This article was last updated on May 26, 2022
A high-level UN delegation, consisting of UNESCO’s Ms. Irina Bokova, UN Special Envoy Ms. Leila Zerrougui and UNESCO Peace Ambassador Mr. Forest Whitaker, reported back on the meeting which they had with President Salva Kiir on Monday 23rd June, during which the President reiterated his commitment to prioritize education as a cornerstone of recovery from the on-going conflict and sustainable peace.
“Knowledge is the strongest safeguard against violence, against conflict,” said Ms. Bokova. “South Sudan is facing a strenuous task to overcome the challenges of illiteracy and girls’ education… I am encouraged by the personal commitment of the President to make education a top priority. We need this leadership for education to enable the children and youth of South Sudan to build their own nation.” She continued.
Special Representative Zerrougui said that during their meeting with the president, they were assured that schools which had been occupied by the military, would be vacated to allow access to education.
Ms. Zerrougui, whose remit relates specifically to the well-being of children in the context of armed conflict, reported that the president had told them that he is committed to work with the United Nations to fully implement the Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
South Sudan is one of eight countries involved in the campaign ‘Children not Soldiers’, launched in March 2014 by the Special Representative and UNICEF. The campaign aims to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces listed by the Secretary-General. During the visit, Forest Whitaker formally announced his support for the campaign.
Mr. Whitaker said that his foundation has developed activities like The Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, to foster peace and reconciliation through a mix of peace education, vocational training and technology in South Sudan.
Whitaker expressed his satisfaction that “President Kiir has warmly welcomed the launch of the Youth Peacemaker Network in the Equatorial Region to boost the peace process.
Mr. Whitaker said that he applied his ‘Forest Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative’ during a visit to an IDP camp in Juba, with the aim of enhancing support to youth empowerment through peace-building activities.
Among the activities Whitaker supports, he said that the “Cinema for Peace” program was very successful among the young public. It consists of film screenings on peace, prevention of conflict and reconciliation, followed by debates featuring interactive exchanges and role-playing to sensitize audiences to the values and principles underlying a culture of peace and non-violence.
“Throughout all the difficulties that the youth are facing because of the conflict in South Sudan, their willingness to engage inspires me and let me know that there is hope for tomorrow. Through their intentions a new South Sudan will arise.”