When Peace is the Exception: Shifting the Donor Narrative in South Sudan

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Jort Hemmer & Nick Grinstead
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The crisis in South Sudan calls for a critical reflection on past and forthcoming aidpractices in the country, and on the assumptions and ambitions that underpin them.

On the whole, donor engagement in South Sudan has been based on a flawedsituational framing, informing a dominant theory of change that disregarded key eliteinterests, misjudged the main conflict driver, promoted a culture of appeasement,and obscured symptoms of a deeply rooted crisis of governance. As this crisispushed itself to the fore in mid-December 2013, the old narrative of development andpartnership has become untenable. Donors should prepare and plan for working inan environment where armed conflict is cyclical and where periods of relative calmoffer limited options for longer-term development schemes or sustainable reform,narrowing the scope for constructive engagement and enhancing the risks involved.