|A new beginning? Photo: Joseph Kiheri
This weekend we saw people lining up all across southern Sudan to vote in a referendum  on whether they should remain part of Sudan or become Africa's newest nation. This vote was a key provision of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA ) which created a framework for a new start after decades of conflict.
Whatever the outcome, the challenges in Southern Sudan are daunting. Some 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and more than half are under the age of eighteen. Only 27 percent of the adult population is literate. You can read more about Southern Sudan’s indicators here .
But as this month’s World Bank web story  points out, there have been major accomplishments on the ground since the Bank reengaged in the country. There are now roads, schools, and health facilities where there were none before. Security has improved and government capacity has been built up. Yet much more needs to be done.
As we await the referendum results, the World Bank and other partners are committed  to lending their support. We need to sustain progress so far and deepen cooperation in support of Southern Sudan’s own emerging development strategy—one which must aim for a future that is less dependent on oil, as our recent Country Economic Memorandum  stressed.
This presents an opportunity to try out new ideas in an environment which is open to fresh thinking and new ways of doing business. The Bank's policies  on assistance for fragile and conflict-affected states now provide greater room to innovate than in the past.
So we are on the look-out for smart ideas that can complement our own, and help us provide assistance in a way that fits local conditions and achieves results—results that create confidence and build the institutions capable of securing a stable, prosperous state.
In the weeks ahead, we will be reaching out to people all across Southern Sudan to stimulate a debate on the key problems and how to address them. The Bank will also organize a series of policy discussions, beginning in February. These will examine the key challenges and ways to assist following the referendum outcome. The goal is to draw up realistic options for the international community’s support to Southern Sudan's development and state-building process.
Meantime, we will not lose sight of the challenges facing people in other parts of Sudan who have also suffered a lot. But that is another story.