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Towards devolution of humanitarian response: South Sudan perspective
Henri Nzeyimana

The South Sudan case study analysis reveals that humanitarian assistance since Operation Lifeline Sudan in 1989 has failed to translate national capacity rhetoric into concrete action. The gap between rhetoric and reality is founded mainly on the fact that the humanitarian question in South Sudan is much more developmental and embedded in poor local governance and ill-targeted international assistance.

After a short-lived period of peace and national pride following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Sudan in 2005 and the declaration of independence of July 9th 2011, conflict returned to South Sudan on December 15th, 2013.
Recent literature on the humanitarian response in South Sudan indicates growing tension between the government and the humanitarian community and discontent among the local and national NGOs with their level of participation in the current response (Nicki Bennett, 2013).
Currently, there is growing resentment in South Sudan against foreign workers. In September 2014, the South Sudan Labor Ministry issued a directive asking to expel foreign nationals working with non-governmental organizations and privately held companies by mid-October and to be replaced by South Sudanese, but retreated on the decision when it raised bitter criticism among the humanitarian community (BBC, September 16, 2014).

According to the South Sudan National Civil Society Organizations Position Paper issued for the 2014 Oslo Donor Conference, South Sudan CSOs are not sufficiently represented in the humanitarian response despite their comparative advantage of presence and proximity with affected populations and the cost-effectiveness that their cheap and readily available contributions would bring: “[…] South Sudanese National Civil Society Organizations offer a unique advantage which makes them a quicker and cheaper agent of emergency and humanitarian response. […] National NGOs have a high spirit of voluntarism and low logistical demand which demonstrates cost effectiveness as agents of humanitarian response.” (South Sudanese National CSO Position Paper, May 2014, p.2)

Critics of past humanitarian initiatives in South Sudan (Volker Riehl, 2001; Bennett, J. et al, 2010; Humanitarian Practice Network, 2013 and Daniel Maxwell, 2014) point to the failure of humanitarian actors to develop local capacities and to base humanitarian response on locally-identified needs. They further criticize the intervention model which has prioritized short-term emergency response rather than providing state institutions and civil society structures with long-term support and enhancing communities’ livelihoods to foster their resilience and coping mechanisms.