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

7  Conclusion

92. The new Republic of South Sudan presents a real development opportunity. The country possesses many of the pre-conditions required for development, potentially of a large scale, to take place. The new government is accommodating to the international community, granting donors and NGOs access at all levels. Donors are spending hundreds of millions of pounds in development assistance—money largely spent by the hundreds of NGOs based in Juba and elsewhere. It is not surprising that South Sudan is sometimes considered a defining test-case for international development. The Minister accepted that we were starting with a "white sheet of paper".[171]

93. But it is important not to get carried away. Our visit, and the evidence we have received, have struck home the sheer scale of the development challenge in South Sudan. Ongoing economic, humanitarian and security problems foster a constant sense of fragility and instability about South Sudan—despite the optimism and hope that still resides in its people following independence. There are a large number of priorities and, as President Kiir told us, it is not easy to choose one over another. The population will become disillusioned if living conditions do not improve.

94. We consider South Sudan to be one of the most difficult and high risk environments that DFID is operating within. Despite the uncomfortable surroundings, we are pleased that DFID has an engaged and committed team in place. Importantly, the DFID team also appears flexible in its approach. Several aspects of the 2011-15 South Sudan development programme have already had to be modified as a result of the oil shut-down. The DFID team will need to remain flexible in the coming months, as the full impact of the GRSS's decision to halt oil production, and the continuing numbers of refugees and returnees, become clearer.

95. There is a debate within the development community about whether DFID and other donors should have a long-term strategic plan in South Sudan. This was an issue we raised with various people during our visit. Most donors have set out plans for two to four year periods. The Minister told us that DFID was "at the very foothills of a strategy" but putting a timeline on such a strategy would be impractical.[172] We accept there is some logic in the argument that the donor community should produce, say, a generational strategy for South Sudan, including an exit strategy. But, given the highly volatile political, economic and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, we do not consider it sensible or realistic to develop such a plan at present. There are too many uncertainties and potential destabilising factors. The key focus in the short-term must be, as far as possible, to help secure greater stability in South Sudan and prevent humanitarian needs from escalating significantly. If this can be achieved, the people of South Sudan can look forward to the development of their nation and, hopefully, to a prosperous and peaceful future.

171   Q 71 Back

172   Q 106 Back

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Prepared 12 April 2012