Juba, 22 November 2021: It gives me great pleasure to join you during this opening session of the 5th Governors’ Forum under the theme of “Role of the States and Special Administrative Areas in the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Sudan”. This event offers a platform for South Sudan’s leaders to develop mutual priorities for an interconnected and purposeful government, one that is equipped to advance the search for lasting peace in South Sudan.
Following the appointment of state governors and other constitutional post holders, UNMISS had immediately embarked on a series of interactive dialogues to foster political cohesion and trust between members of the coalition state governments.
As precursor to this Forum, UNMISS facilitated nine Governor’s Forums in all states except Unity, due to devastating floods. These events facilitated engagements between state governors and local stakeholders to identify governance-related priorities in their respective states and prepare action plans towards delivering them.
We are pleased that these Governors’ Forums led to the creation of a strategic plan for each state, addressing priorities enshrined in the Revitalized Agreement. These plans will be presented to you here over the coming days.
We have also organised six State Leadership Retreats around the theme of “Building Trust and Confidence for United and Inclusive Governments”. Here, we disseminated the Revitalized Agreement to encourage greater ownership of its priorities. Importantly, these retreats offered an opportunity for the state governments to better appreciate their respective roles and to foster the much-needed state-level synergies for unity.
These activities served as a timely entry point for capacity-building, training, and general brainstorming. They also offered a formal introduction for newly appointed office holders at the grassroots level. In some states, the Mission has cascaded this approach to the county commissioners as well as the Payam level.
South Sudan lies at the cusp of a breakthrough: to becoming a peaceful, stable and prosperous country for the first time since its independence. But the memory and trauma of conflict runs deep.
Trust therefore will be essential in forging a united front for national stability. It is the foundation for reimagining an inclusive social contract, by which people can live together in harmony. Where institutions lack sufficient trust, citizens may not cooperate.
But where trust exists, governments and citizens can engage together on a shared agenda.
I acknowledge that effective political systems are not achieved overnight. This depends on the sustained and collective will of leaders from all sides. I am confident this Forum will be another step towards the national effort to end decades of suffering of the people of South Sudan.
With regards to the peace agreement, commendable progress has been made, particularly in the implementation of governance-related tasks under Chapter I of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, as listed by Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin. The ceasefire is holding, creating a relatively conducive environment for the overall implementation of the Peace Agreement.
Furthermore, the permanent constitution-making process is in progress. Now, the people and leaders of South Sudan can come together to agree on a legitimate, popular, and inclusive system of constitutional governance that is best suited for this country.
I strongly encourage you to see the constitution-making and upcoming electoral processes as important benchmarks in the march towards peace and stability. A sense of urgency is required, not a “business-as-usual approach”.
While the Parties have coalesced around political power-sharing benchmarks, it is equally important that they strive to make progress on the Transitional Security Arrangements. There is now a collective duty to finalize a coherent command and control structure for the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces. The formation of the Unified Forces is only an initial step in a complex but essential process of constructing a national army that serves the interests of the nation—one that is a symbol and mirror of all its people.
Let me highlight the critical role of youth in contributing to all these processes. In South Sudan, it is estimated that over 70 per cent of the population is under 30. The peace agreement calls on the Revitalized Government to consult youth groups and to ensure that youth representatives participate in the constitution-making and peace implementation processes. Their voices and demands—for livelihoods, jobs, and education—must be heard so that they too can be positive agents of change.
It is encouraging to witness the appointed officials of the state governments putting aside their differences to objectively assess their priorities and responsibilities to advance the implementation of the peace agreement and the development priories of South Sudan. I also agree with the leaders of South Sudan who have expressed a strong desire to graduate from a state of constant humanitarian emergency and dependency towards progress on development priorities. Peace needs development, just as development requires peace. This aspiration must be accompanied by international support and executed in a coordinated manner by the national and sub-national structures.
UNMISS recognizes the importance of a bottom-up approach of channelling the priorities of grassroots communities through their respective state governments. Yet, it is also imperative to facilitate the much-needed flow of resources from the centre to the periphery to kick-start responsive service delivery at the local level.
In this connection, I wish to commend reforms within the public financial management system, which will lead the fiscal support for state and local governments.
Let me emphasise one area where resources are sorely needed as part of a collective in supporting the role of Governors and Administrators in managing pervasive intercommunal violence.
Let me underline, effective coalitions and good working relationships generate investment and international aid. What does this look like from the ground? It is State Governors and Deputy Governors, from different parties, working side-by-side for a common purpose, in service of their constituents.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the State Governors and Governments for their support to UNMISS in carrying out its mandate, which is to prevent a return to civil war and to build durable peace at the local and national levels.
Let me reaffirm our commitment and support to the work that is before you. With our partners from the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, and the international community, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people and government of South Sudan, in support of building a peaceful, stable and prosperous country.