Rebuilding South Sudan after the signing of the Peace Agreement
The Peace Forum took place the last week of October, closing out the month-long commemoration of the 15th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325. Rita Martin, Executive Director of EVE Organization for Women Development in South Sudan spoke to a full house during the panel — South Sudanese Peace Agreement: Implications on Women’s Participation in the Peacebuilding and Political Process.
Sarah Douglas from UN Women moderated the panel and rounding out the program — Mourad Mahidi, Representative from the Permanent Missions of Austria
Mourad Mahidi addressed the crowd and reiterated Austria’s commitment to the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda, but noted that there is still a long way to go. He said, “One thing that is clear is that it is impressive what civil society has done with the WPS agenda. If you look at how far the agenda went on an international level, this is because of civil society; it would not be possible otherwise.” Mahidi further explained the importance of moving beyond talking about WPS on an abstract level and instead examining what is happening on the ground by listening to civil society experiences and through supporting localization projects.
Rita Martin began by quoting Isaac Newton who said, “If I have seen farther, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” She continued, “If women in South Sudan have come far, it is only because of the support from our global sisters.”
Martin spoke compellingly about the current situation on the ground and explained what is necessary for implementation and monitoring of the peace agreement (August 2015). South Sudan’s peace agreement provides for secure access to humanitarian support, respecting the rights of refugees and IDPs, enterprise development funding for women and a truth commission that will include some women. Though if the first three months are any indication, implementation will require comprehensive monitoring, as violations of the ceasefire continue and the order by President Salva Kiir to expand the number of states in South Sudan from 10 to 28 constitutes a violation of the peace agreement. Continued advocating by civil society and the international community to pressure the transitional and new government to implement the peace agreement is imperative.
Rosa Emilia Salamanca discussed the peace process in Colombia, expressing that she has hope that the negotiations will have a positive conclusion in March 2016. She noted similarities to South Sudan such as high levels of violence, the importance of reconciliation in order to build trust, and the necessity for actual commitments regarding implementation.
For Cecilia Alopo Engole of Uganda, civil war is a topic she well understands as violent conflicts have gone on for more than 30 years because of tension among ethnic groups and power struggles. In Uganda emphasis is placed on education, for instance, training women in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, human rights and the promotion of UNSCR 1325. She suggested National Action Plans (NAPs) as a means of engaging women at all level, including civil society and government.
Seline Korir explained that instruments such as UNSCR 1325 are useful for finding the obstacles for women’s participation. Kenya has played a substantial role in negotiations and the over all peace process in South Sudan through initiatives such as offering space for South Sudanese refugees and having a neutral meeting space for the parties in negotiations. She also noted that many agreements have been signed in Kenya. However, Kenya still struggles with violence and the seven ceasefire agreements that have been signed have not been fully implemented. One crucial positive outcome was the constitution, which led to the election of 16 women out of 290 parliamentary seats. Though the numbers are low, Korir still views it as progress. She said that the women in Kenya used the constitution as a tool, and now that South Sudan has signed the peace agreement, the women in South Sudan should do the same to create a balance in government for women.
When the transitional government is formed in South Sudan, according to the peace agreement, 25 percent of positions should be allocated to women. Yet, “peace on paper does not always reflect reality,” said Martin. Elections will occur 60 days after the formation of the transitional government and an election commission will be created. The issue of violence and fraud at the polls must be addressed, as well as the best way to officially include women in all aspects of the peace process. Much work needs to happen in order for South Sudan to have a successful transitional government, free and fair elections and to achieve sustainable peace. Civil society will require assistance from the international community on a long-term basis.
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By Lori Perkovich, Project Staff, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders