How effectively were the Paris principles applied to state-building in South Sudan?


24 June 2014

In January of 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was brokered in Southern Sudan, ending years of protracted civil conflict. This important agreement paved the way for semi-autonomy of the Republic of South Sudan from Republic of the Sudan. With the assistance of foreign aid to facilitate institutional development and capacity-building, local leaders set about constructing a system which would eventually be used to govern the independent state of South Sudan.

2005 was also a significant year for the international donor community, as the traditional approach to international aid was re-evaluated, and the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness officially adopted. The guidelines outlined in this declaration, known as the Paris principles, outlined five core principles for effective aid: ownership, alignment, harmonization, results and mutual accountability. Donor activities in South Sudan were some of the first to be, at least on paper, based on the five Paris principles, and as such make for an interesting case study of how well the principles are implemented in practice.

  1. Ownership

    Local government ownership of development initiatives and interventions was outlined as an important part of effective aid packages to Southern Sudan by many donors. However the region lacked essential government capacity to effectively participate in this process, resulting in a situation where donor partners routinely developed strategies that were approved without question by the local government. This created a very complex ownership situation in which the South Sudanese government was often only present at the start of the planning process, returning only at the end to approve whatever plans the donors had formulated. This effectively meant that ownership existed on paper, but not in practice.

    However, there were some successes in achieving local ownership. The multilateral Joint Assessment Mission of 2004 prioritized indigenous issues and concerns, and was outlined even before the majority of development agencies had initiated activities in the region and was focussed on improving local institutions. The Juba Compact, on the other hand, was a direct local government appeal for donor support to help confront the food price crisis of 2009 and involved setting up local mechanisms for dealing with a wides scope of issues such as fiscal sustainability, and good governance.

  2. Alignment

    Principle 2 of the Paris Declaration calls for donors...

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