African countries emerging from conflict: ECOSOC debate

Date published on source: 
23 July 2015
Source organisation: 
UN News Centre

New York: Joyce Luma, Country Representative for the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking via videoconference from Juba, South Sudan, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on “Implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan by the United Nations system” (document E/2015/74). The situation in South Sudan continued to deteriorate, she said, with 1.6 million people internally displaced and more than 166,000 sheltered in United Nations civilian sites. While the fighting had forced United Nations agencies to reduce staff, they had scaled up aid delivery, reaching more remote areas. More than 250,000 children were at risk of worsening nutrition, with 1 in 5 suffering from acute malnutrition.

“The current conflict has worsened already limited access to health and education,” she continued, with 400,000 children having dropped out of school. Cholera had broken out in Juba county, and among 719 cases there had been 4 deaths. The economic crisis was deepening, with a growing fiscal deficit that threatened the lives of many. The recent budget proposal presented a $2.5 billion deficit. As of July, $672 million of a $1.6 billion revised plan was funded, leaving a $1 billion gap for 2015.

Recalling that international partners had established in 2014 a set of principles for their engagement, she said priorities focused on the most vulnerable, building community resilience and strengthening the links between humanitarian and development assistance, which must be the basis for cooperation with the Government. If peace talks, set to continue this week, led to an agreement, there would be an urgent need to support the peace process and consider the increased risk of local conflict. Development efforts would need to be adapted to local conditions.

For its part, she said, the United Nations country team had articulated those and other issues in the interim cooperation framework, replacing the United Nations Development Action Framework (UNDAF). From January 2016 to June 2017, its priorities would include: strengthening resilience; health and education; improving the conditions for women and children; and promoting peace, reconciliation and violence reduction.

Speaking next, Vice-Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said the Commission continued to engage with six African countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Ebola outbreak in three of those countries had added to its understanding of the need to establish resilient institutions and promote confidence. From the outset of the health crisis, the Commission had convened several meetings, during which concerns had been expressed that Ebola had jeopardized health gains.

In a 25 November 2014 letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, he said, he had requested an assessment of the epidemic’s effects on security, political institutions, social cohesion and economic recovery. In a high-level event hosted by the Secretary-General, the Commission had advocated for more attention and resources to target those areas. The response to the epidemic must be multifaceted and carefully sequenced over the long-term.

Turning to Guinea-Bissau, he said the outlook was promising and the Commission had supported field-based and operational actors, both inside and outside the United Nations. Last year, it had accompanied Sierra Leone and Burundi as both missions had concluded. The transition from emergency to development had been a task fraught with various challenges and he called for sustained attention to issues associated with nascent institutions and practices. The upcoming transition in Liberia would test the political resolve to address governance challenges as the country prepared for 2017 elections.

On the financing front, he said that despite the work of the Peacebuilding Fund, a systemic deficiency had been seen in the financing and capacity gaps that had placed initial peacebuilding investments at risk. The report of the Advisory Group of Experts had pointed to a fragmented United Nations response to the drivers of conflict and he looked forward to enhanced coordination with regional and subregional organizations in that regard. Efforts had a better chance of success if they were people-centred and guided by those most affected by conflict.

Following the presentations, representative of the United States expressed profound concern for the people and future of South Sudan, which was at the precipice of becoming a failed State. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report and recommendations that peace and reconciliation, humanitarian action and people-based development would need to be addressed simultaneously in short- and long-term planning across the United Nations system.

Indeed, he said, one could not presume the conflict would remain contained in South Sudan’s northern states. Community programmes would face extreme challenges and the United Nations must press parties to both end the violence and participate in the peace process. The United States was considering the Advisory Group of Experts’ review of the peacebuilding architecture and looked forward to participating in the next phase of the peacebuilding review process.

The Council then adopted, without a vote, a draft decision on “African countries emerging from conflict” (document E/2015/L.20), taking note of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan by the United Nations system. By the text, the Council requested that a report on the subject be submitted for its consideration at its 2016 session.

 Extract: the full ECOSCOC debate can be accessed here