By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer,
April 16, 2013
“Our destination is clear, enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan as ‘a united, peaceful and prosperous society based on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law,’” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said April 16 at the start of the South Sudan Economic Partners Forum.
Representatives of more than 30 countries and international organizations attended the one-day forum at the State Department. The event was hosted by the United States in coordination with the governments of the United Kingdom, Norway and the European Union.
Burns said that recent progress in implementing the September 27, 2012, agreements between South Sudan and Sudan, including the resumption of oil production and an expected reopening of the countries’ border, “will provide a vital boost to the communities on both sides of the border and the governments of both countries.”
Yet, he said, because South Sudan faces “significant adversity” in its development, an updated framework of cooperation between the government and international partners “is indispensable.”
He said the United States welcomes South Sudan’s proposed New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States as a foundation for a new partnership. The New Deal provides clear goals to strengthen relations between the country’s government and its people and outlines benchmarks for ambitious economic and political reforms. It calls for “more transparent, timely and targeted international assistance that not only works through host-country systems but strengthens them,” he said.
Burns said a new agreement involving the government of South Sudan and international partners should be joined by a new compact with the people of South Sudan “that delivers on the promises of a responsive government, an inclusive democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said South Sudan has had some notable successes over the past year. Discipline on spending has improved, he said, and South Sudan joined the international financial community and the International Monetary Fund. The government passed a landmark land-reform policy that clarifies how land is acquired, which is a key ingredient in attracting investment, he added.Shah noted that in September 2012, USAID and South Sudan inaugurated the country’s first paved highway, its largest infrastructure project ever. The 192-kilometer highway, which links Juba with Nimule, carries 80 percent of the country’s external trade, Shah said. The road can serve as the basis for a network of new roads, he added.
Challenges for South Sudan and donors include securing universal access to health services and education, continuing to improve the country’s infrastructure, and diversifying the country’s economy to generate revenues from more than oil, donors say in a paper under consideration at the forum. One area of diversity is agriculture, Shah said, noting that just 4 percent of South Sudan’s arable land is under cultivation. With more investments in agriculture, South Sudan has “an opportunity to be a breadbasket for its region,” he said.
Other challenges are putting in place systems to manage oil wealth, strengthening public financial management, security and justice systems, and tackling corruption, donors say.
Burns called on international donors to provide the funding South Sudan needs to achieve sustainable goals. Donors are expected to provide more than $1.3 billion to alleviate short-term humanitarian needs and support development through 2013.
“We have come too far, invested too much and worked too hard to walk away from the people of South Sudan at this crucial moment,” Burns said.
“If we each deliver on the respective parts of this bargain, I am confident we will see this young nation join in the ranks of Africa’s rising democratic powers. That will give great hope to all those who still yearn for the opportunity to write their own future,” he said.