South Sudan Governors' Forum debates key challenges for the newly Independent Republic
The South Sudan Governors' Forum convened this past week, bringing together the ten state governors, members of the Legislature, key ministers and development partners. Held nine times since 2006, this year marked the first time that key stakeholders met as an independent nation under the interim constitution. Organized by the Office of the President, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Forum provides a platform for discussion and action on policies related to political, fiscal and administrative governance issues. In addition, it offers a space for broader discussion on important issues such as, corruption, post-independence issues and state-level concerns.
It has become a platform for making key decisions, some of the past achievements include: an increment in the amount of financial resources that are sent to the states by the national government, an increase in the level of communication between the national and state governments; increased consensus on tackling insecurity in the states and increased involvement of state governments in the design and implementation of national government programmes.
The Forum was officially opened by the President of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir and facilitated by the Vice President, H.E. Dr. Riek Machar Teny, who has been instrumental in gathering and presenting the Forum’s resolutions and recommendations at previous events. In her opening remarks the Resident Representative, Lise Grande took the opportunity to congratulate South Sudan as a fully fledged independent member of the international community. She further noted that South Sudan is blessed with oil and other mineral wealth. “The key for South Sudan to become the country it wants to be, is to manage the wealth and riches generated by these natural blessings and redistribute this wealth to the people so that they can prosper and they no longer have to live in poverty.
“Since its establishment, the Governors’ Forum has developed into a pivotal event that drives dialogue and brings leaders together to discuss the key issues that affect the states of South Sudan,” said George Conway, Country Director. At last year’s Governors’ Forum over 100 recommendations were discussed on issues ranging from public sector reform, security, legal affairs, infrastructure, and food security.
This year’s theme was ‘Strengthening Decentralized Governance for Equitable Service Delivery and Sustainable Development in the Republic of South Sudan. The forum’s goal was to review achievements and challenges facing decentralization, focus on priority areas for implementing the South Sudan Development Plan 2011-2013 including allocation of resources between the different levels of government to ensure equitable service delivery, strengthening oversight and accountability and reviewing the main aspects for public service reform including pension, social protection, and retrenchment benefits.
The UNDP Country Office added to the Forum high level dialogue by presenting emerging challenges and opportunities in implementing decentralization across Eastern and Southern Africa. The presentation was based on lessons from an evaluation of the Local Government Capacity Building Programme implemented by UNCDF, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, and UNDP, was conducted by the UNDP Regional Service Centre (RSC) in 22 Eastern and Southern African countries.
Key recommendations that were decided at this year’s Governor’s Forum included:
- Improving the road network to promote security and economic development,
- Creating economic livelihoods for ex-combatants,
- Promoting efforts to facilitate peacebuilding and prevent tribal conflict,
- Establishing a Capacity Development taskforce with representation from both the National and State level to oversee the implementation of the Medium Term Capacity Development Strategy (MTCDS),
- Improving Financial management and oversight,
- Determining and setting annual targets for 2012 on school enrollment, teachers, and classrooms in order to allocate resources accordingly,
- Respond to rising HIV/AIDS infections,
- Supporting ministries at the central and state level to improve and codify a formal revenue collection process and procedures,
- Prioritizing the provision of clean water and sewer systems, especially in the rural areas,
- Reviewing and agreeing on financing arrangements for implementation of the SSDP priorities between national, state and county governments including the set up of an implementation monitoring mechanism.
The Governors' Forum is one of the key activities that is undertaken by UNDP’s Support-to-States project, which has strengthened and supported states’ capacity in planning and public financial management, public administration and budgeting. UNDP’s Support to States Project Manager Francis Luwangwa explained UNDP’s goal as “helping to build strong institutions, particularly in areas like rule of law, financial management, public administration, and health systems, so that the Government will have the ability to deliver services to the people.”