A peacekeeper part of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) among internally displaced persons west of Juba. (UN Photo/Isaac Billy)

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has had an enormous positive impact on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese people. One of the most important issues concerning UNMISS is the protection of civilians (POC), which has created a dilemmas for the mission. As UNMISS now stands on the edge of another fragile peace process, it is worth briefly recalling the protection challenges it is facing. In 2018, I led a team of researchers part of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) who conducted an assessment of UNMISS. We met with hundreds of people, often those who had been displaced or affected by the conflict in the country, along with a wide range of experts within and outside the UN. We asked them about the impact of the UN in country and how peacekeeping had affected the lives of the South Sudanese. What follows is a distillation of our findings related to the challenges UNMISS faces in protecting civilians.

UNMISS Saved Lives

By providing space within its compounds to those fleeing brutal and widespread violence in 2013 and 2016, UNMISS provided immediate physical protection to more than 200,000 people, including large numbers of women and children. In the view of a wide range of experts and South Sudanese citizens, UNMISS’ POC sites not only saved tens of thousands of lives, they also had the positive effect of isolating the polarized communities from one another at a time when even broader violence was likely. “Without UNMISS there would have been a genocide here,” was the sentiment echoed by dozens of South Sudanese. Read more