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Sudan, Divided: Addressing the Primary Challenges to the South’s Development (part 1 of 3)

Emily Winter and Susannah Sirkin on August 8, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, marks one month since South Sudan’s official independence and international recognition as Africa’s 54th state. As the new nation begins to form its policies on development issues, its leadership and citizenry must successfully overcome several obstacles. If the fledgling nation is to surmount its history of protracted violence and denial of civilians’ most basic rights, the development of South Sudan must be a constructive and inclusive process. The international community must remain apprised of – and involved in – South Sudan’s progression toward stability and state building. This is the first post in a three-part series that will address the major questions central to South Sudan’s development. Check back later this week for the second and third posts.

Human Rights and Sustainable Development

Flag of South Sudan
Following the admission of South Sudan as the UN’s 193rd member state on July 14, the South Sudan flag was raised outside the United Nations headquarters, joining the flags of all other member states.

How can South Sudan ensure its state building process and fundamental policies are sound, sustainable, and based on human rights principles?

South Sudan faces substantial challenges to development, which largely stem from social and economic concerns. These issues must be addressed in South Sudan’s earliest legislative and policy actions, to ensure the South Sudanese population has opportunities for financial stability, access to public services, and a strong prospect for lasting peace. The world must support South Sudan as the nation takes its first steps towards sustainable development.

A foremost economic concern is that oil generates nearly all of South Sudan’s domestic revenue. According to a recent article on The Guardian’s Poverty Matters Blog, the nation’s oil resources will only last between eight and 22 years. Thus, the implications of South Sudan’s poorly diversified economy are worrisome for its development progress even in the short-term. Consideration must be afforded to the ways in which current revenues can be used for robust and positive change, as well as to identifying novel opportunities for economic strengthening.

The potential impact of these economic issues (and how they are addressed) on civilians’ livelihoods is compounded by the already alarming dearth of public services. In South Sudan, development is starting near ground level. The country has some of the lowest social indicators worldwide, and proposals for short-term or unsustainable solutions should be viewed with caution. It is imperative to support South Sudan in strategic, long-term planning, to ensure its fragile economy is strengthened and made sustainable, and that a rights-based approach is used in building the nation’s fundamental policies and public programs.

Only through strong political action, grounded in human rights principles, will the world’s newest nation truly flourish. South Sudan’s leaders must firmly reject policies that could lead to further oppression or suffering of citizens.

Emily Winter is a graduate student and programs intern at PHR.