I wish to congratulate Malta on its successful presidency in February and express, Mr President, our full support for your presidency this month.
I thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Haysom, and Acting Director of OCHA, Mr. Talahma, for their briefings. I also welcome the presence of the Representative of South Sudan at this meeting.
We thank the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and its staff for their tireless efforts to support advancing sustainable peace in the country.
With the implementation of the Roadmap, South Sudan has entered a decisive phase of the transition. The expectations of the population must not be disappointed. Two key milestones need to be reached: the drafting of the constitution and the first electoral process since the country's independence. Switzerland reiterates its full support to the transitional government and the people of South Sudan in these important endeavors. I would like to highlight three aspects that are essential for the peace process to move forward in this critical phase:
First, the adoption of several important laws, including the law on the constitution-making process, paves the way for the next steps in the constitutional process. We congratulate the Government, and welcome its request for UNMISS to support the electoral process. Nevertheless, in order to move forward on the political level, we encourage the parties to adhere to the deadlines set out in the Roadmap, establish the institutions it provides for, and protect the political and civic space, by guaranteeing freedom of expression, assembly and press. Developing a new constitution amounts to a transformation of the South Sudanese social contract. This must be done in an inclusive manner, by taking into account the voices of all, including women - as reaffirmed recently in Juba at the International Conference on Women’s Transformational Leadership.
Second, the resumption of armed conflict and the escalation of violence at the sub-national level in Upper Nile, Jonglei, the Greater Pibor Administrative Area and in the Equatorias are alarming. We call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. We condemn all human rights violations and abuses, particularly sexual violence and those committed against children, which are unacceptable. We reiterate that the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians lies with the Government. In order to reduce violence and strengthen peaceful coexistence, intercommunal dialogues supported by UNMISS are essential. In recent years, Switzerland has worked with the South Sudan Council of Churches to support these dialogues, notably in Tambura in Western Equatoria.
Third, the country is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since independence. We are deeply concerned by the level of human suffering. This crisis is compounded by the effects of climate change, which exacerbate the consequences of conflict. 95% of the population depends on climate-sensitive livelihoods. Massive flooding in much of the country - the situation in Bentiu being exemplary in this regard - is increasing food insecurity and fuelling sub-national violence, particularly in relation to protracted displacement and transhumance. We encourage the Government, with the support of UNMISS, to address these challenges, including through joint climate-sensitive analysis and programming.
In the next months, all actors – be they local, national, regional and international – will be required to work together to advance the transition. We therefore call for unified support to South Sudan in its efforts to carry forward this process and to integrate the population, in all its diversity.
The renewal of the UNMISS mandate is underway. The strategic vision and the four pillars of the mandate remain relevant. Switzerland remains committed to maintain a mandate that meets the challenges of the peace process. I would like to reiterate our full support to the Special Representative and to the Mission in the execution of this mandate.
I thank you.