International Development Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1570

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Wednesday 1 February 2012

Members present:

Malcolm Bruce (Chair)

Hugh Bayley

Richard Harrington

Pauline Latham

Jeremy Lefroy

Chris White


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Stephen O’Brien MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, Michael Ryder, Head, South Sudan, Department for International Development, and Mark Mallalieu, UK Special Representative to Sudan, gave evidence.

Q66Chair: First of all, thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence on the closing stretch of our inquiry into South Sudan. Although it is not under our control, I obviously apologise that we are meeting on a slightly fraught afternoon and things are a bit delayed. I think we might try to aim to finish about 4.30 pm, if we can get there, which would probably recover some of the situation. Minister, first of all, I wonder if you could, for the record, introduce your team.

Mr O’Brien: Thank you very much indeed, Chairman. Stephen O’Brien, Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State of the Department for International Development, and I am accompanied by Michael Ryder and Mark Mallalieu, who I am sure would happily introduce themselves.

Mark Mallalieu: I am Mark Mallalieu, Head of DFID, South Sudan.

Q67Chair: If we may put on record, thanks to Mark and his staff for the arrangements they made for our visit, which were extremely well organised in not easy situations, and extremely worthwhile.

Mr O’Brien: And Michael Ryder.

Michael Ryder: UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan.

Q68Chair: Obviously since we were there in December, things have changed and maybe even deteriorated, certainly based on the news reports. I wonder perhaps at the start, Minister, if you might want to just bring us up to speed on developments that have happened in the last few weeks. We discussed in the House the issue of UNMISS and the issue of oil production, and there have been these ongoing conflicts and so forth. I wonder whether you might just want to bring us up to speed, to put the context for the rest of the afternoon.

Mr O’Brien: Thank you, Chairman, and may I place on record the appreciation that the Committee took the trouble to go to see for itself South Sudan. When we have a new country and a series of very challenging circumstances, it is extremely helpful to have all the possible advice and expertise that can be brought to bear on making sure that we all do our very best to deliver for the people of South Sudan.

You are quite right, since you were there as a Committee, there have been developments. I think it is extremely serious and very worrying. The fact that, where we are now with the oil situation-the Government of South Sudan stands to lose 98% of its revenue-will clearly have serious ramifications. There were intensive negotiations that took place in Addis Ababa over the last few days, of which I think you may be aware, but no agreement was reached. I understand, and we hope, the negotiations will start again early in this month. We cannot predict the outcome of the talks. What is clear is that a resolution is required very urgently, and we are urging all parties to resolve their outstanding issues. Some of the elements on an agreement on oil and finance are coming together. I think it is interesting that South Sudan does accept that Sudan needs substantial transitional funding and financing to help deal with the loss of oil revenues, in addition to payment of transit fees, and Sudan itself has shown a willingness to reduce its demands in relation to the transit fees. That is the ground of hope.

As you indicated at oral questions in the House a few moments ago, the economic consequences of a lack of agreement are grave, and clear for all to anticipate. South Sudan is on the point of introducing an austerity budget, and when you think about where they are starting from, that really does sound like austerity, by any test. It is also likely to impose drastic reductions in capital and operational costs and funding. It may, however, seek to protect salaries and security spending, which will obviously have an effect. I know this inquiry is focusing on South Sudan, and the DFID strategy. We think the situation is fluid. I wish to be as helpful as I possibly can to the Committee. You will appreciate that I cannot actually predict many of the consequences. Equally, there are some sensitivities that I shall try not to stray into, those that could in any way impact negatively upon the ongoing negotiations and opportunity to try to bring the parties together, which you will be all too aware of.

The main thing is, as best as possible, to recognise that the challenge that we face in a very challenging environment-maintaining our development programme and the humanitarian aid element, alongside others-will clearly be phenomenally challenged if we find that South Sudan is not in a position or prepared to use what revenues it can have to support its own basic services. That would make our ability to support those even more challenging.

Q69Chair: Just a basic question that rises out of that. If production of oil has stopped, and then very quickly that means revenue has stopped, is there anything the international community can or would do to provide any kind of transitional cashflow management for the Government of South Sudan? Is that even being discussed, or are they on their own?

Mr O’Brien: What is being focused on is where there would be humanitarian consequences as a result of the absence of any continuing programme funding, and that is where we will have to redeploy our current programmed effort back towards the more humanitarian side. I fully understand why you asked the question, but of course the last thing we want to do is to in any way make it penaltyfree to adopt such a stance, which we regard as being one that is absolutely not in the interests of the broad population of South Sudan.

Q70Hugh Bayley: What discussions has our Government had with the Government of China, and what is the Government of China doing to try to resolve the deadlock?

Mr O’Brien: We have had a series of discussions with our contact with the Government of China in relation to South Sudan. When I was visiting Sudan, it was quite clear that there were a series of discussions with the Government of China, not least because-I think I am right in saying, from the top of my head-about 6% of China’s oil supplies come out of the shipments from Port Sudan. Clearly, now the ships are not leaving, they will already be feeling some form of impact. The discussion there is more to do with the continuing sourcing of their oil exPort Sudan, which of course has to come down the pipe primarily from wells in South Sudan, which are, as we speak, being or have been turned off. If that is done rapidly, there is a real danger to the infrastructure; the pipes and so forth can be damaged, and if it is not done in a measured and managed way, either there will be a great cost in putting them back into operation, or indeed they could be damaged and put out of use for good. Those are the contextual things that have a direct impact on China. The broader context of our discussions with China about the whole of this area is to do with how we are all looking for the future sources of economic growth, not least the diversification of their economic base in South Sudan. As we know, it is 98% dependent on oil revenues.

Q71Richard Harrington: Gentlemen, being someone, like all of us around this table, who spends a lot of time when being interviewed on the radio and things like this defending everything that DFID is doing and the general international development effort, I really got the impression that South Sudan is the defining test case for the new way of doing things. We have a new country, a Government that seems to allow access to agencies, government and otherwise, at all levels. We have what seems to us like every NGO and organisation in the world. We have money being piled in. We have DFID, and congratulations to Mark for putting together 25 such bright, committed people in such a short period of time. It seems to have everything there. From my point of view, it seems the test case for the modern way of doing international development, and that the whole efforts of the Western world in this way will survive or fail on what happens in South Sudan. Would you agree with that?

Mr O’Brien: I certainly thank you for your compliment, not least to Mark and his team, and I can confirm that the staffing is now up to 30 even since you were there. That has been a tremendous resource enhancement and skill range.

Whilst I fully understand where you are coming from, I would be somewhat hesitant to load the pressure on South Sudan and indeed the South Sudan development community, particularly the DFID community, by calling it the test case. I fully understand it is a new model of working, and if you like we do start with a white sheet of paper. There is no basic infrastructure, very little to build upon, the models are pretty new in many ways. However, it is also trying to make sure that we have learned all the lessons of what works from parallel, and not dissimilar, conflict and postconflict development. You are right to identify that this is a real development opportunity, but let us not forget that the circumstances on the ground at the moment, post the referendum and post the declaration of independence back in July last year, have not moved in a direction that has made access, or the sense of confidence, any easier, either in government or democraticinstitutionbuilding, or indeed in the attraction of investment, either external or internal. Where you have continuing conflict, it inevitably has that negative impact.

Q72Richard Harrington: I must press you on this, because it seems to me that there will always be that kind of thing, almost by definition, in a country that we go into. Here we are, in at the beginning, with no obstacles as far as I can see. There might be isolated areas where war or conflict is happening, but in the rest of the country it seems to me, we are welcome. We are at all levels, from the top of Government down to local police stations, schools and everything like that. I really do feel that if I were to be here for years and years and on this Committee, as I hope to be-I hope to be carried out of this Committee in my box one day, because I really enjoy it-in the end the question will be asked, be it in five years or 10 years, "You have had plenty of time now. We know it is not all delivering rice and stuff in an emergency like it used to be. We know it is not tied aid. We the taxpayer have given you everything you could want. Why has it not worked?" I really do feel that this is the place that it will happen, and I say that with great pride as to what DFID is doing there. If I could move on-

Mr O’Brien: If I could just interject to say that I entirely would endorse that aspiration, and I share the confidence that-with this extremely challenging environment, where some of the access is perhaps not quite as open at the moment as perhaps one would wish or indeed perhaps your comments might indicate-the design we have for the programme is likely to yield the results that you are describing in that prospective mediumterm period.

Q73Richard Harrington: What would your assessment, Minister, or indeed Mark’s, be of the South Sudanese Government? Does it have the right priorities? We seem to think that there is access at all levels. We went to visit the President-in fact with you, Mark-and we saw the Adam Smith Institute there. We saw people funded by DFID sitting in Cabinet meetings, advising at all levels. Would any of you gentlemen like to give your assessment of the South Sudanese Government?

Mr O’Brien: I will ask my colleagues to comment. As you know, I was in Washington for the conference that was convened just before Christmas, and in the discussions I have had there was a complete openness by the South Sudanese Government to take advice, to want to draw upon the best practice, and to recognise the importance of good governance. Given the responsibility we have as the United Kingdom within the troika of accountability, transparency and good governance, and anticorruption, we definitely had a sense of commitment. Of course these have to be replicated by actions on the ground. However, I would say that the key here is to build good governance in a way that does not go off-track, that the milestones and the best-practice-sharing are available to them, and that they are eager to work from it. I will ask Mark perhaps if he wants to add to that.

Mark Mallalieu: Just one point that you are already familiar with: the defence budget is far too high. It consumes 40% of overall spending. In terms of the key policy choices that the Government has to make, reducing that defence budget and getting that money into the social sectors is absolutely key. Of course, at the moment it has just become a lot more difficult, but they need time to do that.

Q74Richard Harrington: Do we press on that with the Government when we get the chance to do so?

Mark Mallalieu: We do, and we will continue to do so.

Mr O’Brien: Do you want to add anything, Michael?

Michael Ryder: Only one thing, if I may. There is a lot of talent in the Government in Juba, but there is very limited depth of capacity. This is a longterm issue as the SPLM transitions from being a resistance movement to a Government, and the distinctions between party, Government and state evolve in ways that they are still doing.

Mr O’Brien: That is a really important point: moving from the culture of being a Government comprised of people who have been fighting for 30 years for independence to a Government that is now there on behalf of the people it represents, democratically accountable. Replicated on our side of that equation is, in my opinion, the good, close working between the FCO and DFID incountry, both physically but in terms of the way that HMG is having an impact and representing itself in the interlocution with the Government. I hope that the Committee observed this when they were there.

Chair: We did.

Q75Chris White: Apologies for my late arrival, Chair. Mark, you mentioned looking at a decrease in the defence spending. How likely do you see that happening at the moment, or even in the medium term?

Mark Mallalieu: I think that the pressures that the Government are under now could lead to some defence spending being cut, because they have so little money to play with. Equally, they will try to protect some key defence spending because of security concerns, in relation to Sudan in particular. In the long term, if you look at 10 or 15 years, I would be extremely confident that they are absolutely committed to having a rightsized, professional army, which takes a reasonable proportion of the budget, but far less than it does at the moment.

Mr O’Brien: They continue to have concern, of course, about internal security, as we well know. There have been the Murle and others.

Q76Chair: We will come onto the relationship between the Defence Force and UNMISS.

Mr O’Brien: Yes.

Q77Hugh Bayley: The Committee went to South Sudan perhaps five or five and a half years ago, just after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. You see a huge difference on the ground over that period of time. What do you think the key achievements were of the DFID suboffice, when it was a suboffice, during the transition period, and how satisfied are you, Minister, with the performance of the DFID office in the six months that it has been an office in its own right, since independence?

Mr O’Brien: I can certainly speak perhaps a little bit more confidently about what has happened over recent months, and I think that in many ways Mr Harrington has already identified that there is much to be applauded for the way that in some of the most difficult contextual conditions, a functioning, well-collaborating office has been able to staff up and attract people of sufficient calibre, commitment and skill, in a complementary team, to be able to deliver on the programme. The office, by the way, now has a roof on top of it, which was not the case when you visited.

The challenge for us, as a significant donor and with the commitment we have for the future of South Sudan and its people, is that the current levels of internal violence and crossborder conflict is seriously threatening to, at the very best, delay the programme. This is to do with our capacity to deliver the development gains rather than simply to try to resist and deflect some of the negative aspects of the conflict that is continuing and very disappointing, given that the early part of your question was what achievements were rated. I too-in a different capacity, when I was chairing a charity called the Malaria Consortium-visited when there were only 10 metres metalled road in Juba, and went to Rumbek and Wau and Aweil, and out to Aroyo. I tried to see quite a lot of it.

I was really struck by how the first thing to do, where I think the DFID office was doing a good job, was, with such a dispersed population-mainly because the conflict had made people scatter to the four winds for their own safety-and with the challenging conditions of so much of the land being under 10 inches of water for so much of the season, DFID had found ways to get delivery and start building distribution centres for basic services, and to get that set of points enabling contact with communities, as well as the political context in supporting what was in the end a successful referendum exercise; that was very much to do with the international community supporting that in the right way.

Q78Hugh Bayley: This, I think, is the first office that is a joint FCODFID office, using a DFID platform. Do you think it is working well?

Mr O’Brien: Yes.

Q79Hugh Bayley: And do you think it is a model that should be adopted in other developing countries?

Mr O’Brien: What is interesting, particularly as I focus on subSaharan Africa, is that very often the sense of presence within a developing country is through programmes. There are very important representational, political, strategic and security issues that are quite properly the remit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. You are right that an increasing ability to find the joint ways of working, the collaborative nature and the skill sharing, is something that for each country has to be looked at in a tailored way, particularly where we sometimes do not have representation. Recently I deliberately went to countries where we do not have a DFID bilateral programme to see our multilateral effort, so I went to Senegal and Mali. It was interesting there to re-emphasise how important it was for our FCO representatives in those countries to be fully briefed and fully aware of the intense help that the British people, through their taxes and through the Department for International Development and their support for multilaterals, were exercising in those countries as well. It is horses for courses: a tailored situation in each country, and we have to look at it in a calibrated way, but yes, you are looking at something of a model that can be applied elsewhere-by no means universally, but certainly where there are similar circumstances, and very often where conflict or fragility is predominant.

Q80Pauline Latham: I am reassured by what you said, because it has been suggested to me that maybe this closer working together might be a weakening, and less effective from DFID’s point of view, and that we might be-not dumbing down-not putting so much emphasis on DFID. I think, from what you said, you are saying that is not the case.

Mr O’Brien: I see it almost the opposite way around. I think it strengthens both.

Q81Pauline Latham: That is good news. Thank you.

Mr O’Brien: I do not think you should discount either-and I am sure you do not-that this is not just DFID and FCO. In certain West African countries there are extremely good liaisons with SOCA, for instance, and others, such as DECC, where we have significant interests with some of the climate change issues. There is now a much better approach to thinking about what the resources are, and what the frontfacing of HMG is vis-à-vis our relationship in a particular area. This also applies not just countrybycountry, but increasingly, and very important, I think, for subSaharan Africa-we know it in many other parts of the world-as we think about the regional issues. These are not just to do with politics, security and trade. They are also to do with internal regional economic integration, which will often be one of the great spurs for economic growth, particularly in the landlocked countries.

Q82Chair: I will just put on record that Alastair McPhail, the Ambassador, spent a lot of time with the Committee. I think we saw the dynamic in action. He, by the way, is not working in comfortable conditions. Anybody who thinks it is a cushy number being an Ambassador in a place like that should perhaps go and have a look at the hotel room he is operating out of. I think he still is, isn’t he?

Mr O’Brien: I have a funny feeling it may be the hotel room that I was put up in, because the Consul, I think, had secured the room. Most important to recognise is that we were the first to appoint a fully accredited Ambassador to South Sudan, and that is a testament to our commitment.

Chair: That is appreciated.

Q83Pauline Latham: I will ask my proper question now. South Sudan obviously faces lots of challenges, and your operational plan sets out targets related to health, education, governance, girls and women. What do you think will be the Department’s most pressing priority to achieve in the next three years?

Mr O’Brien: As you know from everything else we are seeking to do, it is to secure results. It has taken a little longer, perhaps, to set up some things than we had anticipated, and we have had throughout very ambitious plans. I think that strengthening the sense of security that comes from having good governance, and therefore access to justice, and the ability for the South Sudanese people to feel confident in their country and their future, will have an enormous impact upon woman-girls as well, but particularly women-and their access to justice. I know that our determination to support girls into, and retain them in, school beyond primary is absolutely a key issue for us. Equally, ensuring that women have improved access to justice; we are hoping that our aid will directly lead to 250,000 women having that sort of access.

Of course, improving health and education is a priority, when you look at the burden of disease in South Sudan. I am not just talking about what I have recently been engaged with, which is the neglected tropical diseases, where South Sudan is currently the nursery of every neglected tropical disease, but even the big diseases such as malaria are still very seriously unaddressed. Maternal mortality in South Sudan is, as we know, the worst in the world on the data that we have.

Supporting 250,000 children through primary school, helping to print and distribute 12 million textbooks, where I believe there is only one printing press in South Sudan as we speak, on the data I have been given, enabling 37,000 women to deliver in a facility with a skilled birth attendant: these are the genuine results that we have planned and that we believe we have a real opportunity to get to. They are stretching and ambitious. The context is ever more challenging. You have heard from Mark that it is proving more challenging than the plan. However, we are there with real determination to get there. This is a bit finegrained, but it does mean looking at food security, where we can secure jobs, and wealth creation-not least because, as the Chairman pointed out in his opening question, if we do not achieve diversification of the economic base, there will be a real risk that it is always, "Bet on oil." On the current knowledge, those oil assets will deplete over the coming decade, which in itself, for instance, will beg the question of whether the pipeline proposal down to Kenya makes any kind of economic sense.

Q84Pauline Latham: You have decided to cease funding water and sanitation projects after this December. How would you respond to the suggestion that there is a potential vacuum? I will give you an example: we split in two, but I was part of the group that went to Rumbek and saw a returnee camp, where the women were distraught because they had no sanitation whatsoever at this camp. There were 2,000 people. It is within a town, and yet there is no toilet, no latrine of any description. They said that there were hyenas circling round at night, so they cannot let their children go very far away. The one thing in life is you cannot stop people going to the loo. If 2,000 people are using that ground every single day-and there will be more when more returnees come-how can you justify not funding water and sanitation? That will not be the only example. It is just one example.

Mr O’Brien: You are quite right that water and sanitation are absolutely critical, as you would expect, and there is no way that DFID can do everything, nor should it try. On the water and sanitation, there has already been significant achievement on the contributions we have made so far. We are very pleased to see how much has been achieved through some of the multilateral agencies so far on some of the water and sanitation, not least in Juba, which I am sure you are aware of. A lot of that will be continued under the humanitarian funding element of what we do. Equally, however, where others are prepared to step up and burdenshare, it is vital that, if that is where the interest is shown, we do not in any way become precious about what we hold on to. I am particularly pleased that the German interests are stepping up to a lot of the water and sanitation programming. That itself is very important. I do not know, Mark, whether you want to amplify any of that?

Mark Mallalieu: That is right. Through the humanitarian programme, we will be a significant donor to water and sanitation activities. We are expecting other donors to step up to the plate, and clearly we cannot do everything. The Germans, certainly, may well be a significant donor in future.

Q85Pauline Latham: That is encouraging. However, you said that some of it would be spent through the humanitarian spending, but your plan says that you are anticipating a reduction over the next three years, and an increase in development spending, which will not then go on water and sanitation. How likely do you think it is, given recent developments, that this will happen, and that the balance will tip?

Mr O’Brien: I would be clearly giving you a false steer if I thought I knew the answer to that. I can only take the facts as I find them reported to me on the ground, when I go and see with my own eyes, as the Committee has already done, and when I receive the reports from Mark and the team out there in Juba as to what the feeling is about the progress towards establishing this functioning, democratically governed state by a group of-as Michael Ryder has said-talented people, albeit without the strength in depth and therefore the capacity that you would hope could be in place, as they transit from being effectively an independence campaigning, quasimilitary movement, and sometimes a very explicitly military movement, to what we hope will be a peaceloving, peacebuilding, democratically accountable government.

That transition is something that, at the point of independence last year, we were optimistic-although not over-optimistic-could happen quite fast, because we had been given a sense of confidence by the way the referendum and so forth had gone. Now there is a series of facts that are challenging us even more. It is quite possible that the progress from humanitarian to development is a trajectory; whilst that has to be the right trajectory, because in many ways that is the acid test that Mr Harrington was very keen to emphasise, and with which I agreed, it may well be delayed. As we speak, that is what we have to plan for, even if we should not lose our aspiration that we can go at the pace we originally planned. Quite a lot needs to fall into place rather quickly in order for us to keep to that original plan and not to allow ourselves to recognise the recalibration necessary.

Q86Jeremy Lefroy: Just a quick one on the current year’s spending, which apparently is likely to come out at about £74 million, as opposed to the budgeted £91 million. Given that one of the major criticisms of the trust fund managed by the World Bank was that they were incapable of spending properly the resources they were allocated, could you perhaps give us an indication as to why we have come up about 20% under what was forecast for this year?

Mr O’Brien: I fully understand the impact of the question. Perhaps not surprisingly, it has been even more challenging-in the establishment of what I think is recognised in the circumstances to be a highfunctioning team in Juba, now that we have the full complement of people, or thereabouts-attracting them in the right way that will enable them to give their commitment and their time, and can deliver their security and our duty of care. That has meant there has been a drag throughout the financial period, and whilst of course the financial period is important-it is an accountable budgetary marker-nonetheless it is arbitrary compared with what it takes to become established. You are right, we expect the 20112012 financial year to come out at about £74 million, but we are now confidently on track to be spending £90 million and plus over the coming three years, the remaining part of the fouryear spending review period. Mark, I do not know whether you want to say anything more. I think it is purely the timeline of getting things in place. It is not in any sense a deliberate drag. It was just to become established in a very difficult context.

Q87Jeremy Lefroy: Is there one particular programme that might be being affected by this?

Mr O’Brien: I think it is more the start time of all of them. One could not really flick a switch. It had to be wired in, and it took time.

Q88Chair: We will turn to education. The new Government have declared that the official language of the country is English. They have an ambitious education programme, but, as we understand it, they are still arguing about what the curriculum will be. DFID is committed to delivering 12.5 million textbooks at a cost of £11 million. First of all, are these in English, or are they in local language, or a mixture, and is that part of the reason why DFID is doing it? Given the curriculum is not settled, is this the right priority now, laudable though it is?

Mr O’Brien: I am grateful for the question, because in many ways I know there have been some questions raised on this. First of all, I can confirm that the textbooks are in English, and it is therefore yet another reason why our commitment and our connection are so important.

Secondly, on the question of whether supplying textbooks is the best way forward: apart from the fact that however much the curriculum, quite understandably and rightly, is being reviewed by the Ministry of Education and by the Government of South Sudan, it will take time for them to go through that review. Second, as I have explained earlier, there is a phenomenally restricted capacity to print textbooks or to procure them in South Sudan. Even if there were to be a dramatic shift, which we do not anticipate, that would be difficult in itself. Equally, on the question of textbooks, I was interested in checking the evidence before this Committee hearing to see that it is Eric Hanushek, the world-leading expert on the economic return to education investment, who has established that the availability of textbooks is the single most positive factor in increasing learning outcomes for children.

DFID’s own research project on education quality in a number of subSaharan countries found that the impact of textbooks is greatest in the poorest countries, where teacher quality may be low, and where facilities and resources are scarce and generally of poor quality. I do not want to go too far outside South Sudan, but I think in particular, Chairman, you will be aware that this has been one of the most successful aspects of our programme in Zimbabwe, where equally the conditions, and being able to get access, has been signally successful. We are building on the back of that best practice and track record.

Q89Chair: What is the timing, given that they are still working on the curriculum? Presumably you cannot start printing the books until you have some sort of agreement. Do you have a timescale-

Mark Mallalieu: It has been agreed.

Mr O’Brien: The curriculum has been agreed, has it?

Q90Chair: It has now been agreed. Is this something that you can start doing? Where will they be printed? Uganda, or somewhere like that?

Mark Mallalieu: It is being done on a competitive basis, so we cannot be sure, but in the region, in Southern Africa.

Q91Chair: As you know, we have had considerable contact with the Church, and we met Archbishop Deng here and there, and they also gave evidence to us here, as well as the meeting we had there. I think it would be fair to say that the Church feels a bit hurt, rightly or wrongly, that they feel that they have a capacity particularly to build schools very competitively, and for reasons that I think were explained to us, DFID does not feel able to use the Church as a major partner, even though they maintain that they are cheaper than either NGOs or others. They also maintain that they have good local connections, in terms of community engagement; we will talk about other aspects of the Church in a minute. Are you in a position to say, first of all, why you do not feel you can use the Church, and whether or not that might change? In other words, might dialogue with the Church lead to a situation where they can do more? They feel very strongly that they are a natural partner, and clearly, at the moment, DFID does not agree.

Mr O’Brien: You have indicated we might come on to the broader engagement in a moment, but let me say-

Chair: Specifically on the school topic-

Mr O’Brien: On the schools issue, in the context of this very wide reach that the Church has, this has been looked at very carefully. As you rightly observe, DFID is very much looking at the opportunity to support education, with 30 primary and four secondary schools, and particularly designing programmes to reduce barriers to girls attending and staying at school, to which I would add how important it is to build latrines so that girls feel there is sufficient privacy to stay on.

Q92Chair: We saw that happening in the schools we visited.

Mr O’Brien: It is absolutely vital. It is often a bit of evidence that is overlooked, but it seems to me to be one of the great keys to retention of girls at school at a critical period when they will then have the health and choice about parenting and birth spacing and so forth. I want to pay tribute to the Church. What they have done throughout the whole peace-building and community-building process has been of enormous significance, and they play a very important role, as you rightly say, in schools.

DFID has engaged the United Nations to build the schools, given the scale of the project and the need for rapid completion, on time and with value for money. There is no question but that we would expect to see the Church playing a very critical role in the future in education work, not least on the girls’ education programme, and very much as a complement to that. In terms of the actual decision making, in addition to our commitment to work in partnership with the Church on education issues in South Sudan, that scale of project, and the organisation needed for engineering, procurement and logistical ability, at that scale and to comply with our DFID regulations and all the checks and accountabilities that above all you as a Committee would expect to see us put in place, we are looking at building over 200 classrooms in about 25 schools in one year. That compares to what the ECS has constructed: about 90 classrooms in 22 schools over five years. There was a programmatic comparison that did not quite reach the sense of scale and urgency that was required. In terms of the cost, which was one of the points you mentioned, I think it is fair to say that it is pretty much there and thereabouts between the two of them. I think the ECS costs about US $620 per square metre, and the costs that we are looking at are about $629, so they are very much in the same magnitude. The issue was scale, deliverability, conformity with the necessary procedures that DFID has to impose, quite rightly, and making sure that we can get the overall value for money. That was the reason. However, we are not unsympathetic.

Q93Chair: I understand. The final question on that would be: "Fine, but does the UNICEF/UNOPS approach involve capacity building?" The whole point we come across is that there is virtually no internal capacity. The Church is part of the capacity that does exist, and strengthening that, and/or building other complementary capacities, seems to be important. Will the United Nations effort have a legacy? Or will they simply build the schools and deliver the programme, but not actually transform the capacity?

Mr O’Brien: I think that putting this infrastructure, primarily, in place absolutely does require that partnership and complementary working, and the expectation is that that will be very much hand-in-hand with so much of what the Church has already demonstrated as a track record on this. That will be subject to going through the local contractors process, and ensuring that that is tailored. I do not know whether we will come on to this, but this is all via the Government of South Sudan, centrally, and as donors internationally we are doing our best to coordinate-it is all quite central. It links to how much we can achieve some form of devolution of Government into statebystate working, and how much that carries the education burden with it. That then becomes the opportunity, because it knows how to fashion the local contracting.

Chair: We will come on to that.

Q94Jeremy Lefroy: Just following up very briefly on that, Minister, one thing that a number of us saw was the very high cost of construction and infrastructure, particularly buildings. We wondered whether there are any plans in progress to see the manufacture of cement in South Sudan. That seems to me something that is pushing costs of construction, whether for schools or health facilities, skyhigh compared with other parts, because it all has to be imported, and it is obviously extremely heavy.

Mr O’Brien: I do not have a brief on that, so I will pass that to Mark, but I fully understand the economics of that, having a background in precisely that industry before I was a politician. One of the great lead indicators to any form of basic infrastructure and competitive positions in a growing economy is whether you have the capacity to have access to cement at a relatively competitive price, and whether that is being used both in the private sector and for public sector projects.

Q95Jeremy Lefroy: Given that CDC used to be quite heavily involved in that industry, certainly in Tanzania if not elsewhere, perhaps that might be put in their direction, if it has not already?

Mr O’Brien: That is an extremely helpful and important point, as I hope I indicated in the House earlier in oral questions. The completely and radically revamped CDC is now in a position to reexamine its role to be the patient capital investor, particularly where we can have these strategic opportunities. It will not be appropriate in all settings. Of course it will be harder in areas of great fragility or even conflict, but there are very good examples of what has worked in the past. Clearly that has to be tailored to the modern circumstances and technologies, but it therefore roots that capacity incountry, which helps underpin the economic base. Maybe, Mark, you would want to give an update on where things are?

Mark Mallalieu: Anecdotally, we have heard repeatedly that there is a firm interested in establishing a cement factory in the Eastern Equatoria state, but I do not have firm information that I can give you.

Mr O’Brien: It goes to a slightly wider question, which I appreciate is not for today. I am very conscious that in the past, whether it was CDC or others, it would very often be the interest that we, as a traditional country investor, might have. There are now, from the emerging powers, very significant interests. There is a whole new model yet to be examined-I do not even have an example that I could give you-of where we need to look carefully at how much the capacity needs to be put in the hands of the commissioning Government, by the Government of South Sudan, to say, "That is what we need. It is very good of all these countries to show interest, both the private sector and as donors, but the specification and the quality of what we need is as follows, located strategically in this way." Then perhaps there would be more of a consortium approach instead of a selection of who does it one by one by one, so that you can achieve the highest quality to supply against a spec, and put a little bit more of the purchasing power into the hands of the commissioning Government. That could be a useful way forward, and CDC could well play a role in that.

Q96Jeremy Lefroy: Returning to health again, you mentioned earlier the very, very welcome news about neglected-or, as you said, perhaps not so neglected in the future-tropical diseases. Given, as you rightly said, that Sudan is probably the home to more of these than most, if not all, other countries, how significant do you expect the UK’s investment in NTDs to be for Sudan? Given that the timeline can be very short with NTDs, what real outcomes do you expect us to see in the next three or four years in Sudan, in respect of guinea worm, for instance, or other NTDs?

Mr O’Brien: You are more aware than almost anybody else of the announcements on neglected tropical diseases over the last few days, which of course are very important and of enormous impact. Those initiatives potentially have the most phenomenal value for money for the British people, as UK taxpayers, to be part of supporting. The focus has to be upon the burden of disease, where these diseases exist. You are quite right: South Sudan is probably where all of them exist, and in the most intractable way. There is enormous hope now, because it is a question of resource. Our priorities at the moment are through the health pooled fund; I do not know whether you want to come on to that as well. That would provide the population of six out of 10 states with access to primary healthcare and emergency obstetric and neonatal care, and the training of staff. I do not want to anticipate, because we have not yet announced where our NTD programmes will be geographically most focused.

We have certainly identified which diseases, in terms of elephantiasis, bilharzia, river blindness, trachoma and soil-transmitted helminths. I am trying to keep to the nearest layman’s language on these as I can. These are the diseases we are focused on, and guinea worm, which you know well. They are all in South Sudan, so patently it must mean that it would be appropriate, at the right time, when the right ability to deliver on the ground is in place, then we of course will have South Sudan very strongly in our minds.

Q97Jeremy Lefroy: Does that mean that the funding you have announced for NTDs, should some of that be in South Sudan, would be in addition to the £82 million over four to five years that has already been announced for the health pooled fund from DFID?

Mr O’Brien: That is absolutely correct. The whole point about the NTD programme is that it is an additional fund, which will be deployed and allocated according to where we will achieve the greatest impact.

Q98Jeremy Lefroy: Would you accept that given the importance of the health pooled fund in South Sudan, and DFID’s leadership and participation in that, the success of our programme South Sudan will be quite considerably judged by the success of that particular programme?

Mr O’Brien: I have no doubt it will very much be exactly as you describe, because we are already building on quite a track record of achievement, and I am equally hopeful that South Sudan, as I have seen for myself, will continue to be an attractive destination for those who perhaps under the International Health Partnership scheme will be keen to devote some time in their volunteering capacity to bring skills to bear, just as I met a number from St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, who have been in the Juba hospital for many years now. They are a great example of the great capacity and the legacy they will leave of increased ability to deliver for the South Sudanese people.

Q99Pauline Latham: Quite rightly, improving equality for girls and women features prominently in your programme in South Sudan, yet we heard on the visit that many current problems stem from the longheld cultural traditions and practices, particularly in rural areas. How much difference do you see that DFID and the international community can make in the area, in the forthcoming years?

Mr O’Brien: That is a very acute analysis of what is an underlying challenge for us. We do not have any choice but to address this. We must tackle it, because a 15yearold girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish primary school. We know it has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, estimated at about 2,054 per 100,000. Our support for the health system is absolutely vital. I have mentioned the 37,000 women results that we want to achieve in terms of delivering with a skilled birth attendant, and we have also covered the plan to support girls’ education, if you like. The key here is to recognise that there are these many cultural barriers. South Sudan, of course, is not unique in this.

We have a number of countries in which we are operating. There is a lot of best practice. It is something that the still relatively new team of Ministers at DFID are very focused on: how, given the fact that we often manage a lot of our DFID affairs bilaterally, even though we go through the multilaterals in other ways, we achieve more crossfertilisation of the best practice, and sharing of the experience that really is showing what works. A lot of this now is moving, in addition to some of the scientific evidence, to some of the social sciences evidence and research that needs to help us achieve behavioural change, what motivates and incentivises these behavioural changes on which these programmes are absolutely dependent in order to be successful in delivering.

It was very interesting when I was recently in Kilifi, on the east coast of Kenya, at the KEMRI research institute. I deliberately challenged them on these assumptions. There is a recognition now that we do need to address some of these cultural barriers. For instance, if I can take an example, and something that I am strongly advocating, perhaps a subject that is difficult, and that people have kept under wraps for too long, of female genital mutilation, which is far too rife across many parts of countries of Africa. The key here is to get the community leaders to recognise that this is no longer a sense of "Are you a belonger?" to a community. That is often a male who is in charge. Actually, however, it is persuading the grandmother, the aunt, and the mother that the girl will not, as it were, arrive into society in the appropriate way. One is because it is very clear that it is not the men who are demanding this. This is to do with often the sense of cultural tradition, where women do not want to not do it. It is finding the keys that unlock behaviour change, rather than simply saying, "We have the technology and the treatments and the ability to have access to a hospital," because there will not be that access if they do not feel there is a need. It is achieving that sense of behaviour, so that girls are not then perpetuating a continuing problem.

You are absolutely right to identify this, and I am using an example we know about. In many ways, part of what we have to understand and learn in Sudan, and part of what Mark and his team are absolutely having to be experts in as part of growing the capacity of our office, is, "What will be those behavioural change barriers to us delivering on these ambitious programmes, which otherwise look too linear?" These are the greater uncertainties that do not really belong to an X and Y axis. It is to do with human decision making.

Q100Pauline Latham: We visited the Nike Hub at DFID earlier this week. Do you see that there is a role for them in South Sudan, whilst we are going in very early, and hopefully changing things and doing things so that people are more likely to be open, because they are rather at sea, the ordinary person in South Sudan, because they can see there will be change happening, but they are not sure what. Do you think there would be a role there for the Nike Hub?

Mr O’Brien: You have raised a very interesting issue, and I will ask Mark to comment. I think there is some room for encouragement; the work the Nike Hub is doing is outstanding and I am delighted you have taken the time and trouble to go and see it for yourselves. It is clear to me that as that is making huge progress in Ethiopia, geographically that is quite proximate, and there is an opportunity for the crossfertilisation of where the merit and benefit is of designing programmes. A lot of this is, "How do you design into your programme things that otherwise we have rather latterly just had as boltons, or addons?" If it is part of the design, you cannot actually access all the other benefits that come with the programme unless you are in part of the way that the Girl Hub would anticipate and suggest. Do you want to add, Mark?

Mark Mallalieu: I think it would be great if the Girl Hub were involved in South Sudan. As you saw, one of the key challenges is simply that the population is so dispersed. What we need to do through our girls’ education programme is to reach as many of those girls as possible, with other interventions as well, including the Girl Hub; we would hope that they would not be in any way elitist or focussed on an easy urban centre. We would like to be out there reaching the people who are most in need.

Mr O’Brien: There is an opportunity, particularly in South Sudan: the evidence I have been seeing coming through is that on the education side for girls, there is quite a yearning to see whether there can be more boarding schools for girls. Putting to one side what people may think about that, it is partly a security thing: the parents feel the girls are very secure in that environment. Of course, if you are in a boarding environment, you have even greater opportunity to give girls this chance to see what a different model of independence and inner confidence and physical freedom to make their own choices can be like. There will be role models they can aspire to, which is more difficult when, in a community setting, you have all the old cultures and traditions crowding in to suffocate those potential new areas of freedom.

Q101Pauline Latham: It is interesting, because I think the young teenagers and the mothers I spoke to whilst I was there in two different groups, are very keen that they have professions, and that they do not get married early. They said to me themselves that they did not want to get married early. They wanted an education, and they wanted a profession. I think there is an opportunity here that we must not miss, before everybody sinks back into, "This is how it really is." We must try to take that. On another point, we were told in Juba that DFID had not decided yet exactly how to meet its target to improve access to justice for 250,000 women. Could you give us an update on how we are doing on that?

Mr O’Brien: I will ask Mark to answer that, because I think he is due to send a submission to me quite soon.

Mark Mallalieu: At the moment, we are looking at a number of options, but I think the frontrunning option will be to work through a very competent and experienced non Government organisation that is already doing this kind of work at the moment. It is doing a year’s worth of action research, delivering access to justice, both through the traditional system but also looking at how to make more use of and develop the formal system. We have some reasonably well-developed ideas, but we have not yet finalised a programme.

Q102Chair: We have been singing the praises of the Church in all the other issues we have raised with the Church. However-I am speaking slightly personally here, but I know I am not alone-we asked a question about contraception of the Archbishop, and he gave a disappointingly conservative answer, I have to say: the most traditionally conservative answer you could wish for. I wondered whether that was a widespread issue, or whether he was just expressing a personal view. He was not encouraging family planning.

Mr O’Brien: Maybe I could answer in a general sense, and Mark could add any local knowledge. In a general sense, I do not think, in development terms, we can be in any doubt about how important giving girls and women the choice for their own health is for the future of them, their families, communities and indeed for developing countries, not least in subSaharan Africa.

I think that there is an issue, going back to traditional beliefs and doctrines, where the very use of the phrase "family planning" can sometimes itself be its own worst enemy. The more I am thinking about this area, which I think we have to continue to be extremely confident in pushing on as an essential element of development, I recognise that we should talk about women’s choice, women’s health and birth spacing, because there is understandably a sense-and I am not being particular about the Church here-that if one is to be successful in giving people this chance of choice, and women in particular, that their choice is to do with the number of children they have, how far apart they are, and when they choose to have them, and that they are attended by skilled birth attendants and can be referred to specialist centres where there is a complication. That seems to me to be something that is not going to engage in what otherwise could be a very deflective debate, and quite seriously damaging for the potential for good development.

That is where perhaps in the discussions, whether it is with the members of the Church or others, we need to think very carefully about putting it as women and girls’, front and centre, policy. That means it is women’s health and choice. Birth spacing, I think, is a better line of discussion.

Q103Chair: That is helpful. We did not pursue it; we just asked the question and heard the answer. That is a very helpful point, and maybe we need to ask the questions in a different way.

Mr O’Brien: Anything you would like to add?

Mark Mallalieu: There is a regionally funded DFID programme that includes South Sudan that has just started, under which Marie Stopes are providing family-planning services in a relatively small part of South Sudan, but it is a start. The unmet demand for family planning is 1%, because the demand itself is so low. A huge amount of attitudinal change is required, particularly among men, who appear to be the main barrier, not allowing women to get family planning. This is a huge task and will take many years.

Mr O’Brien: As we discovered in Senegal the other day, when we were over there for the big conference that at last was taking place on these areas, this is why injectables and implants are so important, because very often that means women can access those without necessarily having to discuss it with men. This is part of the barrier breakdown we need to get through.

Q104Chris White: One thing that struck us all when we were out there was the role of NGOs. Certainly visiting schools was a particular example, where the school was asking us, or DFID, or the Select Committee, or NGOs, to build a fence around the school. There was no real consideration that the Government, whether at the local level or the national level, had a role, or that that would be the first port of call. My question would be: how satisfied are you that the South Sudanese Government, rather than NGOs and the international community, is able to be seen to deliver for its people?

Mr O’Brien: You ask a very important question, because there are a raft of NGOs, both large and small, who are doing absolutely brilliant work and on whom we absolutely rely as being part of the delivery mechanism of getting development done on the ground. There are contracts and there are ways of that being accessed. Equally, however, and particularly if we are talking about the transition into a functioning democratically accountable government, it is vital that as much is done in partnership with and in support of the Government of South Sudan’s programmes for public service delivery as possible.

This is not least because it is important for the South Sudanese people to see that it is their Government delivering these basic services for them, so that, come the next elections, there is an accountability for whether the promises that were made were delivered. At the moment there will be, we know, because of the austerity budget, because of the contraction of oil revenues. Where will that lead in terms of any kind of democratic accountability? I do not think that we can answer that question now, but it does matter that there is a connection between a democratic Government and the services being delivered.

Therefore, rather than getting into an either/or, I think this is a question of making sure that there are sufficient policies, and that Government plans and strategic plans are in place, that they are published, that we understand and interlocute with those Ministers to make sure that we as donors, coordinated as best we can, are sharing the burden of supporting those programmes. Very often, given the lack of depth of capacity of the Government of South Sudan, their delivery agents will be some of the NGOs, and there will be proxy and direct contracts, accordingly. It is both, but it would be counterproductive, as it were, to go down one route, i.e. the NGOs or the Government of Sudan. It has to be a blend.

Q105Chris White: I accept the idea that it cannot be either/or, certainly at this stage in the country’s development, but there needs to be at least some vision of a strategy for a shift from the role that is being given to the NGOs to the Government. We have spoken to a number of NGOs: is the urgency there for them to be looking at an exit strategy, or at least to be able to have something in place that by suchandsuch a time, suchandsuch a milestone should be met? Certainly one of my first impressions in visiting the country was to see what looked very much like a patchwork quilt of NGOs, one doing one here, one doing another. My view is that there should be some idea of best practice. One NGO should be better at delivering education or health than another. It did seem that a patch of land was given to one NGO, and another patch of land was given to another NGO to do pretty much identical work. I suppose the short question is: do you think there are too many NGOs?

Mr O’Brien: The straight answer to that is that the needs and challenges of South Sudan mean that, to put it most crudely, the market is big enough for all of them. The question is whether there is adequate coordination and sufficient efficiency that will ensure that, however valuable some of the very innovative aspects of some of the smaller ones are, the cost/benefit ratio is not in danger of being insufficiently efficient in the use of public money, which is often the programme money source.

However, I think you make a very important point about the trajectory. All of these programmes-and this is when we say that we hope to see the humanitarian-towards-development type of shift. Of course, the more you go down the development route, so also-although we are talking such early days in South Sudan; this is not where we are for instance, in Ghana-there comes a point on that development strategy where you have to have a realistic and prospective ability to say, "We are aiming to graduate from aid." That often means making sure that the legacy of the programmes is always building and strengthening the delivery system, whether in health, or education, good governance or anticorruption. These are the legacies. It goes back to Mr Harrington’s point in the early part of our session: how are we building our optimism that this is all on a journey that takes us to a point where we have delivered a developed position now?

Q106Richard Harrington: Leading on from that, Minister, we were taught, when this Government came into power, that everything would shift towards measuring outcomes. Of course it is very good, because it is something that nonexperts can understand in measuring things, but to what extent does DFID have a longterm exit strategy? What will trigger that? Is it just what we will do in the next couple of years? Is there a fiveyear plan or a 10year plan? It is a bit Stalinist, I know, but in terms of what DFID believes the conditions will be, will it be measured in the number of schools and hospitals, etc? Will it be measured in GDP? Is there a longterm strategy for DFID in a country like South Sudan to say, "When that is achieved, that is it, and we are moving on somewhere else?"

Mr O’Brien: There is a strategic approach. I would be very reluctant to put a timeline on it, because that is something I know I cannot deliver, because there are so many other variable factors, and we can see them happening before our eyes at the moment, which can come to impact on that. The strategic approach, however, is quite clear. In many ways you already have the testament of that through the whole of the BAR process that we went through, where we reduced, from 43 to 27, the countries of our bilateral footprint. A country like Angola, where the per capita income had reached a point where it is lower middle income, and of course, even if it is appropriate for us at that point to have graduated our relationship, and that we are no longer a donor to Angola, other than a legacy contract on some mine clearance, it is absolutely vital to recognise that as you come out, it is not as though everybody in Angola is now suddenly no longer poor. There are still many poor people in Angola. It has become a point, if you like, the trigger point: at what point is a country developing sufficient of its own resources, has the prospect of being able to sustain that, that will then put it under pressure under democratic accountability to deliver those basic services for its own people, and to be able to take care of its own financing. At this stage in South Sudan, at such an early stage, so much of it is still humanitarian, where that kind of analysis and strategic approach does not really apply. If it did, we would not really be in a humanitarian space but in a development space.

Q107Richard Harrington: So there could be a strategic approach, but not yet?

Mr O’Brien: It is at the very foothills of a strategy.

Q108Richard Harrington: I think that is a perfectly rational thing to say.

Mr O’Brien: I think to aspire to putting a date line on it could be to overspeak, to coin a phrase.

Q109Richard Harrington: It would be measured in terms of the Government’s ability to sustain itself and the country?

Mr O’Brien: Because, as the Department, we have made a ministerial decision, which has been endorsed by the National Security Council, that we want to put 30% of our development effort, the ODA spend, into conflictaffected and fragile states, of course that makes it more difficult to deliver, but it does show that that strategic approach applies even to where it is most difficult to deliver, but where the development need is most. It is strategic.

Q110Chris White: To take this a little bit further, perhaps this is just after the foothills at the bottom of the strategy. Do you think the state governments should receive more funding from the national budget?

Mr O’Brien: You mean each individual state? This is where we find there is not much strength in depth at the moment. I think I might ask Michael for his observations on this, as well as Mark, if he has anything to add. There is no question but that we would like to see an increased amount of state capacity, because it is very important to ensure effective service delivery that that is increasingly put in place.

Had we not been faced with the current oil crisis, then that would be a discussion we could be having now. At the moment, because of the sharp reduction in revenues that we can see is happening, it is a discussion that will have to wait until that point has been resolved. In a sense, it is the same context as the previous question: without peace, without an absence of conflict, a lot of these discussions become political theory rather than the ability for us to deliver. If DFID is about anything, it is about how you find the will and the resource to deliver these results on the ground. We are not at that stage with this yet.

Q111Chris White: I apologise if I am barking up the same tree, but would you consider your intention would be to build capacity into the state and county governments?

Mr O’Brien: As I say, I will perhaps bring in Michael and Mark, but I can certainly confirm that, for example, programmes as we currently have them designed, even if we had to delay, and we find that this humanitarian-to-development trajectory is slowed, the programmes currently contain training of state school inspectors, and the provision of two to three technical advisors for each of the six states where the health pooled fund will work. We will also help with some capacity-building work through the UNDP. Michael, do you want to make some observations on this?

Michael Ryder: Mark will have some thoughts as well. We are certainly concerned with effective governance at state level, and that is one of the reasons why the Stabilisation Unit has deployed staff into, I think from memory, Warrap and Eastern Equatoria, but Mark will be able to confirm that. State government cannot work if it does not have resources. In a state like South Sudan, where 98% of government revenue, as the Minister has said, comes from oil, it has largely to flow from the centre. States that have oil deposits are beneficiaries of oil-sharing agreements built into the way in which the contracts and state allocations are worked. There is an ability for states like Unity, for example, to fund some of their own activity out of that oil share, and the oil industry provides some employment as well. However, as a general principle, clearly funds have to flow from the centre to the periphery.

Q112Chair: Can I just say that, as you might appreciate, because of the pressure on time and because of the late hour, we are in danger of losing our quorum. I do not want to stop your answers.

Mark Mallalieu: Two quick points: first of all, it is very, very likely under this austerity budget that grants to states will be cut, possibly severely. Secondly, leaving aside the percentage of oil receipts that some states can keep, the block grants are divided equally between the 10 states, which have very largely divergent populations. One thing that the Government could do would be to allocate those state grants on a more equitable basis, based on a number of variables, certainly including population size.

Q113Hugh Bayley: Do you think that UNMISS has sufficient numbers of troops and sufficient funding to fulfil its mandate? Are you satisfied that its mandate is appropriate as currently written?

Mr O’Brien: I was asked this question in the House earlier today. The clear view is that it would not be right, we believe, to reopen the UNMISS mandate as we speak. It does, however, need to focus on its key tasks, the division of labour within the UN country team through the peace-building plan. We are expecting the SecretaryGeneral to present these in his next report to the Security Council, which is in March, and that is obviously a very important moment and a deadline we hope will be kept to. I think we do need to recognise, fully accepting your concerns about what you have observed, that on balance we regard UNMISS as having had a success in Jonglei, and played an important role in reducing the casualties there.

Nonetheless, there are lessons which are being learned, and need to be learned, and UNMISS does need to be better prepared in the future. In terms of troop numbers, the UN Security Council met on Monday and decided to keep the troop levels at 7,000. Currently they are at about 5,300. I think this is as much to do with their deployment, where they are deployed, how they are deployed, the rapidity of their response capabilities, and being flexible in the access they have to the assets, not least heavy lift and helicopters. Those are the immediate challenges we need to focus on, as well as all the discussions that need to take place at a policy and strategic level.

Q114Hugh Bayley: I am genuinely puzzling over how one could get the balance of international community funding stacked up in a more positive way. We as a Committee, of course, only visited safe and stable parts of the country, but we saw hundreds of UNMISS troops based in places where there was no apparent risk of violence or disorder, and they were largely involved in, I would say, low–level policing operations that ought to be provided by a country that has hundreds of people in uniform of its own. I was also struck that we spend almost as much on our contribution to UNMISS, perhaps two thirds as much, as we do on our aid programme. I wonder if that balance is right, and how long that can be sustained, how we move the balance of funding away from shortterm security and into development, and what the period of transition ought to be.

The final thought I have had is this: the usual UN pattern when it puts in a peacekeeping force is to hire troops from the Indian subcontinent, or wherever. Here is a country that has far too many soldiers of its own, and spends as much on its armed forces as the international community is spending on UNMISS. Surely to goodness UNMISS should be retraining SPLA fighters as soldiers, and replacing its Pakistani or Bangladeshi soldiers with local people whom it has trained and to whom it is giving the sort of skills and leadership that will be needed. I suppose what I am really saying is: how do you transfer from an unsatisfactory situation to a more satisfactory security situation, where South Sudan is managing more of its own affairs, and releasing international community funds to be spent on development?

Mr O’Brien: It is totally appropriate that I should ask Michael Ryder to comment. I think, just as an introduction to what he might say, there is no question but that the mandate currently in place is one that is about the ability to peace-build, and having the capacity to do that. It is not currently expected that the UN can be in all parts of South Sudan. It has to be focussed and targeted, and it has to take those actions that are to do with peace-building. A lot of that is therefore conflict prevention.

I am conscious that even by your asking the question, the record and these proceedings no doubt will be read by Hilde Johnson and others at the UN. Therefore, the fact that we are moving towards a March position with the document that we hope to see come out makes this is a very useful time to address these issues. I do not want to forejudge those, because I think it would be inappropriate, but we are certainly doing our best to press on the UN being very focussed on the job it has under the mandate, and to be much more flexible and deployable, according to the need and the essential elements that will lead to that. I will ask Michael Ryder to comment, given how much he is deeply involved in this aspect.

Michael Ryder: First of all, the implication of your question is absolutely right, that the primary responsibility for providing security in the South Sudan rests with the Government of South Sudan and its own armed forces and police. However, there are a range of issues buried in there. Security sector reform is an important part of what DFID is doing. It is a relatively small programme by comparison to the health and education areas, but it is in there, and we are focusing on the central administration elements of security sector reform. The United States is a substantial contributor, much more closely involved with the retraining and reskilling of soldiers, of whom South Sudan has far more than it needs, given the threats that it faces. Norway is also participating in this.

However, in the short term, those SPLA soldiers need to be maintained, and the reason that the Government’s pay bill for the army is so big is that it is in effect acting as a social security net, to keep soldiers, whose command and control structures are not as strong as one might wish in a professional army, out of trouble. Mark can probably say more about this, but the role of UNMISS is conceived very much as a mobile force, a deployable force, not a static force. The question of exactly where they might be based should, in principle, not be the first concern. The question is, "Can you get them rapidly to where they need to be?" This goes to the point the Minister made about mobility. There is, as you know, an issue there about the shortage of helicopters, something that is common to every UN peacekeeping force in the world. Bangladeshi helicopters are presently redeployed from the DRC.

Q115Hugh Bayley: In round terms, UNMISS costs £800 million per year, and the Government of South Sudan spends £800 million per year, or 40% of its budget, on its own forces. Everybody nods their head wisely and says, "£800 million is far too much for the Government of South Sudan to be spending on its own force." Yet we are saying that we should be spending at least £800 million on UNMISS, and probably more, if the numbers increase to 7,000. Shall we say £1.2 billion? It struck me that you have two processes: DDR and security sector reform going on with a tiny budget on one side, and external security being provided through the UN with an enormous budget on the other side. Why do you not have a single operation? The military expertise in South Sudan from outside is largely there in the form of UNMISS soldiers. Why on earth are they not retraining that relatively small number of SPLA soldiers to do a job, to take over the job that UNMISS is doing? I do not know what a reasonable period is-I would need military advice-but should we say three years, to train a corps to stay behind at a tenth of the cost? Is that realistic?

Michael Ryder: It is certainly taking a lot longer than that in Afghanistan, where similar issues arise.

Q116Hugh Bayley: So the timescale is not realistic.

Michael Ryder: Yes. It is also a very labourintensive activity, and the troopcontributing countries that can supply forces for a peacekeeping or peace-building mission are not necessarily the same ones who would be best placed to provide that kind of transitional training. It is not accidental that we have the US, UK and Norway involved in that security sector reform area, while we are not providing any boots on the ground. We have some officers in UNMISS, but we are not providing the core troops for that task, because it is a different kind of task.

Q117Hugh Bayley: Could I just make one last observation, and then I will shut up? The Bangladeshi soldiers, a couple of the officers we met, told us that one of the soldiers had been deployed to Jonglei, a major I think, to step in for another major from a different detachment that was deployed, who was not available for service. The one exercise they could tell us about was where a contingent of soldiers went off to deal with a problem of feetaking, perhaps bribetaking, by a policeman at a road junction to flag people through. They are almost standing in the way of local security forces dealing with law and order problems, aren’t they? Why on earth is UNMISS doing a job that ought to be done by the police themselves?

Mr O’Brien: The quality of the local police is very variable, and in some cases extremely low. I suspect if there were a strategic operational decision that it actually carried with it a threat, that would be a matter for them. It is quite difficult at this distance. I understand the question, but-

Q118Hugh Bayley: It is an extremely costly way to deal with the issue.

Mr O’Brien: Of course. However, it is quite difficult from this distance-

Q119Hugh Bayley: You do not have further suggestions about how you can resolve this contradiction? There seems to be fuzziness on both sides, in terms of what UNMISS’s role is and what the security sector reform role is, and a fuzziness on timescales, too.

Michael Ryder: I don’t know the specifics of the case you are referring to. It is certainly the case in other peacekeeping operations elsewhere that from time to time the local communities will specifically ask for internationals to come and resolve something like that, because they do not trust their own people. I cannot say with certainly what happened in this case.

Mr O’Brien: We will certainly reflect on that.

Q120Chair: It is an issue that arose in the DRC, and I suppose you could argue in Afghanistan, at least the mission is to train up the army and the police. Maybe there should be more of that going on. I think we are going to run out of time. As you can see, we are down to our quorum. There is one question I want to ask, because I think I would rather you answered it orally. I am not sure you would put it in writing. The others I think we can put to you in writing afterwards, if we may.

Mr O’Brien: Okay. That is fine.

Q121Chair: It relates to the role of the Church, again, in peace-building, and not least because there seems to have been a change in attitude, even in the few weeks since we were there. The Church takes the view, and I know DFID has given them some funding for this, that they have a connection to the local community that makes them very constructive in peacekeeping and bringing people together. The Archbishop told us that one of his bishops, in fact, I think had had a grenade or something thrown at him. I think the implication was that the Church puts itself into harm’s way when other people do not necessarily do so.

The impression that seems to have happened since the latest conflict in Jonglei is that DFID appears to have slightly reviewed its view of the Church, and as a result you are reviewing the support you might be giving. The Church has come back and said, actually, whatever the evaluation was, it was not their fault. They felt that the Government did not respond quickly enough, and that undermined the activities of the Church. They are, as they see it, being slightly punished for the slower response of the South Sudanese Government. That is the take on what I had. This has all happened since we were there, so I wondered whether you could perhaps give us an indication of whether you have reassessed the role they have in peace building.

Mr O’Brien: Perhaps I could be very clear that from our point of view, as a strategic approach within the programme and our ambition for South Sudan, the New Sudan Council of Churches’ own view that they can now most usefully support the Government of South Sudan’s response to the intercommunal violence in Jonglei by engaging in grassroots mobilisation for peace, is absolutely right. Their abilities, as you describe, to be out there amongst the communities, to be able to reach out not least to the armed youth, and into the cattle camps and the realities of what comprises South Sudan in terms of where the points of conflict arise, and helping to deliver on the peace dividends to isolated and impoverished communities is absolutely vital. I am in no doubt, and as the UK Government we would want to genuinely recognise the valuable attempts by Archbishop Daniel Deng and the New Sudan Council of Churches to support the dialogue, not least in Jonglei before Christmas.

Q122Chair: Sorry. You said in your submission that the recent Jonglei attacks "saw the breakdown of the peace process being led by Archbishop Deng and the Sudan Council". That sounds like a fundamental reassessment of the role, if you think it has broken down.

Mr O’Brien: I will ask Mark to comment on that, because I would not want there to be any kind of misinterpretation. Clearly it is important, as I said in answer to Mr White’s questions, that we are working in partnership with the Government of South Sudan. The Church, which does enormous and valuable work, not least amongst some of the hardest to reach communities, is a vital partner and complementer to that set of programmes and ambitions. It has an enduring presence. It is clearly a crucial partner for peace and development in South Sudan. We have agreed to provide UK Conflict Pool funds to the NGO pact to partner with the SCC on peace-building in Jonglei. That is £250,000 to March 2012, this year. Maybe, Mark, if there is any kind of sense of hurt or misunderstanding, this is an opportunity to clarify it. From my point of view, strategically it is certainly not intended.

Q123Chair: Just so we are aware of the context, you put what I quoted in your submission.

Mr O’Brien: I appreciate that.

Q124Chair: We then had a written response from the Church, which was basically to some extent repudiating that evaluation.

Mr O’Brien: I see.

Mark Mallalieu: The thing that has changed is that previously the Church was given a role, or asked to play a role, by the Government that was perhaps unreasonable. The Church could not deliver that kind of peace resolution process in the way that it was being asked to on its own. The Government is now saying it will take lead responsibility, as it should, for the peace process in Jonglei, with the Church playing a supporting role. It is that supporting role that we are funding.

Q125Chair: We will probably leave it there, but their assertion is that "the churches continue to maintain the confidence of the people, and are able to work as a strong and complementary actor in the peace process." You would not dispute that?

Mark Mallalieu: No.

Mr O’Brien: I think the word "complementary" there is the key, where we are all aligned.

Chair: There are several questions that we have not had time to get to.

Chris White: I had hoped that we would have a chance to talk about the role of the UN, our partnership, and how they deliver, and whether we have confidence in the World Bank. Presumably we can be adding that in our request for written-

Chair: The three of us are quorate. If we do not get to the end, we will put them in writing.

Q126Chris White: My question is really about your level of confidence in the UN and World Bank pooled funds. I am sure in your role you have visited a great deal more places than I have, but the number of very clean UN empty parkedup Land Cruisers in airfields was certainly fairly apparent. I do not particularly have a thing about Land Cruisers-obviously I would prefer them to be Land Rovers-but supporting the World Bank after some of their previous failures: do you still have confidence in their roles?

Mr O’Brien: The straight answer to that is, "Yes", because I think what has been a series of pretty welldocumented problems by the World Bank through its multidonor trust fund has now become sufficiently well recognised for the lessons to be learned and, most importantly, applied. We should not lose sight of the successes that they did achieve: nearly 1,500 kilometres of road, compared with what I saw just four years ago, a water sanitation and solid waste system serving a quarter of a million people in Juba. These are genuine achievements that are now in place, and already 2.8 million primary school textbooks provided. That is fine.

Working with the World Bank and the Government of South Sudan, and indeed the other donor partners, this is where, through those lessons learned, to spend the money effectively it will be absolutely vital that between now and the close of the fund in June this year, that those weaknesses have now been identified and are addressed. That is where the confidence comes from. I would not have confidence if we thought there were weaknesses but we had not addressed them or even understood them. One has to get to the point where confidence is re-engaged.

The World Bank is an important partner. Whilst we do not have plans to increase and put further funding to its work in South Sudan, its current implementation is important. We have the Common Humanitarian Fund, which is now being established. We have worked extensively with the UN to ensure that we will have improved procedures. We will provide £30 million to the Common Humanitarian Fund over the next two years. As far as UNDP is concerned, again it is a bit of a plus and minus record. It has been very stretched, as we have touched on already. It is absolutely vital that it focuses and does not overstretch itself, and that it does engage now with the states, so that there is this ability to deploy out into the country. Everything has been rather centralist. Unquestionably, though, UNDP does have the success of the referendum under its belt, and again we should not lose sight of that.

In addition, one has to look at the other international players. It is very important that we now work not least as a constituent member of the EU to see that the EU is getting its act together by matching resources with staff on the ground. We have repeatedly asked the Commissioner to make sure that the delegation is fully staffed, and we believe that it is now likely to have its full allocation of people by the end of the first half of this year.

That is all encouraging. Everything would be more attractive if it were done more quickly, but a lot of the lesson that has been learned is that sometimes speed has been the cause of the weaknesses and inefficiencies, and that one needs to establish things sufficiently on the ground. Basically that is the lesson we have learned through establishing our own DFID office, and therefore the equivalents-remember, as you would be the first to support, I know, that each of these organisations, in a country with an extremely difficult operating environment, has a duty of care to its own people as they attract some of these very highskilled, highly committed people into an area of operation that is not easy.

Q127Chair: The one issue hanging over us is the potential flood of returnees at the end of March. What is your reading of the situation? Has there been any progress whatsoever for processing that? What do you think is likely to happen? Indeed, how can the Government of South Sudan cope with that in circumstances where they are in dispute with the Government of Sudan over the oil revenues? Or does that in itself mean it is likely that nothing much will happen in March, because that is just throwing oil on the flames?

Mr O’Brien: You are right to be concerned. We are very concerned. This is a major cliff edge facing us. I think I gave the numbers already in answer to a question in the House. We know the numbers. There are potentially another 700,000 who could come. The status of those who might remain in Sudan is simply not clarified. There is no appointment of a South Sudanese Ambassador in Khartoum, so there is no ability for those who might remain to have access to the necessary process to get paperwork that might give them legitimation.

I have seen it from the other side as well, because I was more recently in Sudan, and in Khartoum, where I had a lot of these conversations, and took every opportunity with everybody I met-which was of course not the head of state but everybody else at a senior level-to press on them the need to be more tolerant and accepting that this is a process, albeit one that is generated by the CPA, which needs to be less of a cliff edge and more of an understanding that for many people who came across from South Sudan up into Sudan at the same time as my forebears came from Ireland to England, and that just simply because they carry a name that belongs to a place they are now suddenly finding that they will be stateless.

You can imagine the deep inner distress that that causes to people and their families. I saw at Kosti on the Nile a waystation where there was a refugee camp with characteristics not dissimilar to Dadaab in Kenya, which is as you can imagine very, very tough. For every boatload of people, there were three of their possessions: bedsteads, plastic buckets, chairs. They were taking everything they had with them, however meagre, and heading down. The real problem in the South-and personally I had this conversation in a long meeting with President Salva Kiir in Washington when I was there for the meeting last December-is to say: "What preparations are being made, not just in Juba but in Rumbek, in Malakal, and in places around, where these families are arriving and then they are disappearing to communities?" There are then potentially land disputes. You are quite right in my view to be deeply concerned about this and we are having discussions with both South Sudan but equally North Sudan to try to find a way.

There is some indication, but no more than that, in a discussion that my colleague, the Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Bellingham, had in the African Union at the weekend, that there may be some room for hope that there is some hope for movement in Sudan. However, we have nothing confirmed; there was just a statement that showed that there may not be an absolute categorical expectation of the deadline.

Q128Chair: Three of us visited Khartoum, and obviously it was a very short visit, and people were giving us different interpretations. One was that nothing would happen, because nobody was ready to do it. The problem is that the people themselves might choose to move, because they are in fear that they have no rights: a date has passed, threats have been made.

Mr O’Brien: Absolutely.

Q129Chair: You could have an uncontrolled voluntary migration, which would create huge-

Mr O’Brien: The stretch in South Sudan hardly bears thinking about, when you think about the numbers that might suddenly therefore be arriving in the next coming weeks. I do not know whether you have any later information, Mark, on this?

Mark Mallalieu: No. It is a big risk. The UN, in particular the International Organization for Migration, is doing a lot of planning around this. It is an area where we might need to divert resources.

Mr O’Brien: It is another reason why we may end up more in the humanitarian space rather than the development space for a lot longer than we had hoped for. However, we will be sufficiently flexible and indeed nimble in our programme. We must respond to the facts on the ground, and if the facts change we must change our plans and our strategy. It is important not to be stuck with what we first thought of if the facts change.

Q130Chair: Thank you; we obviously appreciate the situation is changing very quickly, at the moment in one direction, but hopefully it might turn around again. Can I thank you very much? There are some questions that we did not get to, but if we can put them to you in writing. They are relatively straightforward ones that you can give a factual answer to, I think. Can I thank all of you for coming to give evidence? It is nice to see you here again, Mark.

I want to say that I think the Committee found the visit very interesting, very fascinating, in a way very challenging, but there is that underlying thing about a new country, where there is still that sense of optimism and will, in spite of the most appalling challenges. You get the impression that that will not carry you very far until you start to deliver results. However, we can be pleased that we have a team in place that is very engaged with that process, and appears to be very flexible and very nimble, as you absolutely have to be, in not comfortable surroundings. I think that should be recorded as well.

Thank you very much indeed. We obviously will produce our report in due course, but I suspect we will have had to update it several times before we do.

Mr O’Brien: I would have thought so.

Chair: Thank you very much.

Prepared 11th April 2012