The Sudd Institute in 2019
Author: The Sudd Institute
Date: 18 February 2019
The Sudd Institute in 2019
In 2018, the Sudd Institute teams produced a new strategic plan with a view to meeting the challenges of working in a place like South Sudan, to get a better handle on the risks of becoming too ambitious and thinly scattered because of the many needs for research in the nascent country. The new strategic document is aimed at strengthening specific areas of focus and was necessitated by the rapidly changing circumstances that have been born of the on-going civil strife since 2013. The goal of the new strategy is to create separate and yet complementary research projects that address the political conflicts, the economic consequences of the war, the social upheavals of violence, the weak service delivery system and the security threats created by a combination of the long history of war, mismanagement of communal relations, weak institutions, and above all, by inequitable distribution of national resources and corruption.
In a country like South Sudan, where there is a weak culture of research as basis for public policy decisions, where there is limited access to information and where skills, facilities, and finances necessary for the conduct of credible field-based research and analysis are limited, if not entirely lacking, it is easy for an outfit such as the Sudd Institute to be tempted to want to do research on everything where research and analysis are required. That temptation is also fueled by the way the Sudd Institute is set up and by its mission, with its small team of core researchers seeing themselves as a resource for public institutions seeking data, international organizations looking for partnerships and for graduate students/visiting scholars looking for an institutional home and for advice and guidance, away from their home institutions. This has been as much a source of strength for the Sudd Institute as it is a risk factor for the team members finding themselves scattered thinly over a large swath of terrain and working on a variety of issues requiring good field research and analysis.
It was with an eye to tailoring the expertise and interest of the staff to the priority policy areas in the country that the research programs were reviewed and debated widely within the country and around the East, Horn and Central Africa region. To this end, the Sudd Institute will now focus on security, violence, governance, and democracy, health and education, energy resources and climate issues, the economy and livelihoods, national resource management, infrastructure, peace and reconciliation, transitional justice and questions around the review of the constitution. The institute will also remain cognizant of a variety of issues and challenges that cut across all of the areas mentioned above. These include violence against women, girls’ education, the place of young men in society, their gendered socialization, lack of skills, work ethics, unemployment and the potential for political violence. In other words, there will be a host of research projects that uses ethnography and sociological approaches to look at work, opportunities, gender, family, social organizing and the cultures that undergird all of that.
Other burning questions, from affirmative action programs for women and people with disabilities, to issues of pension, the size of the public sector, especially the security forces, to the development of the private sector, especially the agricultural sector, livestock, fisheries and forest resources, will all be subject of scrutiny, so as to be able to offer public institutions a comprehensive look at society as a whole. These subjects are still quite a lot for a small team, but the expertise and dedication are there to be sought after and used by whoever requires this information in order to make decisions that are meaningful and related to the real concerns of the people of South Sudan. Whether or not the Sudd Institute is the right entity to do this, there cannot be any question about the need to sufficiently study these fields, if public policy is going to be based on a good understanding of the real issues confronting South Sudanese.
Anyone or any entity that aspires to conduct rigorous research and analysis in an embattled country such as South Sudan, a deeply divided society along political and ethnic lines, is likely to face questions of objectivity, fairness, fidelity to data and scrutiny about funding and whose tunes to play to, depending on who “pays your pipers,” in the words of one commentator who is critical of the Sudd Institute’s perspectives on the political dynamics in the country. As the Institute staff carry out their mission and vision, there can be no better assurance that the Institute is doing the right thing than finding themselves being sometimes criticized and sometimes applauded by all sides of the confrontations that take place in the competition for the country’s leadership, its resources and its visions for development going forward. Through all the doubt and criticism, the Sudd Institute has distinguished itself over the years as the leading independent and professional institution worth ranking on a global stage, with influence and visibility, with a deeper understanding of what drives political decision-making and civic engagement in the country and the region. For 2 years in a row (2017 & 2018), the Sudd Institute has been ranked among the top 100 think tanks on the African Continent (#83 & 84, respectively).
In 2019 the Sudd Institute will continue to develop evidence-based policy recommendations, collaborate with diverse networks, and inform debates on the politics, economy, security, peace, and social services in South Sudan and the region. The nature of research, analysis, and engagement in public policy debates will continue to be a key focus of the Sudd Institute's work in 2019, with outputs that will assess prospects for peace, dialogue, justice, reconciliation between all the competing groups, security sector reforms and the stabilizing mission in general.
Jok Madut Jok
The Sudd Institute