Speech/statement | Date: 20/05/2014
'I know I speak on behalf of the entire international community when I urge the parties to make the right decision: to put people first and bring South Sudan back on the track of development', said Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende in his opening speech at the Donor conference for the Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan
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Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to Oslo to the donor conference for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
This is the third time we are hosting a donor conference for South Sudan in Oslo. This reflects the long and consistent line of Norwegian engagement with the people of South Sudan, which dates back over 40 years.
Today we are here to make a real difference. A difference for millions of people in dire need. We have a small window of opportunity to prevent the crisis from deteriorating into a famine. Increased humanitarian access and assistance is critical.
The aim of this conference is twofold. Firstly, to mobilise resources to meet the urgent need for increased humanitarian assistance. Secondly, to agree on joint measures to provide better protection and assistance to the millions of people affected by the conflict.
The international community had great expectations of the new state of South Sudan when it declared its independence in 2011. The youngest country in the world. Positive results were achieved during the first years. Most importantly, peace prevailed in a country that had been ravaged by war for decades. The longest civil war in Africa. Since December last year, however, armed conflict has once again displaced people, destroyed markets and disrupted livelihoods.
I visited South Sudan in January and two weeks ago and I saw with my own eyes the enormous suffering of the people. 50000 children can die within weeks.
I also witnessed the serious deterioration that had taken place since my previous visit at the end of January.
More than 1.3 million people have been displaced, and some 4.9 million people – out of a total population of 11.5 million – are in need of humanitarian aid.
The number of people that are facing serious risk of food insecurity is increasing from day to day, and is expected to reach 4 million within seven months. The lack of education services could create another lost generation. Children are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. If more is not done soon, nearly a quarter of a million children under the age of five will be suffering from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.
Access constraints have significantly hampered the ability of humanitarians to provide effective protection and emergency services. The continuing deterioration of the security situation has severely limited the operational space for humanitarian actors. It has also resulted in large-scale looting of humanitarian property.
The agreement signed on 9 May by President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar should mark a turning point. We expect all parties to fully honour the agreement and stop fighting.
It is vital that the ceasefire holds and immediate practical steps are taken to ensure that aid reaches people in need more quickly. The parties to the conflict must respect humanitarian workers, property, and operations, and must allow access to the areas under their control. All obstacles to access should be made public by the UN and NGOs.
Implementation of the agreement and commitment to the further political process are preconditions for a political solution to the conflict. The parties must enter into serious negotiations and put the interests of the people of South Sudan first.
Only then can the current humanitarian crises be tackled with support from the international community. The alternative scenario would be devastating. I know I speak on behalf of the entire international community when I urge the parties to make the right decision: to put people first and bring South Sudan back on the track of development.
Let me take this opportunity to commend IGAD and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister for its work to bring the parties to the negotiation table with a view to achieving a sustainable political solution.
Bureaucratic and political impediments in South Sudan have held back the movement of humanitarian materials, with serious consequences.
The Government of South Sudan has started, but must eliminate all bureaucratic impediments to humanitarian access and the movement of humanitarian supplies. Customs clearance for humanitarian goods should take a few days rather than weeks. The movement of these goods within South Sudan, whether by road or river, should be facilitated and not obstructed, as has too often been the case in recent months.
I am deeply concerned about the large number of civilians who have been attacked and killed by the parties to the conflict. The documentation of widespread and systematic sexual violence is alarming. Women and girls face serious risks when collecting food, firewood, and water.
All parties to the conflict must immediately end unlawful attacks against civilians, their property and livelihoods, stop the recruitment of child soldiers, and ensure the free movement and safety of medical and relief personnel. Violence against civilians must be publicised and prosecuted.
The prevention of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence must be given priority by humanitarian actors at all levels. It is important that prevention, referral and survivor support services remain in place and continue to function at this critical time.
Women and girls are still struggling to make their voices heard and are being increasingly marginalised in the overall humanitarian response, despite the fact that the majority of displaced people are women and children. It is essential that humanitarian action facilitates and supports the participation and inclusion of women as leaders and decision makers.
In addition to the overwhelming needs within South Sudan, there are also growing needs among the South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries. Over 340 000 have fled to Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan since the outbreak of violence in December.
The refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya are already full, and new refugees continue to arrive every day.
Ensuring that asylum space in these countries is protected and that borders stay open to refugees is of vital importance.
There is an urgent need for more funding. All donors need to respond to the crisis more generously.
We will do our part.
The Norwegian Government is today providing a contribution of 372 million Norwegian kroner, approximately 63 million US dollars, to the South Sudan crisis response. This comes in addition to our initial contribution of 100 million kroner, and brings our total contribution to approximately 81 million US dollars.
I urge you all to pledge generous support for the humanitarian response to the crisis in South Sudan.
I trust that today’s pledging conference will make it possible to take a substantial leap forward.