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CSG Papers No. 21 (May 2020)

Protection through Peace Building: The Future of UNMISS’ Protection of Civilians Mandate in South Sudan

By: Timothy Donais

CSG Papers No. 21 (May 2020)

Executive Summary:

Ever since tens of thousands of terrified civilians sought and received shelter at United Nations (UN) bases as civil war in South Sudan erupted in late 2013, protecting civilians has been the primary focus of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Six years later, with a shaky peace deal and a new transitional government in place and the future of the country’s protection of civilians (PoC) sites a matter of intense debate, this brief reconsiders the protection dimension of the UNMISS mandate. Amid a shifting context for PoC in South Sudan — with UNMISS facing growing pressure to protect civilians beyond the narrow confines of PoC sites — the brief makes the case for the adoption of a protection through peace-building model, with a particular emphasis on supporting local peace-building efforts. With a nation-wide ceasefire largely holding, many of the key physical threats — from cattle raiding to common criminality — now faced by civilians in South Sudan are primarily local in nature, while a series of local-level rapprochements among key subnational actors offers some empirical support for the violence-dampening effects of local-level peace building. While it cannot hope to protect all the vulnerable all the time, UNMISS could do more to support localized peace-building strategies that build on existing rapprochements, that facilitate local agency for peace, and that begin to put in place the building blocks of inclusive local-level security governance.

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