Thursday, December 8, 2011

NGO report on South Sudan: excellent recommendations and glaring omission

A report written by Rebecca Barber on behalf of 38 NGOs engaged in South Sudan proposes a series of excellent recommendations for providing assistance to the new government of South Sudan.

The 6 September 2011 report emphasizes that South Sudan is acutely vulnerable to recurring conflict and climatic shocks. The situation is exacerbated by a continuing influx of returnees, restricted movement across the northern border, high fuel prices, and regional shortages of food stocks. South Sudan challenges normal development paradigms and fits awkwardly in the humanitarian relief-recovery-post-conflict development continuum.

The paper highlights ten priority areas for action based on the experience of NGOs operating in South Sudan and lessons learned during the Comprehensive Peace Agreement period. A summary of the recommendations follows:
  • Balance development assistance with continued support for emergency humanitarian needs.
  • Understand conflict dynamics.
  • Involve communities and strengthen civil society.
  • Ensure an equitable distribution of assistance.
  • Prioritize the most vulnerable and ensure social protection.
  • Promote pro-poor, sustainable livelihoods.
  • Strengthen government capacity, from the bottom up.
  • Allow sufficient time for transition towards government management of international aid.
  • Provide timely, predictable funds.
  • Ensure integrated programming.
For all its value, the report has a glaring omission that casts doubt on its credibility. The overwhelming problem of corruption in South Sudan is talked around, but not met head-on. Unless you read carefully between the lines, you would not know corruption is a problem.

South Sudan has received between $8 and $10 billion in oil revenue. Other than pay salaries to a bloated military and civil service, there is very little to show for this staggering amount of money. This NGO report is essentially a plea for more donor aid, albeit aid administered more effectively. The report should first insist that the government of South Sudan explain what it has done with $8 to $10 billion before calling on the donor community to pump yet more money into the country.

At a minimum, it should highlight the problem of corruption and acknowledge there will be no serious development in South Sudan until corruption is brought under control.

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