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.