The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is providing start-up funding and advisory support for the Sudd Institute, a new, independent policy research organization based in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is providing start-up funding and advisory support for the Sudd Institute, a new, independent policy research organization based in the South Sudanese capital of Juba.

With the young nation of South Sudan—which marked its one-year anniversary on July 9—facing huge challenges in internal security, rule of law, effective governance, continuing disputes with Sudan to the north and a host of development issues, the need for thoughtful policy input from nongovernmental groups is critical.

“We are helping to develop a South Sudanese voice to inform multiple aspects of the policy-making process,” says Jon Temin, USIP’s director of programs for South Sudan and Sudan. “The South Sudan government is fighting fires on a number of fronts. Our assistance to the Sudd Institute will help build an institution that is able to step back and make policy recommendations.” By helping to build South Sudan’s capacity to develop and implement policies, USIP is fostering its ability to address the sort of instability and conflicts that have plagued other states in transition and led to deeper, more costly international involvement.

The Sudd Institute was launched on May 1 and has a staff of seven that is expected to expand. It is currently led by Abraham Awolich, a South Sudanese specialist in public administration with experience in development and governance work.  The idea for the institute came from six South Sudanese, including Awolich and Jok Madut Jok, an academic currently serving in the South Sudanese government. He is a former USIP senior fellow. USIP receives financial assistance for this effort from the Office of the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.

The Sudd’s strategic plan anticipates that the institute will largely focus on peace and security issues, including rule of law, justice, security sector reform and relations with Sudan. The Sudd will also concentrate on policy ideas that foster an inclusive, responsive and transparent government. Those governance issues go to the heart of South Sudan’s internal security problems.

As the institute’s strategic plan notes, “Current feelings that incompetence, tribalism and corruption dominate government practices in South Sudan have left citizens mistrustful of their leaders and institutions, disengaged from participation in their country’s future and resigned to rule of the gun trumping rule of law. Stabilizing South Sudan must involve building effective and accountable state institutions and developing effective strategies for transparent, accountable and inclusive governance at all levels.”

The Sudd is to be South Sudan-based and both led and staffed by South Sudanese. “They’re driving the train. They’re in charge,” says Temin.

Awolich says that the Sudd Institute will aim at providing decision-makers with rigorous, timely research; facilitate dialogue between policymakers, their constituencies, academics and policy communities; and help build South Sudan’s capacity in and demand for evidence-based research and analysis.

“Nations afflicted by civil violence generally suffer tremendous losses of skilled human resources, and they experience institutional collapses that depress development,” Awolich said in his USIP interview. “Even when this violence recedes, challenges of reconciliation, unity and development programming come to the fore. This is particularly the case for South Sudan, a nascent state that endured one of the longest and most vicious civil conflicts in the history of mankind.”

Added Awolich, “The seed funding provided by USIP is critical for the work of the Sudd Institute because many great ideas die or remain on paper only due to lack of financial capital. …Similarly, the technical support we will receive from the USIP will make us more competent in all our undertakings.”

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