UNDP & WFP Launch a Flagship Study on the Impact of Humanitarian Assistance on the State building process in South Sudan

September 28, 2023

UNDP and WFP representatives, National and International NGOs

UNDP/Amos Agiro

South Sudan's journey as an independent nation, since gaining sovereignty in 2011, has been marred by protracted conflict, political instability, and a series of humanitarian crises. These challenges have impeded the country's efforts to establish effective governance structures and create the necessary conditions for sustainable development. Against this backdrop, humanitarian assistance has played a crucial role in addressing immediate needs, providing life-saving support, and mitigating the impact of conflict-induced displacement and food insecurity.

Amidst these challenges, South Sudan as a young state is at the nascent stage of building a viable state. Although the protracted humanitarian interventions interact with the state building process, little is known about the complex relationship between humanitarian aid and state building. Humanitarian interventions often operate within a short-term and emergency-oriented framework, prioritizing immediate relief and focusing on meeting the basic needs of affected populations. On the other hand, state building requires a long-term perspective, aiming to establish functional institutions, promote good governance, and foster socio-economic development. Balancing these two objectives is a delicate task, and understanding their interplay is essential for designing effective and sustainable strategies in the context of humanitarian-development-peace nexus.

This report builds upon a rigorous and comprehensive review of existing literature, field research, and interviews with key stakeholders involved in humanitarian and state-building efforts in South Sudan. It examines the impact of humanitarian assistance on various dimensions of state building, including governance, security, justice, socio-economic development, and social cohesion. By analyzing these dimensions, the report seeks to provide insights into the challenges and opportunities that emerge from the intersection of humanitarian assistance and state building in a fragile context such as South Sudan.

The findings of this report underline the complex nature of this relationship. Humanitarian assistance has undoubtedly made significant contributions to mitigating the suffering of the South Sudanese population and addressing immediate needs. It has saved lives, provided critical services, and promoted resilience in the face of immense adversity. However, the report also highlights the potential risks and unintended consequences that can arise when humanitarian interventions inadvertently undermine or bypass state institutions and assume service delivery, the core responsibility of the state.

The analysis presented in this report emphasizes the importance of recognizing and strengthening the capacity of local institutions, fostering effective coordination among stakeholders, and aligning humanitarian interventions with broader state-building goals. Furthermore, it explores innovative approaches and best practices that can enhance the positive impact of humanitarian assistance on long-term state building outcomes.

This report is intended to inform policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working in the field of humanitarian assistance and state building. By shedding light on the challenges and opportunities in South Sudan, this report seeks to contribute to the ongoing discussions and efforts to improve the effectiveness, coherence, and sustainability of humanitarian assistance in fragile states.

Read the report here.