Speech

"The situation in South Sudan is urgent. We must act, and we must do so quickly."

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Intervention by Ambassador Lyall Grant to the UN Security Council meeting on South Sudan Human Rights

Mr President,

Thank you for convening this session on the dire situation facing the people of South Sudan. I’d like to thank High Commissioner Pillay and Under-Secretary-General Dieng for their timely visit to South Sudan, and for their briefings to us today.

Mr President,

A million people are displaced and millions more are in need of humanitarian relief because of the unfolding conflict in South Sudan. Today we heard about chilling human rights violations and abuses. And the horrors go on. The South Sudanese people are bearing the highest cost and now face the risk of famine.

Targeted attacks on civilians, including the recent attacks in Bentiu on those in hospitals and places of worship, and targeting of those under UN protection in Bor, demonstrate the extreme vulnerability of civilians in conflict.

The very clear ethnic dimension to the conflict in South Sudan is particularly alarming. Just over two weeks ago, the international community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide. That meeting was a sober reminder of what can happen when faced with clear evidence of atrocities, we collectively fail to act. The ethnic motivations behind targeted attacks on civilians in South Sudan should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

The use of radio, for example in Bentiu, to incite ethnically-motivated violence, and sexual violence, hearkens back to the tragic events in Rwanda two decades ago. We must be better at using tools to counter this practice, including the UN’s own use of public information broadcasts in the country.

On human rights, it is clear that serious abuses and violations have and continue to take place as the conflict drags on. Use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and the recruitment of children as combatants by both sides in the conflict are particularly concerning. UNICEF estimates that more than 9,000 children have now been recruited by both sides.

I thank High Commissioner Pillay and Under-Secretary-General Dieng for delivering the urgent concerns of the international community to the leaders of both sides in this conflict. We expect President Kiir and Ex-Vice President Riek Machar to act immediately on these concerns.

Mr President,

Thank you for convening this session on the dire situation facing the people of South Sudan. I’d like to thank High Commissioner Pillay and Under-Secretary-General Dieng for their timely visit to South Sudan, and for their briefings to us today.

Mr President,

A million people are displaced and millions more are in need of humanitarian relief because of the unfolding conflict in South Sudan. Today we heard about chilling human rights violations and abuses. And the horrors go on. The South Sudanese people are bearing the highest cost and now face the risk of famine.

Targeted attacks on civilians, including the recent attacks in Bentiu on those in hospitals and places of worship, and targeting of those under UN protection in Bor, demonstrate the extreme vulnerability of civilians in conflict.

The very clear ethnic dimension to the conflict in South Sudan is particularly alarming. Just over two weeks ago, the international community commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. That meeting was a sober reminder of what can happen when, faced with clear evidence of atrocities, we collectively fail to act. The ethnic motivations behind targeted attacks on civilians in South Sudan should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

The use of radio, for example in Bentiu, to incite ethnically-motivated violence, and sexual violence, hearkens back to the tragic events in Rwanda two decades ago. We must be better at using tools to counter this practice, including the UN’s own use of public information broadcasts in the country.

On human rights, it is clear that serious abuses and violations have and continue to take place as the conflict drags on. Use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and the recruitment of children as combatants by both sides in the conflict are particularly concerning. UNICEF estimates that more than 9,000 children have now been recruited by both sides.

I thank High Commissioner Pillay and Under-Secretary-General Dieng for delivering the urgent concerns of the international community to the leaders of both sides in this conflict. We expect President Kiir and Ex-Vice President Riek Machar to act immediately on these concerns.

Mr President,

All political leaders must take full personal responsibility for continued fighting and the plight of the people. They must take immediate action to curb violations and abuses of human rights, engage seriously in peace talks, and enable full humanitarian access. We have said this before, but these steps have not been taken, and the needs become ever more urgent.

Looking forward, we need to focus on three areas of activity.

First, we must end impunity. Accountability and justice are essential for national healing and reconciliation. Allegations of violations and abuse must be thoroughly and impartially investigated. Those responsible must be held to account. We support the African Union’s Commission of Inquiry and look forward to the outcome of its investigations. But with different domestic, African Union and UN work underway in this area, it would be helpful for OHCHR to set out the different available tracks for accountability in South Sudan.

In addition, we request OHCHR to consider a thorough investigation and report on the atrocities recently committed in Bentiu and Bor. We also look to the Human Rights Council to take appropriate action in response to the human rights situation in South Sudan.

Second, we must increase political support to the mediation effort. The international community, including this Council, must consider all available levers and tools in the effort to deter a devastating slide towards repeated mass atrocities and protracted conflict. The focus, responsibility and priorities we give the UN Mission in South Sudan are only part of the answer. The ultimate responsibility lies with those leading the war effort.

We must continue to send strong and clear messages that the international community cannot accept the current situation. We support the tireless mediation efforts of IGAD in the search for a lasting peace in South Sudan. Women and civil society must play a role in this. But those mediation efforts may need to be complemented by targeted sanctions against those who obstruct peace; and by reducing the arms available to those involved in the conflict.

Third, the safety of millions of innocent civilians in South Sudan must remain paramount. With continued fighting and the impending rains, the already acute humanitarian situation could become a humanitarian disaster. Famine lies around the corner. Millions could be condemned to untold suffering that would take decades to rectify.

The needs are urgent and clear. And the onus is on the international community to help meet those needs. We must increase the humanitarian response as quickly as possible. The British Government will do its part and is committed to maintaining its support to South Sudan and has released an additional amount of approximately $65 million for the humanitarian response.

Mr President,

The situation in South Sudan is urgent. The South Sudanese people have suffered far too long. The international community has the tools to alleviate the suffering. We must act, and we must do so quickly.