Building peace in the minds of men and women

Forest Whitaker and Valerie Amos visit South Sudan to assess humanitarian challenges

09 February 2015



From 6 to 14 February, UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker is visiting South Sudan for the third time since June 2014. Part of his mission includes a joint visit with Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. They will assess the humanitarian situation on the ground and highlight the importance of peace and early funding for the aid operation.

During the three-day mission Ms. Amos and Mr. Whitaker will meet with communities affected by the crisis, senior Government officials and humanitarian partners, to discuss ways of improving the security situation and the humanitarian operations in the country.

Mr. Whitaker and Ms Amos have decided to join forces to address emergencies while fostering long-term recovery. They deemed it vital to draw attention to the crisis and help tell the story of the suffering in South Sudan to more people across the world. The mission will thus serve to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground with a view to highlighting the work of aid agencies which, despite the extremely challenging operating environment, surpassed their target of reaching 3.6 million people in 2014. They will insist on laying the ground for lasting peace and reconciliation as the most solid pillars for the future of South Sudan, which is the world's youngest nation.

The joint visit will include a number of field trip, including Wai, where 35,000 displaced people are estimated to live and in a fragile humanitarian situation, and Bor, where the UNMISS base is also host to a protection of civilians (PoC) site. In Juba, Mr. Whitaker and Ms Amos will visit the UN PoC3 UN House where the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI) has funded a sports center, with a view to harnessing the power of sports for peace and reconciliation. In his capacity as UNESCO Special Envoy and following his meetings with officials in the country as well as his intervention at the UN Security Council in September 2014, Mr Whitaker will also participate in the High Level Summit on South Sudan in Nairobi organized by IGAD on Monday February 9.

The joint visit will be concluded by a press conference which will be an opportunity for Mr. Whitaker and Ms. Amos to call on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and allow lifesaving assistance to reach all communities in need.  

Afterwards, Mr Whitaker will dedicate his time to the humanitarian work he conducts in the field through his foundation. From February 9 to 14, he will animate trainings with the young women and men participating in the ground breaking programme he launched in 2012 in South Sudan, the Youth Peacemaker Network (YPN), which empowers a cadre of youth to become peace and development leaders in their communities. This project rests on a unique mix of peace education, vocational training and ICTs. As part of this project, Mr Whitaker will inaugurate his second computer/literacy centre with UNESCO in the town of Nimule jointly with  Ericsson and Zain. The centre will support the youth enrolled in the YPN and also welcome any member of the neighbouring communities.