Women and youth train in listener clubs to spur community participation and mobilization ahead of the launch of a community radio station in Duk Padiet. Photo: UNDP

Celebrating International Day of Peace looks differently in 2020. Social distancing precludes large events and parades customary on such an important day in South Sudan. But as the country rounds the second anniversary of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, examining the ways in which we can all shape peace together is as important as ever. 

In the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has called on people to unite across the world: “Celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. Stand together with the UN against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred. Join us so that we can shape peace together.”

No country can develop without peace, and peace in South Sudan will be difficult to sustain without building community-level resilience and inclusive economic development.

UNDP’s peacebuilding work focuses on the interconnectedness of conflict actors, causes and issues. At state and national levels, our efforts support the formation of just, equitable and accountable institutions to provide services which respond to the needs of the citizens.

In five conflict cluster locations, community members are working in local peace committees and using economic interdependency as a tool to foster community cohesion and prevent local conflict.

In Jonglei, UNDP works with Kabarthe women’s group spearheading grassroots women-to-women dialogues, bridging the communal divide amongst the Murle, Nuer, and Dinka ethnic groups.

“Peace has been a commodity we have been longing for…we are now enlightened on how to handle our differences in a nonviolent way,” said Nyang Deng, a women representative in Kolnyang, Bor county, during a recent peace committee training.

In Aweil, the communities of Maper and Nyalath are addressing long strained relations due to disputes over access to natural resources. Through a value-adding scheme, 30 women aged 28 to 45, are producing peanut butter to sell in local markets. The women meet regularly to discuss community issues to further sow seeds of better relations between the two communities.

“We used to not work together, now the women of Nyalath and Maper are able to treat and feed their children using income from producing and selling peanut butter,” said Angueth Akot, one of the chairs of the group.

A just, inclusive, and sustainable peace cannot be achieved without equal participation of women and youths in defining the peace they want. In this regard, UNDP is focused on nurturing inclusive processes which elevate the voice of a plurality of South Sudanese into national deliberations.

On a local level, bi-annual dialogues on seasonal movement of cattle for pasture and water have improved sharing of water and pastures during dry seasons amongst Lou Nuer, Gawaar, Hol and Nyarweng communities. To consolidate social cohesion, UNDP constructed a community radio station in Duk Padiet to enable sharing of vital peace messages and to reduce stereotyping and harmful rumours amongst Nuer, Dinka and Murle ethnic groups.

The National Dialogue demonstrates that the voices of the people are powerful when given the chance and space to express and contribute. For UNDP, the forthcoming national conference of the National Dialogue is not a one-off event. Civil society and citizens have an active role to play in constitutional consultations, consensus-building, as well as building inclusive processes set forth in the R-ARCSS.

In September, the Ministry of Interior, Bureau for Community Security and Small Arms Control, South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, as well as police, defence and intelligence representatives met to validate a Voluntary Civilian Disarmament Strategy. This renewed look at the civilian disarmament process follows the Firearms Act passed in 2016, and regulations to the Act in 2017.

The South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Peacebuilding organized a press statement to commemorate International Day of Peace 2020. UNDP's Deputy Resident Representative Christy Ahenkora spoke to UNDP's commitment to support peacebuilding in South Sudan with partners across all sectors.

For voluntary civilian disarmament to be effective, governance and rule of law which respect human rights must be in place. In addition, inclusive economic opportunities must be available, especially for youth, so that there is no motivation to use arms as a means to attain livelihood. This is why UNDP commissioned a forthcoming study on youth subcultures to give a window into how society is being shaped by young people and identify entry points to engage this important demographic in peacebuilding and development.

For South Sudan to move forward, rule of law and access to justice is needed to confront its past and chart a path for the future. The Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE) for South Sudan is in development and applies a long-term perspective on peace and reconciliation anchored on nation building. Initiated by UNDP and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, SCORE is part of wider peacebuilding efforts to identify the drivers of conflict between South Sudan’s communities and understand the points where targeted peace and development actions could make a difference.

SCORE found that 6 in every 10 South Sudanese live cohesively with their neighbours and other communities. In contrast, 15% of the population sampled in 5 states said they were willing to engage in violence act to resolve a problem.

“This gap is where our shared efforts can make an impact on making concrete and sustainable progress towards peace in South Sudan,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Christy Ahenkora, during a joint Peace Day press conference with the Ministry of Peacebuilding and the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

Happy International Day of Peace from UNDP South Sudan!

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