Op-Ed: Aweil State and UNDP Join Hands to Boost Recovery and Stabilization

Nov 4, 2016

By: Jean-Luc Stalon, UNDP Deputy Country Director & Head of Programmes

Experience in countries characterized by protracted crisis such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, DRC and Mali has shown that the traditional model of sequenced interventions from lifesaving to recovery to development is not fit for purpose as people simultaneously need immediate humanitarian assistance and support for resilience and coping mechanisms.

In South Sudan in particular, there are three main reasons for championing a balanced approach of inter-related and simultaneous humanitarian and recovery /stabilization responses to crisis:

First, reaching a consensual political settlement and fixing the macroeconomic challenges will take time. The dire macroeconomic situation negatively impacts the budget of the federal government which, in turn, has resulted in South Sudan’s states being deprived of budgets for service delivery as they are barely able to pay their civil servant’s salary, leaving the bulk of the population to fend for itself to all kinds of shocks and stressors. In such a scenario, recovery & stabilization efforts must undergird and complement humanitarian interventions to build community resilience and reduce people’s dependency on humanitarian aid.

Second, for the relatively stable zones of the country, a concerted effort must be made to incentivize peace, or as the Governor of Aweil State puts it, “We must be rewarded for peace, and thereby set an example for the rest of the country.” This approach should help to build effective firewalls and prevent a spillover of the conflict into areas that are simultaneously vulnerable and yet have managed to remain relatively stable.

Third, the assumption of linear sequencing of assistance that kicks in the peace agreement takes hold across the length and breadth of the country is unrealistic and there is growing acknowledgment that development progress must be sustained and protected in even the most fragile and crisis-affected settings. As is often said, there is no development without peace, but the opposite is equally holds true: there is no lasting peace without development.

What is called for is a continued to focus on pressing humanitarian needs and saving lives with a simultaneous focus on restoring and/or maintaining frontline service delivery, boosting core governance functions and capacities (such as the capacity to levy taxes at the state level) and addressing the drivers of insecurity to gradually break South Sudan’s chronic humanitarian dependency.

In spite of Aweil being one of the last relatively calm “green states” in South Sudan, it faces a series of daunting challenges. Recent migration to Sudan has been mainly attributed to food insecurity, the economy of the state is weak, and it is evident that economic opportunities are still limited with the majority of the people currently employed in traditional agriculture, animal husbandry, charcoal making, low-level trade, crafts, construction and services which are now characterized by little return regarding income or wages.

Support to the diversification of sources of income generation including micro enterprises, livelihoods and vocational training aligned to local demands would go a long way in reducing vulnerability; increased agricultural production, better infrastructure and access to markets will be essential for dealing with food insecurity and malnourishment.

Workforce development and employment strategies are critical to helping residents lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Therefore, safe and appropriate job opportunities can strengthen their economic status, while improving social welfare and future job prospects.

Aweil State government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Japan have joined hands to stimulate stabilization and kick-start recovery initiatives in the state. State Governor Hon. Roland Ruai Deng and UNDP launched the start of the stabilization and recovery programme in Aweil on Thursday with the construction of a vocational training center and a market where women can sell locally produced vegetables.

Like UNDP, other UN organizations, such as UNICEF and FAO are kick starting and boosting recovery and stabilization activities with the aim to show that Aweil state is a no-regret investment that merits a larger and integrated recovery effort. On this effort, UNDP, FAO, WFP and UNICEF are currently finalizing the Aweil State Stabilization and Recovery Programme which the Governor of Aweil state and the organizations will be presenting to the international community in the months to come.

Aweil state is and should remain a beacon of peace in South Sudan and a business as usual approach is an obstacle to reach this important goal!

Jean-Luc Stalon is the deputy country director and head of programmes of the United Nations Development Programme in South Sudan. Twitter: @JLStalon.

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