Annual statement on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) by the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Working Group in South Sudan
Co-Chaired by the Embassies of Norway and Canada; facilitated by UN Women
South Sudan is at a critical moment for the rights of women and girls. December 2024 will mark the end of the country’s post-independence transitional period, as agreed to by parties to the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) of 2018 and the subsequent Roadmap of August 2022.
Reflecting on the past year, the Working Group acknowledges the tireless leadership of women peacebuilders in South Sudan, especially young women peacebuilders. We have seen young women start and lead campaigns, such as #WhereIsTheAntiGBVBill. We have seen women survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), and Conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) bravely testify against perpetrators. And we have seen women – often at great risk to their own personal safety – serve as humanitarians, supporting survivors of GBV/CRSV and those at risk of it.
Now, it is the time for South Sudanese decision-makers to rise to the occasion.
To this end, the Working Group notes efforts made by the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) over the past year to address GBV and CRSV. These have included important political commitments, such as the signature of several core international human rights instruments (including the Maputo Protocol, subsequently ratified in June 2023); validation of the South Sudan National Action Plan for UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS - SSNAP-2); and hosting of high-level events, including the International Conference on Women's Transformational Leadership. However, these commitments will only be effective if accompanied by urgent resourcing and action.
We remain deeply concerned by the shocking levels of all forms of GBV and CRSV in South Sudan, and widespread impunity for perpetrators, as documented by the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan in its 2023 reports.
Urgent measures must be taken to prevent women and girls from being targeted in armed conflicts and to hold perpetrators of GBV to account. This includes expediting the launch of the SSNAP-2 on Women, Peace, and Security and mobilizing resources for its implementation. We call upon the RTGoNU to accelerate progress on the Draft National Family Law, Anti-GBV Law, and transitional justice mechanisms, as well as ensuring existing mechanisms – including the GBV court – are fully empowered to carry out their mandate. Urgent training and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces, including support for women in uniform, will help bolster these efforts.
In the spirit of “nothing about us, without us”, the Working Group reaffirms our support for the meaningful inclusion of women and girls – in all their diversity – in all processes where their rights are deliberated.
Women human rights defenders, peacebuilders, and media workers across South Sudan continue to be driven by a spirit of optimism as they build a brighter future for their country.
They should be able to do so without fear of harassment, abuse, or surveillance, both online and offline. Free and open civic space, bolstered by the rule of law – for all members of society – will also help build confidence in the integrity of the peace process, including the results of the December 2024 elections, as well as other government-led initiatives on GBV, CRSV, and elections–related violence against women. Women and their networks also play a critical role in countering the spread of mis/disinformation and hate speech, but are limited in their effectiveness if having to operate in fear.
The international community continues to invest funds and carry out advocacy in support of all these areas, but with partnership and investment from South Sudanese decision-makers, our collective action in support of the women of South Sudan will go that much further.
We continue to invest in these areas because we recognize that not only is GBV a human rights violation on its own, it prevents women and girls from enjoying the full spectrum of their rights. GBV, or the threat of it, is an impediment for women and girls pursuing an education, exercising freedom of expression, accessing justice, and more.
To quote His Holiness Pope Francis, on the occasion of the historic Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to South Sudan in February 2023, “there will be no future” unless “every woman, every girl” is protected, respected, appreciated, and honoured.
African Union Mission in South Sudan (AUMISS)
British Embassy in South Sudan
Embassy of Canada to South Sudan
Embassy of Sweden Office in South Sudan
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in South Sudan
Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in South Sudan
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Sudan
Swiss Cooperation Office in Juba
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
Embassy of the United States in South Sudan
Embassy of France in South Sudan (friend of the WPS Working Group)