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January 2011

South Sudan: the dangers within

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

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    Rational exuberance? Photo: RRS

With a large majority in favor of independence in South Sudan, according to preliminary results from the independent poll body in Juba, the threat of conflict with the North is receding. The main challenges the country faces going forward are likely to come from within.

As we have seen, from Timor-Leste to Liberia, it takes time, strong national leadership and appropriate international support to escape the kind of violent conflict South Sudan has known for more than half of the past 60 years.

We also know there are many false dawns. Fragile states are wracked by repeated cycles of violence that come in a dizzying array of forms—with civil war often coexisting with criminal or gang-related violence.

How to stop these cycles of violent conflict is the focus of the 2011 WDR. Its central thesis is that resilient institutions are the best available antidote to the economic, political and security stress factors that overwhelm fragile states and trap them in repetitive violence.

But before you can start bolstering institutions with any likelihood of success, you need to win public confidence. In most places this means instilling a sense that things will change for the better.

That’s hard when hopes have been dashed many times over. Finding the right narrative and taking actions that will persuade people to suspend their disbelief is a huge challenge for leaders trying to prevent further violence.

From finger pointing to building confidence in Haiti

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

   

Waiting for a signal. Photo: Haiti's Tent City. Edyta Materka.

The first anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake has seen a lot of finger pointing. The country's Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, faults the donors for failing to open the tap on promised funds. Others blame his government and the legions of NGOs and aid workers for not getting their act together.

As the recriminations reverberate, the bottom line is that ordinary Haitians—with 800,000 of them still living in temporary shelters—don’t see much improvement in their lives. Many, it is reported, feel abandoned by both their government and the international community.

The Prime Minister recognizes things need to move faster and blames the donors who, he says, insist on funding things like education, infrastructure and transport. If the government had its way, the focus would be on clearing the rubble that still dominates the cityscape in the capital Port au Prince and other parts of the country, he says.

What to do to seize the initiative in a country which has known only trauma and deceptions for the past many decades?

There’s no right answer but actions that build confidence would be a big first step. This finding from research for the 2011 WDR—which looks at violence, security and development—certainly resonates in Haiti.

A new beginning for Southern Sudan?

Ian Bannon's picture

 

    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.