THE BLOG

In South Sudan, Humanitarian Action Is a Palliative, Not a Long-Term Solution

As the conflict in South Sudan reached its 100th day, images of death, destruction and displacement in the world's newest nation continued to dominate the image of the country.

The fighting between Government and opposition forces has driven a million people from their homes, including about 70,000 who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases. We know the situation will worsen with the onset of the rainy season; seven million people are facing the risk of hunger.

This Saturday in Washington, DC, USAID, UN humanitarian partners and the European Union will once again focus attention on the crisis, calling for an end to the fighting and urging the international community to continue to fund urgent needs there.

But we must remember the conflict will also have long-lasting consequences, rolling back years of development achievements and a hard won peace, increasing poverty, as well as long-term insecurity and vulnerability to future shocks.

While the needs of people in South Sudan require urgent attention, and continued funding, we must keep in mind that emergency operations can only assist them in the short-term. Because humanitarian action is a palliative, not a long-term solution, it is never too early to promote reconciliation and recovery.

First, there needs to be a redoubling of efforts to support a peace agreement in Addis Ababa that reflects the perspective of the people of South Sudan as a whole - not just the elite groups that sign on the dotted line at the negotiating table.

The views of women, young people, former combatants, ethnic minorities and the very poor, along with civil society groups from all ten states must be taken into account.

Second, when the situation allows for it, displaced populations must be given a chance to return to their homes without fear. This will require a genuine effort on the behalf of the international community to help communities achieving security and dialogue, as well as creating mechanisms for justice, truth and reconciliation.

We cannot address the deep-rooted and underlying causes of the present conflict without promoting a culture, at the community or the State level, in which disputes are settled peacefully.

Third, to prevent the conflict from exacerbating existing poverty and suffering, recovery activities must focus on creating emergency employment, helping small businesses get back on their feet and restoring livelihoods, for example, through the provision of seeds and farming equipment, credit and vocational training. This will help to revive the economy.

Ultimately, building an inclusive, cohesive and responsive State in South Sudan will require establishing stronger democratic mechanisms for citizen participation and political dialogue. In parallel, devolution of power and improving the delivery of essential services, such as healthcare and schools will be critical to achieving that objective.

The United Nations Development Programme in South Sudan has continued to operate in spite of the current crisis. We continue to build the capacity of key institutions of the State and communities to deliver development and to find common solutions to end poverty and insecurity.

We've focused on building up national peace institutions, the civil service, and managed a multi-million fund that backs the work of aid agencies meeting the most critical humanitarian needs.

In addition, UNDP continues to manage a vast portfolio of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, providing life-saving treatment in seven of the country's ten states, including for those displaced by fighting.

By focusing on long term development, we hope to minimize the impact of the current crisis. At the same time, the country will be in a much stronger position to overcome its differences and become a safe, peaceful and prosperous nation in the heart of Africa where crises are a thing of the past.

The author is Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)