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Lessons from stabilisation, statebuilding, and development programming in South Sudan

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  • Identify major learning reviews and evaluations on stabilisation, state-building, and development programme in South Sudan since independent. [NB. Particularly interest in reviews of multi-donor trust funds or other pooled development funding arrangements]

  • Summarise key learnings from these major evaluations/learning reviews


This rapid literature review collates lessons from major evaluations and learning reviews from development, state-building and stabilisation programming in South Sudan since independence in 2011.

Key findings include:

  • Donors in South Sudan have had to transition from humanitarian to development aid and back and forth a number of times as conflict has broken out. Donors need options to cope with a nonlinear state-building process as South Sudan’s political settlement has been, and will remain, very challenging.

  • The sustainability of programmes in South Sudan has been limited as typical funding will not continue beyond the project, and as there is a high turnover of donor staff due to the difficult and dangerous living and working conditions. This is a major challenge for donors.

  • Many donor programmes are identified as being “relevant” to the context and needs. However, South Sudan’s security situation holds back the achievements of many programmes.

  • While programme evaluations analyse the relevance of programming and analyse whether they meet their stated goals, they are often limited in their ability to analyse the impact of the interventions.

  • A key area of discussion for South Sudan’s programming is the level, success, and mechanisms for coordination and cooperation (across donors, within donors, and across donors and other actors). Coordination tends to be more complex in fragile and conflict-affected countries (FCAS) where country volatility can lead towards fragmentation. There are mixed findings, but generally, coordination between donors has been insufficient and fragmented in South Sudan.

  • Sørbø, et al. (2016, p.22) explain that while pooled funding is particularly popular in FCAS (including in South Sudan), it only works if it engages with the local government, which is often problematic in FCAS where the local government may be non-existent. The successes of pooled funds in South Sudan has been mixed due to this challenge.

  • The South Sudan Health Pooled Fund (HPF) evaluation states it to be a highly successful pooled funding model, given the difficult context. Its design and implementation are used as examples of good practice.

  • The scarcity of funding and resources for aid in South Sudan is a major challenge – e.g. it is a major cause of inefficiencies in the HPF (such as low staff remuneration, understaffed facilities, unqualified health workers, and insufficient drug supply) (Integrity, 2018).

  • The evaluation of Canadian programming, similar to the HPF evaluation, found that while programming was generally aligned with many good practices for engaging in fragile states, more could have been done to integrate these practices in a more structured, formal, and conflict-sensitive way.

  • Flexibility and persistence in aid programming are important in the face of South Sudan’s unstable security situation. Potential positive change will be a long-term process.

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) provided immediate and essential physical protection to more than 200,000 people when conflict spiked in 2013 and 2016 in its Protection of Civilians (PoC) areas. The dilemma now is whether it should reduce its personnel in the PoCs so troops can patrol in conflict-affected areas further afield (where more people live, though more dispersedly) (Day, et al., 2019).

  • Sørbø, et al. (2016, p.12) critique the distribution of development aid as being concentrated in easy-to-reach places and slightly more in urban areas (certainly in Juba). This means that vast areas of the country, that are in great need, do not benefit from aid.

Literature base

This rapid literature review found a lot of evaluations and reviews of programming in South Sudan, with many focussed on humanitarian programming (not covered in this query), and development programming, and few focussed on stabilisation. This review has endeavoured to only include evaluations of programmes that occurred after 2011, however, where it does include papers that analyse the period before and after 2011, it attempts to separate off only the lessons relevant to the post-2011 period (e.g. it only includes a little bit of information on the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Southern Sudan (MDTF-SS) as this closed in 2012) (Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies, 2013). The literature is mostly produced by practitioners, policy-makers, and think tanks.