Joint Letter: Support for Local Peacebuilding is Critical for the Future of South Sudan

South Sudan

September 21, 2019

Mercy Corps joins with other leading organisations to highlight the need for sustainable peace in the country

This International Day of Peace, 21st September 2019, we – the undersigned national and international civil society organisations - want to highlight the critical role of local peacebuilding in ensuring sustainable peace in South Sudan.

With less than two months until the deadline for the formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan, attention is focused on the high-level peace process and the will of political leaders. While it is vital to ensure that ceasefires are sustained and that there is continued political will to implement the peace agreement, ultimately hope for national peace will depend on whether this translates into lasting change at all levels in South Sudan.

The daily suffering of people in South Sudan is fundamentally linked to violent conflict, which has cost hundreds of thousands of lives as a consequence of food insecurity, malnutrition, disease, war, inter-communal clashes, and murder. Millions of dollars have been spent on responding to humanitarian needs and high-level mediation efforts. However, in the long term, the only way to reduce South Sudan’s vulnerability to future crises is to ensure that the root causes of conflict are addressed, and that peace strategies reflect the multi-level nature of conflict in South Sudan.

Conflict in South Sudan is complex, it overlaps across geographic levels and it has its roots in decades of civil war and marginalisation. The dynamics of conflict at the local level are diverse – cycles of inter-communal violence, traditional patterns of seasonal migration, cattle raiding, historic trauma and grievances, unresolved issues from previous conflicts, gender-based violence, competition for natural resources – with profound implications for national stability.

Peace is made and broken every day in South Sudan. On a daily basis, local peace makers prevent conflict from escalating into crisis, and sow the seeds for social cohesion and coexistence. There is a need for greater recognition of the value of local knowledge, expertise, and agency, more effort to connect local communities with national leaders to give them a say in how peace can be more meaningful to their daily lives, and more support for peacebuilding.

We recognise that the unique roles of youth and of women will be essential to achieving transformative peace – there is a need to ensure their ownership, build their capacity to manage conflict, and help to expand their choices through education, livelihoods opportunities, and civic awareness and participation.

Communities in South Sudan are ready for peace, and want to see clear indications that things are moving forward, and that peace is genuinely in the hearts and minds of those in powerful positions. There is a need to listen to communities, and to give them a stake and a say in the future of their country.

For peace to prevail, more concerted efforts from all stakeholders are required, and we therefore call for:

  • Political actors to live up to their pledges, and implement the peace agreement with a genuine commitment to peace – especially in relation to reconciliation, healing and transitional justice – whilst also committing to renewed efforts to engage with grassroots voices and approaches (e.g. integrating lessons from faith actors and customary traditions);
  • Increased dedicated and long-term funding which effectively supports multi-level peacebuilding and prioritises the role of local actors based on a strong understanding of local contexts and what matters to communities;
  • Continued strong international diplomatic engagement with the political process, with clarity around benchmarks for support for the peace agreement;
  • Strong engagement with youth and women, especially support to empower and equip them to manage their own responses to peace and conflict;
  • A concerted effort to address the widespread prevalence of small arms.

This is a time of hope, but also a time when peace is precarious, seemingly dependent on the hearts and minds of a handful of powerful people. The road to peace is long, and will require continued commitment from all stakeholders to both supporting high-level peace, and strengthening the capacity of South Sudanese to build a peaceful future for themselves, on their own terms.

Signed by:
Action for Conflict Resolution
Assistance Mission for Africa
Christian Aid
Community Development Initiative
Concordis International
Dialogue and Research Initiative
Mercy Corps
Oxfam GB
PAX
Rescue People Organisation
Saferworld
South Sudan Youth for Peace and Development Organisation
Tearfund