International community not doing enough in South Sudan, specialists say

By Hannah Levitt, Medill News Service  |  June 30, 2017 at 2:27 PM
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As millions face worsening hunger and a humanitarian threat in South Sudan, international aid workers warned Friday that governments have not taken leadership or sufficient responsibility to resolve the crisis.

Specialists at a Center for Strategic & International Studies event titled "South Sudan: When War and Famine Collide" called on the international community to take immediate action.

As of May there were 2 million internally displaced persons in the Republic of South Sudan as well as 1.8 million refugees and asylum seekers from South Sudan in neighboring countries. In addition, 6 million people are estimated to face life-threatening hunger and 7.5 million need humanitarian assistance.

"At what point are we willing to push forward aggressively and say enough is enough?" asked Linda Etim, former assistant administrator for Africa at the United States Agency for International Development.

The United Nations and the African Union should intervene appropriately by holding leaders and other political actors accountable, Etim said. The organizations have not done so in this case, and that failure is a human rights violation in itself, Etim said.

Steve Vigil, a development specialist and former U.N. peacekeeper, also criticized the lack of international leadership and said that the commitment to South Sudan has never been adequate.

"The U.N. is an easy punching bag when things go wrong, but at the end of the day the U.N. responds to the will of the member states," Vigil said. He cited the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States -- as responsible for driving humanitarian effort

Ashley Quarcoo, Africa regional coordinator at the Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance at USAID, reaffirmed U.S. commitment to investing actively implementing programs in the region.

"We are going to continue to be there to mitigate the impacts of this conflict to the extent that we can," Quarcoo said, noting the bipartisan support of this aid in the past and going forward.

However, according to a Foreign Policy magazine report, President Donald Trump's proposed budget would cut aid to developing countries by more than one-third.

Mario Bol, a former university lecturer in South Sudan, said he supports a U.S. and international role in help for South Sudan, but cautioned against a foreign national takeover of the country.

Bol said his country needs foreign guidance, but outside military intervention would not help resolve the conflict.

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