Security Council Extends Sanctions on South Sudan for One Year, Adopting Resolution 2683 (2023) by 10 Votes in Favour, with 5 Abstentions
The Security Council today extended for one year the sanctions regime imposed on South Sudan, including assets freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo, numerous members stressed that instead of sanctions, the country needs a carefully managed support system to facilitate its transitional journey and overcome its security issues.
Resolution 2683 (2023) (to be issued as document S/RES/2683(2023)) was adopted by a vote of 10 in favour (Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States) to none against, with 5 abstentions (China, Gabon, Ghana, Mozambique and the Russian Federation).
By that text, the Council strongly condemned past and ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all parties, including by armed groups and national security forces. It further condemned targeting of civil society, including journalists, human rights defenders and humanitarian personnel, emphasizing that the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity bears the primary responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Further, the Council decided to renew until 31 May 2024 the measures on arms imposed by paragraph 4 of resolution 2428 (2018), which direct all Member States to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the territory of South Sudan. It also decided that the notification requirements set out in paragraph 2 of resolution 2633 (2022) shall no longer apply to the supply, sale or transfer of non-lethal military equipment, solely in support of the implementation of the terms of the peace agreement and related technical assistance or training on such equipment.
By other terms, the Council decided to renew until 31 May 2024 the travel and financial measures imposed by resolution 2206 (2015), according to which all Member States shall take measures to freeze the financial assets of designated individuals and prevent their entry into or transit through their territories.
Further, the Council decided to extend until 1 July 2024 the mandate of the Panel of Experts, as set out in paragraph 19 of resolution 2428 (2018), adding that the Panel should provide to the Council an interim report by 1 December 2023, a final report by 1 May 2024 and updates each month.
The Council reiterated its readiness to review arms embargo measures through, inter alia, modification, suspension or progressive lifting of these measures, in the light of progress achieved on the key benchmarks. It also requested the Secretary-General, in close consultation with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Panel, to conduct an assessment of progress achieved no later than 15 April 2024.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Arab Emirates highlighted the importance of considering regional perspectives, including that of South Sudan, when drafting resolutions, especially those that involve sanctions regimes. Her delegation sought to amplify those during negotiations, she pointed out. Nevertheless, it hoped the Council would find a path to consensus and voted in favour of the text because it reflects the achievements on various benchmarks established by the Council, she said.
Japan’s delegate, who also voted in favour of the text, emphasized that “sanctions are not an end in themselves” and that those against South Sudan should be lifted as soon as possible through appropriate procedures once the objective has been achieved. He noted that the Government of South Sudan is moving forward with various peace processes based on the revitalized conflict resolution agreement and expressed hope that the peace agreement will continue to be implemented, including through the holding of elections and the establishment of a constitution.
Meanwhile, numerous speakers highlighted the negative impact of sanctions, with the representative of Gabon, whose delegation abstained from voting, stressing that such measures remain counterproductive given the efforts deployed by South Sudan in recent years. The international community’s efforts must be recalibrated towards capacity-building and peacebuilding, he said, adding that the South Sudanese armed forces must be given the tools to defend the territory and integrity of their country.
Acknowledging the need for further efforts by South Sudan towards reforming the security sector, including in its arms and weapons management practices, the representative of Ghana abstained from the vote. What South Sudan needs from the international community are not sanctions but a support system, he stressed. He further lamented that the language introduced by the “A3” (Ghana, Kenya and Gabon) was not incorporated in the text, noting that the socioeconomic impact of sanctions is one of the main obstacles impeding the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063. He welcomed the Council’s decision that the notification requirements set out in paragraph 2 of resolution 2633 (2022) shall no longer apply to the supply, sale or transfer of non-lethal military equipment, solely in support of the implementation of the terms of the peace agreement and related technical assistance or training on such equipment.
Along similar lines, the representative of Mozambique said his Government abstained as the text does not reflect the important progress achieved by South Sudan since its independence. Sanctions regimes can have negative effects on people’s lives by exacerbating the socioeconomic and pre-existing vulnerabilities, he pointed out, noting that the addition of listing criteria should be thoroughly considered to avoid ambiguity in implementing sanctions. It is also important to consider the challenges that young countries face in consolidating the State and ensure that Council decisions do not have unintended negative consequences, he underscored. In that regard, he encouraged South Sudan’s people, Government and stakeholders to continue paving the way forward on national reconciliation and the peace process. He also advocated for continuous support from the international community to enable South Sudan to implement pending issues.
Echoing that stance, China’s representative, whose delegation also abstained from voting, said that the sanctions imposed by the Council have seriously hampered South Sudan’s implementation of the revitalized agreement and its efforts to enhance security capabilities, to support humanitarian operations and to develop economic and trade ties. China has consistently held a cautious attitude to maintaining sanctions and has on multiple occasions abstained from voting on resolutions extending sanctions. The United States has ignored South Sudan’s positive progress on multiple fronts. Instead of lifting sanctions, the penholder included more items on the embargo list in the early draft of the text and put pressure on the South Sudanese authorities. Also, the United States put the draft to the vote without adequately discussing the A3’s proposal, he said, stressing that this approach is not constructive, and it undermines the Council’s unity.
Similarly, the speaker for the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation abstained from voting, voiced his regret that the United States was not ready to meet South Sudan halfway. Once again, what was ignored was not just the agreed position of the continent but also the approaches of other Council members, he stressed, calling for South Sudan to strengthen its armed forces as an effective tool for solving intercommunal violence and guaranteeing successful elections. Using the worrying situation in Sudan as a pretext for not moving forward on South Sudanese sanctions is unjust. Instead of keeping African countries under sanctions for decades, the international community should provide them with assistance to overcome their security issues.
More broadly, Council sanctions need to be reviewed and revamped, especially since they are compounded by illegal, unilateral measures from Western countries to exert pressure, interfere in internal affairs, worsen socioeconomic situations and undermine peace efforts, he said. Expressing his further regret over the rejection of his Government’s contribution which acknowledged the negative impact of such measures and appealed for a refrain in their application, he pledged to promote this provision in other Council sanctions regimes.
Rounding up the discussion, the representative of South Sudan objected to the resolution, which is “brazen interference in domestic affairs”, ill-intended, counterproductive and has an adverse humanitarian effect on the citizens that its proponents claim to protect. He appreciated the efforts of the A3, China and the Russian Federation to seek a balanced text, taking into consideration progress towards implementing the revitalized peace agreement. Much has been achieved, including in the implementation of chapter V, with the final public consultation held in Juba between 15 and 17 May. Stressing the importance of truth as a basis for reconciliation, he drew attention to the Commission on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing and its related components of Compensation and Reparation Authority and the independent Hybrid Court for South Sudan.
With the adoption of this resolution, the Council lost the opportunity to appraise the events in South Sudan from an objective point of view, he underlined. On inclusion of women and youth in his country, he noted that 35 per cent of all public positions are allocated to women as a matter of law. Incorrect understanding of conflicts leads to a misdiagnosis and potentially harmful responses, as witnessed in the case of South Sudan. Therefore, he called on the Council to be objective and devoid of national political interest which increases rather than discourages conflicts. He said that South Sudanese leaders are seized with the objective of finalizing the implementation of the revitalized agreement and embarking on the next phase of the transition.
Today’s meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.