The Peacebuilding Role of Civil Society in South Sudan
The nature and role of civil society in South Sudan has been largely shaped by a Western narrative that equates civil society with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), while tending to ignore existing institutions such as local chiefs and traditional authorities. There are over 5,000 registered NGOs in South Sudan today, including some so-called “briefcase NGOs”, which have been formed mainly to access donor funding. Furthermore, most external funding has gone to Juba-based NGOs, with the result that South Sudanese community-based organisations often operate without adequate financial or technical support. Western NGOs such as Oxfam and World Vision, in particular, have faced criticism for diverting peace building resources from local organisations. This heavy reliance on, and competition for, scarce donor resources has contributed to the inability of many South Sudanese NGOs to define an independent agenda, while undermining the prospects for collaboration among them. Many local civil society organisations are over-stretched and lack clear objectives, while the sector as a whole suffers from a dearth of subject-specific expertise, knowledge, and skills. The civil war that erupted in December 2013 has further damaged relations within and between South Sudanese NGOs, by sharpening divisions based on political and ethnic affiliations. Both the South Sudanese government and the rebels have also sought to co-opt, and at times infiltrate, national NGOs.