Policy Brief Summary
The crisis in South Sudan calls for a critical reflection on past and forthcoming aid practices in the country, and on the assumptions and ambitions that underpin them. On the whole, donor engagement in South Sudan has been based on a flawed situational framing, informing a dominant theory of change that disregarded key elite interests, misjudged the main conflict driver, promoted a culture of appeasement, and obscured symptoms of a deeply rooted crisis of governance. As this crisis pushed itself to the fore in mid-December 2013, the old narrative of development and partnership has become untenable. Donors should prepare and plan for working in an environment where armed conflict is cyclical and where periods of relative calm offer limited options for longer-term development schemes or sustainable reform, narrowing the scope for constructive engagement and enhancing the risks involved.