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UN General Assembly President discusses peace and progress with South Sudan’s President, senior ministers, women, and youth

The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dennis Francis, meets the South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit and other senior ministers on the second day of his visit to the country’s capital Juba. Photos by Nektarios Markogiannis/UNMISS.

Peace and progress were top of the agenda at a meeting between the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dennis Francis, and South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit and other senior ministers on the second day of his visit to the country’s capital Juba.The high-level discussions focused on peace and stability in relation to the implementation of the peace agreement, humanitarian and development assistance, and support for democratic processes, including elections. The talks come at a challenging time for the country with slow progress in meeting critical benchmarks in the peace deal ahead of elections, a deteriorating economic situation, dire levels of humanitarian need, and experts predicting extreme flooding in the coming months. Speaking after the meeting, President Francis said President Kiir and the wider government have an ambition to create a strong, successful and progressive nation in which the people of South Sudan can enjoy the benefits of peace, progress and development. “Decisions about government policy, whether they be the economy, agriculture, education, those decisions belong, and rightfully so, to the sovereign government and the people of South Sudan. But the UN will continue to be a reliable partner, to walk hand in hand with the government and people of South Sudan in taking the steps and implementing the measures that will be necessary to take this country forward successfully to economic development,” he said. The Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Lomoro, said President Salva Kiir had conveyed a serious message to the UN of hope and determination, and called on the UN to remain committed to helping South Sudan. In return, South Sudan had confirmed its commitment to work with the UN and other international partners to secure a peaceful and prosperous future. “Many times, we have been judged by people who have never been to South Sudan and many times they have been biased in many things. But we have kept our strong relationship with the UN and will continue to do that because we believe they are here for a mission and, as the UN declares that everyone should be involved in development and no one should be left behind, we believe that working with them at some point will be a change for the positive.”Mr. Francis also met with other key stakeholders in the peace process, including women peacekeepers and peacemakers. In his discussion with women representatives from civil society organizations, he reiterated the importance of their full, meaningful, and equal participation in political, peace and governance processes.“We know that when women, in particular, participate equally in these efforts – as they simply must – agreements are more durable and better implemented,” he said. He described civil society as the backbone of any thriving democracy and essential to promoting social cohesion, reconciliation and inclusive development. “You bridge the gap between citizens and Governments – amplifying the marginalized and often forgotten or overlooked voices, and importantly, striving to finding solutions that are expertly tailored to local needs and experiences for the benefit of vulnerable communities on the ground,” said President Francis. “You are the glue that strengthens the legitimacy of the entire peace process.The President also spent time with women peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to learn firsthand about the challenges they face serving in difficult conditions, far from their homes and families and the impact of their work in improving the lives of the people they protect and support. “Women in uniform are role models, inspiring tomorrow’s women and girls to advocate for their own rights and participation – in South Sudan, the wider region, and around the world.”During a meeting with university students, he recognized the critical importance of youth in healing the wounds of South Sudan’s troubled past, including conflict, poverty, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.“But your young shoulders will not bear these burdens alone,” he said. “Because it will take collective effort by all South Sudanese, working together for a common cause to build a peaceful and prosperous nation that is anchored on democratic values, good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”He highlighted the sheer scale of the challenges South Sudan is up against, including continuing political, security and humanitarian challenges within the country and its neighbourhood. “Lasting solutions to the challenges confronting South Sudan and the African continent at large cannot be imported or imposed – but must emanate from within and be nurtured and tended to blossom and grow even stronger.”“Despite the dire circumstances, I have hope. Hope that stems from my faith in the people of South Sudan, especially its young, as agents of change and torchbearers,” he said.“Through your courage, determination, passion, creativity, resilience and strength of will, you will have the power to help transform your country, your region, and perhaps the entire world.”