World's newest country: future of South Sudan tied to efficacy of foreign aid
Western- and UN-backed aid organizations have lined up to support the fledgling Republic of South Sudan, but the challenges facing the nation 'would tax even the most developed of countries.'
(Page 2 of 3)
An oft-cited fear of diplomats and government officials alike in the post-independence period is the "high expectations" of southerners for what the new era of freedom will bring.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Clad in a polo shirt emblazoned with his new country's flag, Jok Michael marched proudly through the streets of Juba among his peers on Monday morning in a parade of Christian youth from several denominations.
"The nation will be democratic, we shall get good development," he predicted. "You can see what has happened in the past six years, what about the next 40 or 50? We think we will be like New York."
While a heavy dose of optimism is needed to propel the south forward, many are slightly more realistic about the road ahead for the world's 193rd country.
Speaking of all the challenges that South Sudan must begin "to tackle at once," a Western official in Juba said the multitude of to-dos for the young government "would tax even the most developed of countries."
Lise Grande, who leads the UN's humanitarian efforts in South Sudan, is careful to stress the extent of these challenges illustrating the "human indicators" here, which she says are one of the worst on the planet.
"Only 20 percent of the population ever during their life will use a health facility," she begins. "Half of kids will never enter a school. Ninety percent of women can't read or write. More than 90 percent (of the population) is living on less that a dollar per day."
"It's almost unimaginable that you can have a country that's so far behind," Grande says. "It's a great burden for the international community."
Mixed results so far
In the past six years, during the "interim" or implementation period of the peace deal inked between North and South in 2005, the record of international support to the fledgling south has been decidedly mixed.
On the one hand, USAID, the billion-dollar-per-year UN peacekeeping mission, and UN agencies, among others, have helped stand up the southern government, an enormous feat in a region where the majority of the population has little more than primary education.
On the other, efforts aimed at "capacity building" in the government's whopping 32 upstart ministries receive mixed reviews and smack slightly of condescension: government officials may not always appreciate being told how to perform their duties by a slick Western consultant.
Some massive aid projects, like the World Bank-administered Multi-Donor Trust Fund, have hit major roadbumps, drawing international criticism for failing to disburse funds and deliver on development promises.