County consultations: Linking the government to the people

13 July, Juba - Over the last decade, the international community has become increasingly focused on projects that are community planned and community driven. Experience has shown that, by engaging people at the community level, development projects tend to be much more responsive, better designed and likely to succeed in the long term.

While UNDP’s programme in Southern Sudan places a heavy emphasis on building the capacity of key government institutions, it also recognizes the need to work with a diverse set of other actors – particularly at the grassroots-level – to promote sustainable development. Capacity development is, at its core, an initiative to help people help themselves. This is why many of UNDP’s projects involve work with community group, women’s organizations, the media and traditional authorities.

One such project is the Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) initiative which has, since November last year, opened a unique consultation process in communities across some of Southern Sudan’s most violent areas. Working in partnership with the Southern Sudan Peace Commission and the CSAC Bureau, the goal of the project is to try to reduce insecurity by encouraging those affected by it to come up with their own solutions to tackle it. Due to their high frequency of ethnic clashes, four specific states were targeted – Jonglei, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile. Within these states, a total of 37 counties participated, including payam-level representatives. Only Lafon County failed to complete the exercise because communities were unable to come together.

“This is the first time such an extensive consultation process has taken place and it is an example of how community needs can be heard. UNDP is happy to be supporting this unique activity because it brings together all levels of government. The process also makes the state more visible by ‘linking the government to the people’ and engaging communities in decision making,” explains David Saunders, Team Leader, UNDP Crisis Prevention and Recovery Unit.

Over 2,000 men (including traditional leaders), women and youth were consulted by teams who helped record the key drivers of conflict and facilitated the prioritization of possible interventions to counter it. A ‘Rapid Rural Appraisal’ method was used, which utilizes a variety of tools including focus groups, sampling, interviewing and mapping exercises. Communities put forth a number of possible ideas such as the construction of police posts to provide a security presence, and the establishment of boreholes to ease resource-based violence. Since many states are experiencing growing issues around disenfranchised youth, targeted vocational training was also high on the list.

UNDP’s support to local and state-level government enabled this consultation process to be led by government partners. Data from communities was compiled into reports and presented to State Security Committees for validation. The next step, which is currently underway, is for specific projects to be developed and costed using this information.

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