Trying to explain my job

When people ask what I do for a living, it is often difficult to explain. If I say peacebuilding, localization and National Action Plans or implementing the United Nations Resolutions that focus on women, peace and security – people give me a sideways look that tells me they have no idea what I am talking about. Even if they have a basic understanding, it’s still pretty vague.

This blog typically focuses on my travel adventures and arts and culture experiences and I try to save the technical writing and Op-Eds for Linkedin and my work website. Since several of the upcoming blogs will focus on work experiences in South Sudan, this blog offers a glimpse into one of the programs that I work on in countries typically undergoing conflict.

While in South Sudan in May 2015, one of the projects that I was working on was the Localization of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820. We held localization workshops in Yei and Torit counties in South Sudan. The localization program is a bottom up approach that convenes local government authorities, indigenous leaders, traditional leaders, civil society and other local leaders to raise awareness and formulate strategies for practical implementation of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security, as well as the National Action Plan (NAP), in countries where they exist.

Localization bridges the gap between national government and the local level, including civil society, local government authorities and other local leaders. It guarantees the alignment and harmonization of local, national, regional and international policies and community-driven strategies to ensure local ownership and participation. It helps people understand laws, individual rights and how they apply to them.

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Currently, South Sudan has a draft NAP. However, it is lacking a budget and will remain dormant until presented to the Cabinet Council. South Sudanese civil society actors believe that finalizing the NAP is a necessity. It is viewed as a mechanism to institutionalize women’s participation in peacebuilding, as well as political processes such as elections and constitution building. Many civil society representatives and local leaders explained their frustration over the lack of dissemination of information from the national to local level. Though the localization program works in conjunction with a NAP emphasizing implementation, it can also be used as a catalyst to encourage the signing and finalization of the NAP.

During the Localization workshop in Yei County, all participants expressed personal commitments to move the implementation forward. Local officials promised to disseminate key information to their superiors and co-workers. Religious leaders from different faiths agreed to share the importance of UNSCR 1325 and 1820 with their congregations as well. Furthermore, many of the male participants committed to inform their wives and children about their rights in accordance with the pillars of UNSCR 1325. Those with children agreed to divide household chores evenly instead of by traditional gender roles, teaching boys that it is normal for them to cook, clean and do the laundry.

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South Sudan’s peace process facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has been at a standstill since March 2015. As of June 2015, the situation in South Sudan is deteriorating. Reports of unpaid salaries of civil servants, a fuel shortage, water shortage, food scarcity and growing inflation are causes for concern. The conflict rages on in areas of Unity and Upper Nile, with high levels of violence, specifically ongoing sexual violence against women. Juba and the surrounding areas are also experiencing increased robberies, shootings and violence because of the heightened state of desperation among the population.

Sanctions alone will not solve this problem. Commitments need to be made by the mediators and all parties involved to produce, sign and abide by a peace agreement and ceasefire. A higher level of assistance from the international community is also required in order to compensate for the lack of production of bottled water and to stave off the spread of famine.

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