Two years after the formation of a transitional unity government that includes South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, his long-time rival Riek Machar, and other opposition leaders, the context in South Sudan is dire. Progress in the implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement─which sought to end a brutal five-year civil war that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths─remains limited. South Sudanese civilians face continued human rights abuses by state and non-state actors, sub-national conflicts that are often manipulated by politcal elites, and a catastrophic humanitarian situation. Additionally, planned presidential elections in 2023 could exacerbate existing tensions between the government and the opposition, with potentially significant consequences for civilians.
In this challenging context, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) remains a critical protection actor that contributes to security and stability through a range of activities and operations. But given the fragile political context, it is vital that the Mission implement a “Do No Harm” approach (DNH). As an essential principle for UN peacekeepers, DNH requires that missions take steps to mitigate the risk that their activities and engagement could harm civilians or expose them to risk.
Based on interviews with 136 individuals─including UNMISS military, civilians, and police officials, humanitarians, and South Sudanese civilians and civil society leaders─conducted in Juba, Malakal, and Bentiu between September and November 2021, this Issue Brief demonstrates the critical importance of “Do No Harm” for UNMISS, and for UN peacekeeping missions more broadly. It highlights several ways in which UNMISS has already incorporated a DNH approach into its activities. It also discusses UNMISS activities that contribute to protection, but that could also pose an elevated risk of harm to communities without adequate safeguards. Finally, the brief offers recommendations for how UN peacekeeping missions and UN member states can improve implementation of “Do No Harm” across UN peacekeeping.
Read the brief here