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Briefing on South Sudan

Tomorrow (25 April), the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing from David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Shearer will be briefing the Council for the first time since taking up the role. In addition, Ambassador Fodé Seck (Senegal), chair of the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the Committee’s work.

Shearer’s briefing is expected to focus on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Cammaert Report on UNMISS’ response to violence against civilians in Juba in July 2016. The Secretary-General conveyed a written update to Council members in a letter of 17 April to the US, as Council president, describing efforts undertaken to implement these recommendations. Previous updates have been provided through a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane on 23 February and through a letter of 23 December 2016.

Improving UNMISS’ operational effectiveness has been a key priority for Shearer since his appointment as Special Representative. Shearer is expected to outline the more active stance being taken by UNMISS military and police to protect civilians. This includes more frequent and longer patrols, and increased efforts by UNMISS commanders to maintain freedom of movement in the face of roadblocks and other impediments. Shearer may also discuss steps taken to increase the safety of UN personnel and protection of civilians sites, including the establishment of 200 metre ‘weapons-free’ zones around protection of civilians sites and the construction, nearly finished, of four bunkers for staff at Tomping base and UN House in Juba. Shearer may further describe contingency planning and preparedness training undertaken by the mission to enable it to respond effectively to potential crisis situations. According to the Secretary-General’s 17 April letter, several table top exercises have occurred since late 2016 as a way of testing contingency plans.

Council members may be interested to hear from Shearer on his intended approach to consolidating and sustaining the progress made in UNMISS’ ability to fulfil its protections of civilians mandate and to respond effectively to crises. Along these lines, Shearer may discuss obstacles confronting the mission—for example, restrictions on freedom of movement and the deteriorating security environment—and how the mission has attempted to mitigate the negative impact of these factors in fulfilling its mandate.

Shearer may also update the Council on the ongoing delays facing the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF). The force was originally authorised in August 2016, and is intended to comprise 4,000 troops tasked to facilitate humanitarian access in Juba, protect the airport and “key facilities in Juba”, and engage forces preparing or engaging in attacks against UN sites and personnel, humanitarian actors or civilians. Deployment of the RPF has been impaired by the objections of the South Sudanese government to the deployment, delays in confirming sites for the RPF to be based, and a lack of agreement on the tasks of the RPF at Juba International Airport.

Seck is expected to brief the Council on the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2206 South Sudan Sanctions Committee, received by the Council on 13 April. The report describes a dire security situation in South Sudan, marked by frequent violations of human rights and a high degree of violence against humanitarian personnel. The Panel’s recommendations include imposition of individual sanctions against commanders responsible for ongoing acts of violence; a call for the Security Council to request the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the South Sudan Commission on Human Rights with “the full legal and forensic support necessary to execute effectively its mandate to collect, preserve and analyse evidence of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law”; and the imposition of an arms embargo.

Seck may further discuss the briefings received, on 21 March, by the Sanctions Committee from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura. In their briefings, Zerrougui described a high rate of child malnutrition in South Sudan, while Bangura stated that a culture of impurity surrounding sexual exploitation and abuse existed in the country.

The possible imposition of an arms embargo on South Sudan may also be raised by Council members. However, this remains a divisive issue. Council dynamics on this matter may be further soured by the Panel of Experts’ identification of arms transfers to South Sudan from two Council members, Egypt and Ukraine.

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