In Second Forum, People with Disabilities and Minority Groups Call for Representation in the National Dialogue

Sep 30, 2017

Representatives of the Embassy of Japan in South Sudan, UNDP, and organizations representing people with disabilities and minority groups attend the second consultative forum on the National Dialogue process, held in Juba on 29 September.

Advocacy organizations representing minority groups and people with disabilities held a second consultative forum on 29 September to share their views on the South Sudan National Dialogue. The consultative meeting was held under the UNDP project, “Facilitating Grassroots Engagement to Create a Conducive Environment for the National Dialogue” funded by the Government of Japan.

The South Sudan National Dialogue process was officially launched in May 2017 with the intention of promoting peace, unity, and reconciliation in South Sudan.

The forum presented an opportunity for position papers representing the views of visually impaired people, deaf, physically disabled, wounded war veterans, and widows to be shared. The forum covered three objectives of the National Dialogue including addressing issues of diversity; agreeing on mechanism for allocation and sharing resources; and settling historical disputes and sources of conflicts amongst various South Sudanese communities.

In his opening remarks, First Secretary of Embassy of Japan in South Sudan Takanobu Nakahara, emphasized the importance of ensuring all stakeholders are included in the National Dialogue process.

“Inclusivity is an important principle of the Government of Japan’s international development work. Not just on peace and reconciliation, but also in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Mr. Nakahara. “The voices of persons with disability should be heard in the National Dialogue process. Inclusivity is an important precondition for Government of Japan to continue supporting the process.”

During the presentations, organizations representing visually impaired persons underscored the need for creating a conducive environment for the National Dialogue process to take place, emphasizing the need for “an immediate ceasefire, dealing with the problem of small arms and security sector reform.”

“There is nothing to lose in having a National Dialogue because it is another opportunity for peace,” the group added.

The Deaf and Dumb Union noted that persons with disabilities are a marginalised community in South Sudan when it comes to access to education, equitable social services and economic development. The union also cited the lack of a legal framework to protect their rights, as well as those of all persons with disability. The absence of a legal framework leads to widespread violations of their human rights, the group says. The union called on the National Dialogue to ensure “disability is mainstreamed in development plans and resources allocation, involvement and empowerment of people with disability, and good governance for all, including the disabled.”

Groups representing persons with physical disabilities demanded that “a representative of people with disabilities should be appointed to the Steering Committee of the National Dialogue as part of inclusivity.”

The Wounded Heroes organization shared their appreciation for the opportunity to share views from groups representing marginalized people and highlighted the need to further respect South Sudan’s diversity by including its minorities and persons with disabilities into the National Dialogue process.

Addressing the forum, Project Manager of UNDP’s Peace and Community Cohesion Project Judy Wakahiu, said the inclusion of minority groups into the National Dialogue is critical for the success of the process.

“For the National Dialogue to achieve its stated objective, it has to be inclusive, participatory and transparent, as well as a credible process. This is why UNDP and the Government of Japan are supporting civil society organisations such as Helping Hands and others to work with grassroots communities to ensure that they are fully engaged in the National Dialogue,” Ms. Wakahiu stated.

A third forum is scheduled in October. With support from Helping Hands, the groups will prepare a collective memoranda, based on the discussions over the course of the three forums, which will be shared with the National Dialogue Steering Committee.