1.The Republic of South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, is in a major humanitarian, development, economic and security crises of unprecedented proportions. Around 6.1 million people, or nearly half of the total population of the country, are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. An estimated 4.8 million persons are “severely food insecure,” with Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity States worst hit. Estimates by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) suggested that because of the conflict more than 2.3 million people comprising nearly 20 percent of the total population of South Sudan have fled their homes.
2.Following the fighting that erupted in Juba on July 8, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 560,000 people have sought safety in surrounding countries, and the total number of South Sudanese refugees has now reached a staggering 1.43 million. Refugees have fled to all the neighboring countries including the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with large numbers in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. The outflow of people continues unabated, with an average of 60,000 people leaving the country per month in 2016. Latest reports suggest that recent fighting in Unity has internally displaced thousands of people and around 100,000 have been stranded in Yei for several months. The stories behind these numbers show that the situation has particularly impacted South Sudan’s women and children.
3.The July 2016 event was a stark reminder of the underlying fragility of peace in the country despite the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in August 2015, followed by the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity in April 2016. A good number of the provisions of the ARCSS, including that of permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements such as voluntary, safe and dignified return leading to resettlement, reintegration and rehabilitation of the bulk of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) were rendered inoperable. The renewed violence in Juba in July 2016 and its slow spillover to some of the hotspots across the country including in Yei and Yambio have reinforced the fact that unless the underlying root causes of the conflict are systematically addressed, the peace process will remain fragile and vulnerable.
4.Political, ethnic and communal discord seems to be deepening and expanding across parts of the country notably amongst the Dinka and Nuer, Dinka and the Equatorians and amongst the Nuers themselves following the split in the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army – In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and replacement of Riek Machar by Taban Deng as the First Vice President. The political process in the country is widely perceived as non-inclusive and the Equatorians along with other tribes such as the Shilluks in Upper Nile have been seized with a sense of marginalization including due to the non-inclusion of their specific issues in the peace agreement. This has precipitated increased mobilization and arming of the youth in the Equatorian region, with a vested interest in being cantoned in any future political resettlement.
5.The severe economic instability is perhaps the biggest threat looming large over the prospects of durable peace and development in the country. South Sudan’s macroeconomic crisis is steadily worsening with a projected fiscal deficit of 23 percent of GDP in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, oil price volatility and oil production shocks. The conflict has also disrupted the traditional economic corridors and virtually cut off traditional markets and exchange networks in some areas with Yei and Yambio being cases in point.
6.The twin tracks of peacebuilding, nation building and development are joined at the hip and must underpin and reinforce each other in the short, medium and long term. The persistent tendency for political disagreements to be settled through violence and not political dialogue degenerates into ethnic polarization and violence with a dire cascading effect. There is a growing acceptance of the fact that the root causes of the conflict must be comprehensively addressed and a new balance struck by bringing together the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors together in an integrated manner.
7.Conflict and fragility have been widely identified as one of the biggest bottlenecks to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Nearly two-thirds of countries in conflict failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing poverty by half by 2015. At a global level, 70 percent of humanitarian appeals are now recurrent, with some appeals in their eighth year and people living in forced displacement for up to 17 years. The World Humanitarian Summit held in Turkey in May 2016 therefore emphasized the need for balancing the humanitarian and development dimensions in countries with a protracted crisis. The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) believes that this new balanced approach has transformative potential, marks a turning point and lies at the very heart of rebuilding South Sudan.
8.Development and humanitarian practitioners have long debated the best approaches to address complex and protracted crises in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, DRC and Mali. Experience from these countries 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.
9.In South Sudan, there are three main reasons for championing a balanced approach of inter-related and simultaneous humanitarian and development responses to crisis: