Helen Clark: Opening remarks at the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan

Dec 14, 2011

Panel on Integrated Social Service Delivery
Washington, D.C.

Welcome to this panel on Integrated Social Service Delivery. We are joined by:

•    Minister Agnes Lasuba of South Sudan’s Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare. The Minister will present South Sudan’s vision and plans for enhancing and improving social service delivery,
•    Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF,
•    Mr. William Warshauer from PACT International, and
•    Hon Ben Knapen, Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation.    

Clearly the effective delivery of social services is of critical importance for the new state of South Sudan. Years of marginalization and deprivation have left this country with some of the lowest levels of human development in the world.

To change that, South Sudan will need to build strong institutions and systems, capable of delivering services which enable people to be healthier and better educated.

Real improvements in basic social service delivery can be made in the short term by rapidly increasing access to safe water and sanitation, basic healthcare and education, and cash transfers. The benefits need to be felt by people across the ten states, 79 counties, and hundreds of payams. This will help build the confidence and trust of people in their new state.

The recently prepared South Sudan Development Plan identifies the delivery of services as one of four principal development priorities for the period 2011 to 2013. UNDP was pleased to join the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare in chairing the Working Group which contributed to the Plan on social protection.  

It is important to acknowledge that progress is already being made. During the period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the number of children attending school doubled. More people now have access to safe water and sanitation than at any point in South Sudan’s history. Institutions are being established, roads are being opened, and communities and citizens everywhere are contributing, helping to construct social infrastructure and expand markets.  

But a great deal remains to be done. According to the South Sudan Development Plan, only thirteen per cent of the population has access to basic healthcare, and the ratio of primary school pupils to qualified teachers is a staggering 111 to 1. The maternal mortality rate is three times higher than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa. A fifteen-year-old girl has a greater chance of dying from pregnancy-related causes than of finishing school. The return of more than two million people from Sudan is also adding to demands on the state to deliver basic services, particularly in the most remote rural areas.

The government, supported by development partners, now needs to pursue new and innovative ways of delivering services, make tough choices, and take quick action. It will need to draw on its national wealth to increase spending on basic services, and extend their reach across the land, ensuring they also reach including women and girls.

As we will hear from the Minister, the government has established firm priorities for every social sector, and has agreed with its partners on clear deliverables for the short and medium term. It is imperative that South Sudan is supported to build the institutions and capacities which will make that delivery possible and sustainable.

I am pleased now to welcome Honorable Agnes Lasuba, the Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare and invite her to speak to the Government's vision and plan to achieve universal access to basic social services.

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