Getting it Right from the Start: Building a Better South Sudan

A coalition of international aid agencies urge governments to get priorities for newest nation right from the start
Credit: Jason Seagle, Counterpart Images
Credit: Jason Seagle, Counterpart Images

A coalition of 38 aid agencies have issued a report urging the international community not to squander the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation.

Amidst jubilant celebration, the new Republic of South Sudan entered the international stage in July 2011 albeit as one of the least developed countries in the world. The challenges and opportunities are enormous, and donors, the government, implementing agencies and most importantly the people of South Sudan have a lot at stake—but much more to gain.

Against a backdrop of chronic under-development, the country is acutely vulnerable to recurring conflict and climatic shocks. More than 220,000 people were displaced last year due to conflict and more than 100,000 were affected by floods; and already this year, fighting in the disputed border areas, clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and militia groups, disputes over land and cattle, and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, have forced nearly 300,000 people from their homes.

In the joint report, Getting it Right from the Start: Priorities for Action in the New Republic of South Sudan, the aid agencies said it was vital that donors get their priorities for tackling poverty right from the start. The report outlines key priorities for donors working to improve lives in South Sudan, along with ten areas for action based on the experience of NGOs operating in South Sudan and lessons learned during the Comprehensive Peace Agreement interim period, namely:

  1. Balance development aid with support for emergency humanitarian needs
  2. Understand conflict dynamics
  3. Involve communities and strengthen civil society
  4. Ensure an equitable distribution of assistance
  5. Prioritize the most vulnerable and ensure social protection
  6. Promote pro-poor, sustainable livelihoods
  7. Strengthen government capacity, from the bottom up
  8. Allow sufficient time for transition towards government management of international aid
  9. Provide timely, predictable funds
  10. Ensure integrated programming

Donors must prioritize these action areas in the first years of the country’s independence so as to ensure the best possible results for the people of South Sudan.

Crucially, the report calls on donors to continue to provide emergency aid to the volatile nation and improve their understanding of conflict dynamics. Already this year, some 2, 611 people have been killed in violent conflicts, with tribal clashes in Jonglei State in mid-August resulting in the deaths of at least 340 people and displacement of 26, 800. A further 275,000 people have already been displaced by violence this year which has hindered much needed agriculture and crop cultivation.

The report also calls on donors to build up the capacity of the government of South Sudan, so it is able to provide more and better services for its people including effective security and rule of law across the country. Government structures are extremely weak and being built up from almost nothing, especially outside the main towns. The agencies say that it will take time for South Sudan to assume full responsibility for the delivery of services. NGOs are currently responsible for the majority of basic service delivery in South Sudan, such as health, education and water and sanitation, and it’s vital that donors continue supporting these services as they support the government to build up its capacity to deliver these services itself.

The aid agencies also urged donors to support agriculture and income generating opportunities for the poorest communities Currently only an estimated 4 per cent of arable land is cultivated, the production of livestock and fish is just a fraction of the potential and exports and trade between different regions of South Sudan are minimal.

The agencies also called on donors and the government to help build up social protection programs to help the most vulnerable in South Sudan, such as cash transfers for those prone to food insecurity.

The following international aid agencies have signed the report: Action Against Hunger, ACTED, ADRA South Sudan, American Refugee Committee, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, AVSI, CARE, Caritas Luxembourg and Switzerland, CHF International, Cordaid, DanChurchAid, Danish Refugee Council, GOAL Ireland, Handicap International, HealthNet TPO, Humane Development Council, International Aid Services, ICCO, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, JEN, Malaria Consortium, Malteser International, Medair, Mennonite Central Committee, Mercy Corps, Merlin, Mission Aviation Fellowship International, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Pact, Plan South Sudan, Population Services International, Relief International, Saferworld, Save the Children, South Sudan Law Society, and World Vision.

Publication: Getting it Right from the Start