Drafting a Disaster Risk Management Policy in South Sudan: “if we fail to plan, we plan to fail”

Publicado: 9 junio 2017 5:52 CET

By Sanne Boswijk


In April 2017, the United Nations declared famine for the first time in six years; at least a hundred thousand people were facing starvation in South Sudan. After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation of South Sudan has regularly made the front pages – mostly for devastating reasons. In multi-ethnic South Sudan, livelihoods are dependent on stability and the weather, so resources are usually scarce. In the already difficult context of an internal power struggle, which sparked a civil war in 2013 and threatens national security every day, South Sudanese communities have been plagued by drought and disease. After an outbreak of violence in the capital Juba in 2016, many organisations scaled down their operations or have left the country altogether.


Bearing this turbulent context in mind, it’s no surprise that food security is a significant issue. The Government of South Sudan recognises that disaster risk reduction activities have yet to be institutionalized effectively. Due to the number and variety of natural and human made hazards, institutions are often overwhelmed and risk management structures lack the financial and staff capacity to address the country’s hazards or respond to disasters. In the response phase, this new nation is struggling to have an efficient structure in place to receive, manage and oversee international response operations – leading to delays and unnecessary costs for both international humanitarian actors and the country itself.


However, in the midst of the violence and the drought, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management has pursued the development of a National Disaster Risk Management Policy, and it has asked the help of the South Sudan Red Cross in the drafting and implementation of this new policy.


South Sudan Red Cross, which has developed an expertise in Disaster Law (DL) through its earlier collaboration with IFRC in this area of work, initiated the organisation of an advanced training on DL issues as relevant for South Sudan. This training focused on International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) and laws relating to DRR. It was co-hosted by the South Sudanese Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and the IFRC, and catered for all relevant government staff and the legal drafters of the DRM Policy.


Participants analysed the problems in South Sudan in relation to legal preparedness for disasters, and proposed tools and strategies to facilitate the management of international humanitarian assistance while ensuring the smooth entry of high quality relief into the country.


In addition to this, the workshop explored the details of developing an inclusive, effective and accountable DRM institutional mechanism that is present at the cross-sectoral and decentralised levels of government. This workshop was designed to contribute to the ongoing efforts of the government of South Sudan to strengthen its legal preparedness for disasters. The Ministry introduced a draft of the national DRM Policy, and highlighted the role of Red Cross National Societies as auxiliary to government in humanitarian response and as the ‘community voice’ in national law and policy making processes.


The Secretary General, Mr John Lobor, led the participants in a roundtable discussion on the meaning of disaster law for South Sudan and the ways forward in this field. Participants actively agreed that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan demands a strong legal and regulatory framework to address the risks and hazards at community level and to regulate and facilitate international humanitarian assistance.


Given the disaster-prone nature of countries like South Sudan, the development and implementation of this framework is a matter of priority. Considering the many international humanitarian partners of the government of South Sudan, there is a need to develop a legal instrument that regulates and facilitates international humanitarian assistance, inspired by the IDRL Guidelines. At this stage, it is especially important to secure the engagement of multiple ministries, as each has an important role to play.


South Sudan Red Cross and IFRC remain actively involved in the legal drafting of the Policy, and, once adopted, will support dissemination at all levels. South Sudan Red Cross is also preparing to collaborate with the Ministry in the development of community level risk assessments, awareness raising on risk and reduction strategies and the development of effective early warning systems at the grassroots level.