UN Volunteers working with United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, like the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UMISS), have a significant impact on peacebuilding and reconciliation. As we celebrate this year’s Intenational Day of UN Peacekeepers, we spoke to Emmanuel Patay Menwon, a 48-year-old Liberian serving as a UN Volunteer Civil Affairs Officer with UNMISS. His story exemplifies the transformative power of volunteering for peace. In this interview, he shares the positive impact he has made in building peace and advancing community reconciliation in South Sudan.
What inspired you to join UNMISS as a UN Volunteer?
I am deeply passionate about supporting local communities, youth organizations and the underprivileged. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in business administration, I have 18 years of experience in emergency, post-conflict and development work with national and international organizations. This prepared me well for my assignment with UNMISS, and I take great pride in my service over the past for four years. My commitment to promoting peace is evident in my day-to-day work, where I respond to the critical needs of communities.
As a proud volunteer, I find excitement in giving back to the local community and leaving a legacy. My goal as a UN Volunteer and as a Civil Affairs Officer, is to make the world a better place for people across the board. I am dedicated to improving the lives of the most vulnerable, including orphans, street children, widows and persons with disabilities. --Emmanuel Menwon, UN Volunteer Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS.
What are the key highlights of your responsibilities in this assignment?
My work revolves around promoting social cohesion and reconciliation and helping to mitigate the threats of violence among local communities in the Lakes State and neighboring areas. To achieve this, I collaborate with my colleagues to organize and implement conflict management and mediation activities in affected communities and violence hotbeds in the State. Additionally, I facilitate avenues for dialogue among local authorities, civil society organizations, youth and women's associations, and county and state-level institutions. This collaboration enhances the capacities of local institutions to effectively respond to conflicts and engage in interventions that positively impact people at community level.
I feel fulfilled and happy when I witness unity and local ownership of peace processes within the communities I work with. Seeing community members respond peacefully to threats of violence and recognizing the negative impact of conflict on their families reinforces my passion for volunteering. --Emmanuel Menwon, UN Volunteer Civil Affairs Officer, UNMISS
How has your work impacted the people you serve?
I draw inspiration from witnessing people living their daily lives without fear. The greatest reward for me is when community members engage in small-scale trade, farming and other peaceful activities.
My host agency, UNMISS, recognizes my close connection with the community, which allows me to use local approaches to solve local problems.
Emmanuel's role as a Civil Affairs Officer has had a significant impact on the people he serves. Through capacity-building training and community engagement, he has empowered individuals with knowledge and skills to prevent and effectively manage local conflicts. As a result, revenge attacks and killings have significantly decreased. He has also encouraged local communities to take ownership of their peace processes, fostering sustainable peace and development in their own communities. --Mr Khalif Farah, Civil Affairs Officer with UNMISS and Emmanuel’s supervisor