So long as South Sudan relies on massive exterior aid, it cannot achieve true, lasting independence
Today’s post is going to be a little bit different than usual. I’ve spent a good portion of this past week preparing for my webinar, and every slide I create gets me more excited about hosting it. So I thought I’d use today’s entry to give you a preview of the webinar I’m hosting this Wednesday at 2pm EST on aid organizations in South Sudan and to explain why I chose this topic to research and speak on.
Today, I’ve been fine-tuning my slides and making sure that the overall idea behind the webinar makes sense. After all, no one likes attending a meandering presentation that doesn’t seem to answer any fundamental question. So, I asked myself, what is my fundamental question? Why am I presenting on this topic? I’ve known for a while now that I wanted the topic to be on South Sudan, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided it should focus on aid organizations. Truth be told, before this internship began a few months ago, I had never really been interested in the goings on of aid organizations. But after examining the role of aid organizations in modern Iraq, I realized that just because these organizations exist, that doesn’t mean the problems they intend to solve are actually being addressed. Inspired in part by Rebecca’s series on the non-profit disconnect, I started looking at aid in Sudan to see if it was making much of a difference there.
What I found wasn’t exactly earth shattering. Some agencies in Sudan were making a difference while others weren’t really doing much. The websites of the agencies highlighted the issues in Sudan, and as independence of South Sudan neared, many of them updated their front pages accordingly. As I researched, I noticed common themes, just as had happened while researching aid in Iraq. First and foremost among these themes was that no organization seemed to be making as much progress as it wanted to. Many organizations blamed the stifling government for this reality. Aid given to Sudan was typically funneled into Khartoum and rarely went to help people in desperate regions such as the south. One solution to this is physically going into the troubled region and having the agency do the work with no governmental support. This method, adopted by agencies like Water for Sudan and Village Help for South Sudan, is effective, but very limited in what it can accomplish. Helping a village at a time can be a tremendous accomplishment, but it doesn’t do much for the country as a whole.
Reflecting on this made me realize how important the independence of South Sudan truly is. For the first time since Sudan’s general independence in 1956, the south is finally able to govern on its own terms. That means that aid given to South Sudan can now actually be used to benefit South Sudan (assuming the ruling party allows this to happen).
Taking this into account, I arrived at the fundamental question of my webinar: In light of independence, how can aid organizations best help South Sudan establish itself as a stable, sustainable nation? In other words, how can aid organizations help South Sudan achieve the next level of independence? What the people of South Sudan were able to accomplish on July 9th was fantastic and remarkable, but the struggle is not over. As President Kiir put it, “That you are independent does not mean you go to sleep, you must go and work immediately…that is the only solution.”
In order for South Sudan to be truly independent, it needs to have more than 50% of its children entering school. It needs more than 10% of its women to be able to read and write. It needs less than 90% of its population to be living on $1 a day. It needs to have more than 3 official hospitals and it certainly needs to have more than 20 miles of paved road. South Sudan needs to be able to function on its own, without the help of massive exterior aid, and provide its people with enough services to move it far up from the very bottom of the World Health index. Only once these and many other similar issues have been confronted will South Sudan be truly free.
If you want to hear my thoughts on how to make this a reality, please check out my presentation. If you have ideas of your own, this will be the perfect time to bring them to the table and discuss them with like-minded peers. I really hope to see you there.Ryan Pavel is a Program and Research Intern with the SISGI Group focusing on foreign military involvement, policy and strategy into conflicts and motivations behind and impact of foreign aid. To learn more about the SISGI Group visit www.sisgigroup.org