September 7, 2022
The Security Council’s forthcoming discussion on South Sudan should be informed by gender-sensitive analysis of the drivers of the conflict and chronic communal violence, including widespread inequality, the exclusionary nature of peace and political efforts, lack of implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the widespread availability of weapons, militarization of cattle raiding, the erosion of institutions, impunity, and the impacts of climate change. The resulting situation is characterized by violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, displacement, and food insecurity, putting humanitarian needs at the highest level since 2011. Violence against civilians, including GBV, continues to increase; conflict-related sexual violence, for example, increased by 96% in 2022, and continues to be enabled by conflict, in addition to broader structural violence and gender-based discrimination within society. More than 90% of civilian deaths can be attributed to community-based militias and self-defense groups, many of which formed in response to raids on cattle herds and benefit from widespread proliferation of weapons. Since fighting in Sudan broke out on 15 April 2023, thousands of civilians have fled Sudan into South Sudan, with 92% of those being South Sudanese returnees, many of whom have been displaced multiple times, increasing the need for already strained resources. Access to humanitarian assistance has been severely curtailed for the more than 500,000 women, many also caring for children, in Jonglei and Pibor due to attacks on humanitarian workers, bureaucratic barriers, and operational interference. The work of civil society organizations, who often provide critical services in local communities, is further impacted by increasing restrictions against civil society leaders, human rights defenders, and journalists. The shrinking of civic space and threats and reprisals against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders should be particularly highlighted in Council discussions as an indicator of the continued backsliding of the country into violence.
This all occurs against the backdrop of limited to no progress in implementing crucial provisions of the R-ARCSS. As civil society briefers (March 2022, September 2021, June 2021, April 2021, March 2021, September 2020, June 2019, March 2019, September 2018, May 2018) have emphasized, key aspects of the agreement remain incomplete or barely initiated, such as drafting of a permanent constitution; election-planning; establishing transitional justice mechanisms, such as the Hybrid Court, along with truth-telling and compensation mechanisms initially announced in January 2021; completing security arrangements; and conducting a census. Increased efforts must be made to ensure the inclusion of diverse women in the peace process, and their representation in the government and national ministries and as state governors. Women’s involvement in these institutions continues to fall short of the 35% quota required in the R-ARCSS. Further, in planning for the forthcoming elections, gender should be mainstreamed throughout the discussion, and women must be able to meaningfully and safely participate in all planning processes, as well as in roles at all levels, including as candidates, poll workers, and voters. Finally, the recent ratification of the Maputo Protocol is positive after five years of delay; momentum should be leveraged to finalize the proposed Anti Gender-Based Violence Bill, which has been pending since 2020, in order to address impunity and strengthen accountability.