Learning the Tricks of the Trade: Canada in South Sudan

By guest-bloggers Jennifer Erin Salahub, Senior Researcher and Team Leader at the North-South Institute, and Margaret Capelazo, Gender Advisor at CARE Canada.

As part of the global aid effectiveness agenda, the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States reflects the fact that solutions to violence and fragility are more likely to be sustainable when generated by the countries that experience them. Canada, through support to developing countries, peacekeeping missions and UN agencies, or international non-governmental organizations, is supporting South Sudan as it recovers from civil war and builds the world’s newest country. In 2010-11, Sudan and South Sudan received C$115.5 million in Canadian aid, including $15M through DFAIT and $98M through CIDA. That’s roughly 2% of Canada’s foreign aid budget. Since FY2006/07, Canada has spent more than C$657 million in the Sudans, much of it focused on implementing their Comprehensive Peace Agreement and in reconstructing the South.

What lessons come from the work that CIDA and its partners have implemented in South Sudan? Has Canada contributed to learning on how to foster indigenous solutions to fragility? Does the New Deal provide an opportunity for building on these lessons? This blog provides four key answers to these questions.

Making a measurable difference in fragile states takes a long time and requires a phased approach

In 2010-11, CIDA contributed to a 30% increase in childbirths attended by skilled health staff in South Sudan; but in 2010, according to World Bank data, only 19% of all births were attended by skilled staff. In the same year, CIDA contributed to a 33% increase in the number of doctors in South Sudan, but human resources for health gaps continue to be considerable because of the time it takes to train new staff. CIDA funds a variety of maternal and child health initiatives along the relief-to-development spectrum, from establishing clinics for internally displaced persons to training midwives, nurses, and doctors to serve the new health care system. Although this work could simply fill state service-provision gaps, CIDA and its INGO partners take a long view, providing health practitioners with skills to respond to immediate needs and to establish and maintain the public health system overall. This includes training health administrators to plan using sex-disaggregated data and establishing child health services based on the understanding that fathers as well as mothers care for children. With its country-specific indicators, the New Deal provides an opportunity to establish a results measurement system that contains indicators from along the relief-to-development spectrum so that donors and citizens can track even small incremental changes in all areas of development.

Focus, focus, focus

SSPS (Southern Sudan Police Service) recruits in Rajaf, Southern Sudan at the John Gurang Unified Memorial Police Training Academy. The recruits will be providing security for South Sudan's upcoming referenda, scheduled for January 9th, 2011. Trainers provided by UNPOL and funding from UNDP and doners.

Given its international assistance budget, Canada cannot solve all the problems in a fragile state. But it can make important differences in key sectors. Particular Canadian successes in South Sudan have been seen in maternal and child health, policing, and public administration. There is a need to think strategically about where Canada can make the biggest impact, given needs on the ground, national priorities, other donors’ activities and Canada’s strengths. For example, combining its strengths in policing and gender analysis, Canada could play a strategically important role in supporting a gender-sensitive approach to police reform, something which is increasingly drawing the Government of South Sudan’s attention. It could combine the focus of the Muskoka Initiative with successful strategies for engaging with national women’s ministries and affiliates that were developed in other fragile situations (such as chronically food insecure regions in Ethiopia or Bangladesh) to strengthen the capacity of government line agencies to implement the South Sudan gender policy as part of the New Deal’s One Vision, One Plan.

Be proactive and allow for local innovation

Some of Canada’s engagement has been more reactive and responding to needs as defined by the international community (support to UN missions and civilian police) rather than identifying its comparative advantage and applying its skills where there is a locally-identified need. Research points to gaps where we could be making a difference both in development and security, such as infrastructure, training and policy support for the South Sudan Police Service. Other activities, such as facilitating civil society, the women’s movement and government agents to conduct local community perception mapping and service delivery scorecard processes, have proved innovative and cost-effective methods to support and measure government performance under the New Deal. There is support for similar processes to be incorporated as South Sudan creates its country-specific New Deal indicators, but a process indigenous to the country needs to be developed and tested.

Invest in software, not just hardware

There is increasing focus on the relationship between the state and society in fragile contexts. In order to rebuild trust and a vibrant democracy, we need sound policy, robust civil society, gender equality, and basic civic and political freedoms. This means supporting the implementation of the TRUST component of the New Deal through timely and predictable aid, and by building the capacity of government officials and agents to implement policy and systems from a holistic perspective. It also means investing in dialogue between actors with diverse interests, supporting women’s groups and civil society organizations, building parastatal institutions, and funding academic and policy research. Such an approach mitigates the effects of austerity measures currently in place, back-stops as government consolidates, creates space for constructive criticism, and provides both government and civil society with the mechanisms and skills needed to strengthen the country using the fruits of healthy debate. Canada has learned much about this in its traditional peacebuilding and broker roles, and can use these lessons in its support to South Sudan.


This blog post is part of an online discussion on “Development in Fragile States? Lessons and Options for Canada” building on a symposium held at the University of Ottawa on February 8, 2013. Bringing together academics, Canadian government representatives and non-government experts, the conference and this blog series aim to create space for constructive, evidence-based policy dialogue on the development dimensions of Canadian engagement in fragile and conflict affected states.

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