The intervention coincides with new polling by Savanta, commissioned by Christian Aid, that reveals over half (53%) of the British public agree the UK should be a leader in providing humanitarian aid and peacebuilding in countries facing conflict such as South Sudan.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund warned of South Sudan’s growing hunger crisis with “some 7.7 million people - 54% of the population - already living with crisis-level food insecurity.”
South Sudan officially split from Sudan in 2011, but civil war erupted two years later, causing 400,000 deaths. There are 2.2 million internally displaced people in South Sudan and another 2.3 million have fled the country, according to the UN.
Despite the deteriorating situation, the UK aid budget for South Sudan was cut by 59% in 2021. According to the UK aid agencies, this resulted in cuts to critical peacebuilding and resilience work with communities.
With His Holiness the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland expected to make an appeal for peace, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund hope the visit will also put pressure on the UK Government to invest in “peacebuilding, conflict management and reconciliation” in South Sudan.
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid’s Chief Executive, said:
“Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives to conflict, and violence continues to tear communities apart. In a sign of the ongoing violence, three aid workers have been killed within the last month alone.
“With this unprecedented ecumenical pilgrimage, there is a real opportunity to shine a light on South Sudan and give hope to people in need in the region.
"It is clear the British people agree the UK Government should recommit funding and provide diplomatic support to the fragile peace process. This must include investment in community level peacebuilding and reconciliation.”
Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said:
“The people of South Sudan have suffered so much due to conflict and instability. But instead of being able to rely on the support of the UK, each year the Government has cut its funding.
“Our aid budget should prioritise countries impacted by conflict, failure to do so just increases the risk of other humanitarian crises such as displacement, hunger and gender-based violence.
“I hope the international community, including the UK, respond to the calls of Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby for peace, by stepping up and committing funding to support the peace process.”
Nigel Harris, CEO of Tearfund, said:
“We thank the UK Government for the significant role it has played so far bilaterally and as part of the Troika in supporting peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan.
“Local churches and ecumenical church networks in South Sudan are one of the only trusted voices in South Sudan. In our experience of working in partnership with faith based groups and church leaders in South Sudan, we have seen the invaluable role that they are playing.
“In solidarity with the global church leaders visiting South Sudan in February, we urge the UK to use its influence and resources to support the role of faith leaders in humanitarian and peacebuilding work in South Sudan.”
Notes to editors:
A note on methodology:
Savanta interviewed 2320 UK adults online from 28th January to 2nd May 2022. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of UK adults by age, gender, region, working status and social grade. Savanta is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
Thinking about the UK's role in response to the invasion of Ukraine, do you agree or disagree that the UK should also be a global leader in providing humanitarian aid and peacebuilding in countries facing conflict around the world, such as South Sudan?
- Strongly agree 18%
- Agree 35%
- Neither agree or disagree 27%
- Disagree 8%
- Strongly disagree 5%
- Don't’ know 7%
- Net agree 53%
- Net disagree 13%
Open letter to the Prime Minister:
We write to you ahead of the Ecumenical Pilgrimage to South Sudan this week with His Holiness the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
This is a unique opportunity to show solidarity with the churches, government leaders and people of South Sudan in their search for peace, justice and reconciliation.
As you will be aware, more than two million people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have lost their lives through the civil war. The country’s food security has also deteriorated with some 7.7 million people - 54% of the population - already living with crisis-level food insecurity.
Despite the deteriorating situation, the UK aid budget for South Sudan was cut by 59% in 2021, resulting in cuts to critical peacebuilding and resilience work with communities. In solidarity with the South Sudanese, we are calling on your government to:
- Redouble efforts to support peace, without which the humanitarian crisis will continue. Sustained investment in peacebuilding, conflict management and reconciliation are needed involving all levels of society and, crucially, marginalised groups such as women and youth. This should involve intensified diplomatic engagement with the political and military leaders of South Sudan, the Troika, UN, AU, and IGAD, and funding support to the peace process.
- Urge the leaders of South Sudan to implement the Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ACRSS). The leaders had agreed that elections should be held by December 2024. However, we are concerned that adequate preparations for it have not been undertaken including ensuring there is an end to ongoing violence, finalising the constitution and making adequate security arrangements.
- Uphold HMG commitments to prevent and anticipate crisis. The FCDO should not only restore but increase its budgets with a focus on addressing the root causes of crisis, and ensuring delivery in partnership with local organisations and affected communities.
The current situation in South Sudan partly reflects disengagement by the international community at a time when the war in Ukraine is holding diplomatic and donor attention.
While the UK Government’s support to Ukraine is commendable, it must not come at the cost of support to other areas of the world that are affected by crises, including South Sudan and the wider East African region.
We hope you will reflect during this crucial church leaders’ visit on these ways in which the UK Government can help the plight of South Sudan.
Christine Allen, CAFOD
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid
Nigel Harris, Tearfund