Religious Leaders Gather to Discuss Human Development in South Sudan

Sep 1, 2016

Religious leaders attend the workshop on the first-ever National Human Development Report for South Sudan. Photo: UNDP

The Bureau of Religious Affairs and UNDP hosted a workshop for religious leaders to delve deep into the themes of the first-ever National Human Development Report (NHDR) for South Sudan. People, peace, and prosperity was on the day’s agenda as Muslim and Christian leaders presented Biblical and Islamic perspectives on the themes of the National Human Development Report and the pathway forward for sustainable development in South Sudan.

The purpose of the South Sudan National Human Development Report is to enable the government and key stakeholders to make strategic decisions that enable citizens to lead long and healthy lives, to acquire knowledge, to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living and to shape their own lives.

“Human development indicators were created as a way to move beyond only looking at income to assess the well-being of people and take into account key factors in health and education,” said UNDP Acting Country Director Jean-Luc Stalon.

South Sudan’s Human Development Index (HDI) value puts the country in the low human development category – positioned 169 out of 188 countries. As much as 85% of the working population is engaged in non-wage work, mainly in subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing. More than 15% of the population is malnourished, according to UNICEF estimates.

Mr. Stalon also said the workshop was a chance to highlight and discuss findings from UNDP’s recently launched Africa Human Development Report 2016. This year’s report highlights how poverty and hunger can be alleviated by closing the gender gap in labour markets, education, health, and other areas. Specifically, the report finds the gender gap is costing Africa US$95 billion per year.

The South Sudan National Human Development Report found gender inequality contributes to a 19.5% loss in the country’s overall human development index value. Only 15.6% of women over the age of 15 are literate – and a young girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in childbirth than to finish primary school.

“Without harnessing the potential of women in society, South Sudan will struggle to make the transformational development milestones it is capable of achieving,” said Mr. Stalon.

Hon. Sabuni said the workshop is equally important for South Sudanese religious leaders to understand the challenges facing the country and discuss ways to improve its human development indicators.

Group photo of the participants of the workshop on the National Human Development Report for South Sudan.Group photo of the participants of the workshop on the National Human Development Report for South Sudan. Photo: UNDP

“As you may know, South Sudan’s long history of armed struggle and civil wars has produced one of the worst human development indicators in Africa in health, education, poverty alleviation, and social and economic programmes,” said Hon. Sabuni. “As religious leaders, you have a role to play in the stability and progress of South Sudan.” 

The workshop is one of several initiatives UNDP is taking to broaden conversations on the National Human Development Report, with support from the Government of South Sudan and civil society actors. The aim is to increase dialogue and actionable steps towards sustainable, inclusive development that builds a better future for South Sudan. 

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