South Sudan: Prospects for Peace and Development - International Development Committee Contents


The Republic of South Sudan gained independence from the Republic of Sudan on 9 July 2011, following civil wars that began in 1955 and left more than two million dead. Goodwill for the new country is huge, but the challenges faced by the new government are daunting. South Sudan has some of the worst social indicators globally. The maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world. Years of conflict have left South Sudanese society highly militarised and fragmented, with 40% of the budget spent on defence. Government capacity at all levels is extremely limited, corruption widespread, and the new country relies heavily on international donors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to provide services. Relations between the Government in Juba and its counterpart in Khartoum are tense. No agreement has been reached about oil revenues and the Government of South Sudan has closed down oil production—which represents 98% of government income.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has quickly established and scaled up a full office in Juba. DFID has developed a four-year development and humanitarian aid programme for South Sudan, amounting to some £360 million. This makes South Sudan one of the largest recipients of UK bilateral aid.

Regrettably, the delivery of DFID's programme is already at risk before it has properly begun. We are deeply concerned at the prospect of a humanitarian crisis created by the loss of South Sudan's oil revenue, combined with the increasing number of returnees and refugees arriving in the country and ongoing inter-tribal violence. The decision by the Government of South Sudan (GRSS) to halt production on all its oilfields, despite undoubted provocation from Sudan, has potentially grave economic and humanitarian consequences for the South Sudanese population. The GRSS has introduced austerity measures to cope with the loss of 98% of its income, which may lead to an increase in humanitarian needs. The UK Government must continue to press Khartoum and Juba to seek an equitable and sustainable agreement on the export of oil through Sudan's pipelines. We do not consider there to be any realistic alternative in the next few critical years. It must also be made clear that the UK, and other donors, cannot bankroll South Sudan through this austerity period. As a result of the oil crisis, DFID has already re-focussed its development programmes away from long-term development towards supporting the most vulnerable people and saving lives. Given the mounting humanitarian challenges, we recognise that the Department may need to continue to modify its development programme and focus to a greater extent on humanitarian assistance. The key priority in South Sudan must be to prevent a humanitarian crisis. But, if the country is to develop, it will need to invest in health, education and infrastructure.

Overall, we believe that DFID's 2011-15 programme for South Sudan is diverse and challenging, although it is too early to judge its success. The Government of South Sudan has many priorities, including health and education, security and demobilisation. It is therefore right that DFID has a broad programme and co-ordinates its work with other donors. We welcome the emphasis that DFID gives to the equality of girls and women in its programme and, despite the pressures and uncertainties, urge the Department to maintain this emphasis. To a significant extent, the success of DFID's South Sudan 2011-15 programme will hinge on the performance of the Health Pooled Fund, to which DFID will contribute £82 million. Given its cost and importance, we recommend that the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) review the effectiveness and value-for-money of the Fund. Building the capacity of the administration in South Sudan—at all levels—will take time but is essential if the new country is to reduce reliance on international donors and the proliferation of NGOs. We welcome DFID's emphasis on building the capacity of the South Sudanese Government, so that the government can gradually take primary responsibility for the delivery of basic services. We are concerned, however, that DFID's decision to fund the United Nations rather than the Episcopal Church of Sudan to deliver its school construction programme misses an opportunity to strengthen and complement the limited internal capacity that already exists within South Sudan.

There have been well-documented difficulties with both World Bank and UN-administered pooled funds in South Sudan. It is hugely disappointing that the effectiveness of UK taxpayers' money has been diminished through the World Bank's problems in administering the Multi-Donor Trust Fund in Southern Sudan. Given DFID's record in Southern Sudan as an effective donor and as a leader of the successful Basic Services Fund, we have reservations about the extent to which DFID should continue to channel bilateral aid through the World Bank in South Sudan. It is also vital that international donors effectively co-ordinate their work in South Sudan, not least because of the limited capacity of the state, the scale of the development challenge, and the huge sums of money involved. DFID has already demonstrated good examples of co-ordination and co-operation with other key bilateral and multilateral donors and should continue to seek opportunities to do so.

Insecurity remains a constant destabilising factor in South Sudan, both internally and on its borders. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)—which was mandated on 9 July 2011 to consolidate peace and security conditions conducive to development—has had a difficult beginning. It appears to lack the air assets it requires for a country of this size and it has been slow to produce a peacebuilding strategy. UNMISS is also a hugely expensive operation, costing the UK taxpayer £60 million in its first year—two thirds of DFID's annual development and humanitarian budget. UNMISS does not currently provide value-for-money and its resources have not been deployed most effectively. The UK Government should press the UN for an urgent review of UNMISS's cost, mandate, assets and operations.

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Prepared 12 April 2012