, a joint initiative with South Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The forward-looking project harnesses the power of young Peace Ambassadors from all 10 states and three administrative areas across this young nation to galvanize civic engagement in the peace process and garner support for implementing all provisions of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. Photo by Nektarios Markogiannis/UNMISS.
“Peace doesn’t just happen. It cannot be wished or willed into existence. It has to be made, it has to be fought for, it needs its own warriors,” stated Nicholas Haysom, the UN’s top envoy in South Sudan at the launch of a new initiative to push the stagnating peace process forward.
The UNMISS Peace Fellows Program is a joint undertaking between the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. This forward-looking project has one main aim: Galvanizing citizens, especially young people across the country, to breathe fresh life into the quest for a durable peace through active participation and leadership.
To further South Sudanese engagement and ownership of the nation’s future, UNMISS has identified young people from all 10 states and three administrative areas to be peace ambassadors advocating for involvement from all communities—both at the grassroots and the national level—as the country begins drafting a permanent constitution, and preparing for eventual elections.
“We all need peace. No one wants war or conflict. When people cannot develop themselves, South Sudan will not develop. Without peace, our youth will not get opportunities for work; without peace, our children will not be educated; without peace, we will not build our nation,” said Ambassador Aida Wande, from the Office of Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Gender and Youth Cluster, at the launch. “All of you, as chosen peace ambassadors, will return to your states, your communities with a shared vision for coexistence.”
SRSG Haysom explained why the United Nations places such importance on wider civic commitment to peace. “Through the Action for Peacekeeping undertaking, The Secretary-General has made it incumbent upon peace operations such as UNMISS to support sustainable political solutions to conflict while robustly protecting civilians,” revealed the Head of UNMISS.
“Such solutions can only happen when all South Sudanese invest in peacebuilding processes themselves to secure the peace that this country needs and richly deserves. If there is no national ownership of peace processes, there will always be a reluctance to defend them,” he continued.
“As we mark a decade of independence in South Sudan, this significant anniversary allows us also to reflect on the values, ideals and hopes with which we all stood in the stadium when this country was born,” stated the SRSG. “Most importantly, it gives us the space to recognize that peace is a critical element of the journey towards prosperity, democracy and development.”
The hard-fought freedom and hope that independence brought to South Sudan 10 years ago was brutally shattered when the fledgling country plunged into a dark abyss of civil wars which brought death, displacement and widespread suffering.
In 2018, the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and subsequent formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity led to reduced political violence. This was the beacon of light that the South Sudanese people were waiting for. However, there is a cogent need to restore flagging momentum in achieving the benchmarks set out within the peace deal.
Facilitated by the mission’s Political Affairs Division, the UNMISS Peace Fellows Program, is a venture aimed at seizing today to shape a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow for all South Sudanese. This future hinges on breaking the cycle of pervasive subnational conflict and including every citizen’s voice in the path to a true democracy.
“Nation-building and state building become impossible in a context of war. There cannot be partial peace, peace for some and war in other parts of the country. The converse is also true—that peace allows for development, prosperity and the building of a democracy. Indeed, with peace comes the opportunity for a national conversation on the shape and future of this country,” concluded SRSG Haysom.
Ambassadors of the Peace Fellows Program, through year-long engagements, will focus their advocacy efforts on increasing participation in the peace process and support efforts to advance the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. This initiative is also supported by regional partners such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
As the event ended with the resounding beats of peace drums, a jubilant, determined group of young Peace Ambassadors begin this meaningful journey to help forge a brighter future for their country.