Prospects for peace and prosperity in the world’s newest country

Blog by Sarah Pickwick – Policy Officer for  South Sudan

Today the International Development Select Committee published a report on South Sudan, looking at its prospects for peace and development. Tearfund was able to input through both oral and written evidence, to share reflections and recommendations from our programmes and partners.

As I watched our Director being quizzed by the committee I pondered on three questions

a)      Would the things we were calling for be noted?

b)      If so, would it change how DFID operate in-country?

c)      If  DFID did change, would that significantly alter things in South Sudan?

So with that in mind, firstly, what things did Tearfund call for and what has the committee said?

1)     DFID should fund humanitarian needs in South Sudan, alongside development.

In some parts of South Sudan there are ongoing humanitarian needs due to poor harvests, rising food prices, internal insecurity, displacement and so on. Humanitarian needs look set to continue for many years, and so although there is rightly a desire to move towards development, humanitarian efforts should not slow down as a result. There needs to be a mix of approaches, tailored to specific areas/needs, and not a case of either/or.

Infrastructure - like this community-built bridge - will be vital for South Sudan to develop

The committee has taken note of this, in sounding the alarm about the mounting humanitarian crisis  and recommending that DFID may need to ‘focus to a greater extend on humanitarian assistance’. However, at the same time they comment that ‘if the country is to develop, it will need to invest in health, education and infrastructure’, the very things we note in our evidence as key to spurring widespread economic development.

2)     DFID should build the capacity of government structures at all levels.  

A lot of international attention had been on building the capacity of the South Sudanese Government at central level. Although undoubtedly important, this had sometimes been at the expense of capacity building at state, county and district level, where most responsibility for provision of basic services is held.

It is therefore encouraging to see a call for DFID to make sure they have a correct balance, but also for them to ‘use its leverage and influence to persuade other key donors to integrate capacity building support within their own development projects’. The report also acknowledges the church as a service provider, linking to a point we made which is that the church can play a very valuable interim role here, whilst the government’s capacity is built.

3)     DFID should encourage the Government to adequately support returnees and their host communities.

Since October 2010 over 372,000 people have returned to South Sudanbut this puts an additional strain on scarce resources. As well as making practical suggestions we noted that DFID should maintain a state of readiness/flexibility to support emergency WASH and health interventions for returnees should the need arise. Although the report does not go into specifics we were pleased to see the committee encouraging DFID to ‘divert additional resources to assist them [returnees] if required’.

Its encouraging that the Committee has taken note of so many NGO asks. We now wait to see how DFID will respond and whether it will affect the ongoing revision of their South Sudan strategy.

So, what kind of impact might this have on communities in South Sudan?  DFID is but one of many donors in South Sudan and there are multiple and complex issues to deal with. However, DFID expects to spend around £360 million there, between 2011-15, which makes South Sudan one of the largest recipients of UK bilateral aid.  So this report has the potential to indirectly impact millions of lives. And, given the scale of need and levels of poverty in the world’s newest country, it is important that it is used as effectively as possible.

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