2020: The Year in Review

Author: Abraham Awolich

Date: 1 January 2021


2020: The Year in Review


January 1, 2021


Writing about the year 2020, which has just ended, is quite challenging. On the one hand, one would want to belabor how difficult a year it has been, but on the other hand, the brave men and women of the Sudd Institute have been at work amidst extreme resource constraints. As a tradition at the Institute, our new year message looks back at what we said we were going to do and how we have done it, and then look into the future, projecting our best hopes for the new year.


The year 2020 has been tragic, both at the personal and institutional levels. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life in more negative ways than good. For South Sudan, the outbreak of this contagious virus couldn’t have come at a wrong time. The pandemic disrupted the political transition aimed at ending the devastating conflict in the country, restoring democracy, engendering necessary reforms, instituting justice and accountability, and restoring prosperity. 


The Sudd Institute was directly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, more so financially. Many of the Institute’s plans and programs for 2020 had to be postponed, thereby denying the Institute necessary financial resources to do its job. As a result, we decided to ask our employees to go on leave without pay, except the essential research and administrative staffs who remained to run the Institute almost on voluntary basis for the last 8 months of 2020. I am extremely proud of what they have done, and I cannot thank them enough!


Though working voluntarily, our staffs made their mark on public policy key areas. First, the Sudd Institute, through its staff at the National Dialogue, provided critical intellectual backstopping to this national process, leading to a successful conclusion of the National Dialogue National Conference in November 2020. Much of the intellectual power and administrative and logistical support to the Steering Committee was provided by the Sudd Institute. Specifically, the Sudd Institute guided the National Dialogue on matters of democracy and governance. 


Second, the Sudd Institute made significant research and analytical contributions in the areas of governance, peace process and national dialogue, COVID 19 and its impacts, climate change and flooding, energy, transparency & accountability, and environmental protection, among others, producing more than ten policy papers in the last 12 months. The Sudd Institute collaborated with peers domestically, regionally, and internationally to conduct policy research. Through this partnership, the Sudd Institute has been conducting a regional study on charcoal production and trade through a consortium led by the University of Cambridge and composed of the Sudd Institute, Makerere University, Gulu University, and similar institutions in Kenya and Tanzania. The Sudd Institute also collaborated with the National Legislature, particularly the Council of States in researching and advocating for the implementation of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2013, especially the provision on revenue sharing arrangement for producing states and communities. The Sudd Institute, toward this endeavor, produced a groundbreaking analysis that was used by the National Legislature and Ministries of Finance and Petroleum to transfer $7 million to producing states and communities. This marked the first time the communities have received their share since 2011.  


The Institute has also been actively engaged in the constitutional amendment functions as its technical expertise has been highly sought, especially on matters of public financial management reforms, oil revenue sharing arrangements, and environmental protection, particularly with regards to reform of the petroleum laws. The Institute’s experts were invited in August 2020 by the National Constitutional Amendment Committee to present and submit expert views on Petroleum Act’s clauses on Health, Safety, and Environmental Protection and Petroleum Revenue Sharing Arrangement, among others. The Institute also researched on environmental issues, engaged, and advocated for a comprehensive environmental and social audit of petroleum operations, leading to the beginning of the process for environmental audit to study the extent of the pollution and to recommend remedies. 


Third, the Institute has been playing a supportive but critical role in the government response to COVID-19. Our research director provided intellectual support in setting up the data infrastructure at the National Public Health Lab, as well as providing the necessary analyses in aiding the decision-making process of the High-Level Taskforce on COVID-19. Besides, the Institute has been one of the leading research bodies in South Sudan on COVID-19 prevention and its impacts on people’s lives, with a comprehensive study with support from the United States Institute of Peace, scheduled earlier this year.


Fourth, our program director, Nhial Tiitmamer, was appointed as one of the key experts to investigate the collapse of the Juba- Bahr el Ghazal Highway in May 2020. This committee identified design and contractual inadequacies, renegotiated the contract with the Chinese company, and secured an enhanced design of the road.


Fifth, the Sudd Institute provided technical support to the peace talks in Rome; our representative, Abraham Awolich, provided a critical technical support to the negotiating teams and helped the parties embrace honest and faithful negotiations.


Sixth, our Board Chair, Prof. Pauline Riak, was invited by the UN Secretary General to be one of the eight members of the UN Panel of Experts on Internally Displaced Persons, where she is helping the Secretary General and the UN team develop policies and strategies that support IDPs globally. In addition, Professor Riak is a member of JMEC and Chairperson of its Governance Working Committee. Our Research Director, Augustino Ting Mayai, joined the Ministry of General Education and Instruction’s Education Recovery Committee and was also inducted into the IGAD’s Roster of Experts. Our Senior Researcher and Adviser, Dr. Jok Madut Jok, is a columnist with the regional newspaper, the Daily Nation, influencing key regional and continental decisions. One of his recent recommendations to the African Union in dealing with the crisis in Ethiopia was adopted by the African Union Commission. Our Program Director, Nhial Tiitmamer, was part of a team comprising experts from UNHCR, UNDP, IGAD, and University of Juba, which developed and wrote Action Plan for the Return of Refugees and IDPs.


Lastly, the Institute’s scholars contributed to academic and policy debates in international peer-review and public media outlets. In the State of Peacebuilding in Africa, Jok Madut Jok published Lessons in Failure: Peacebuilding in Sudan/South Sudan; Augustino Ting Mayai coauthored Maternal and child health service delivery in conflict-affected settings: a case study example from Upper Nile and Unity states, South Sudan, in Conflict and Health; Security sector spending and public safety in South Sudan, 2006–2018, in African Security Review, and War and Schooling in South Sudan, 2013-2016, in the Journal on Education in Emergencies. Nhial Tiitmamer wrote op-eds on climate change, migration, and conflict and energy access in fragile contexts, published by the South African Institute of International Affairs and Global Development Network, respectively. Several of our senior analysts and researchers have appeared in both international and domestic media giving analyses on governance, peace process, national dialogue, climate change, security sector reforms, education, and environmental protection, among others.


In the year 2021, the Sudd Institute aspires to continue to contribute to the implementation of the Peace Agreement, provide analyses in peace and security, health and education, democracy and inclusive governance, economic recovery and public financial management reforms, transparency and accountability in the extractives industry, environmental protection, as well as the constitutional making processes.


We are grateful to our partners, especially United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), CORDAID, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the University of Cambridge, and the University of Oxford for their generous support during such a difficult year. We look forward to continued partnership and support in the year 2021, which we consider a year of recovery from the COVID-19 devastation.


To our staff and our Board, I want to say thank you all for the immeasurable commitment you have shown. We will continue to rely on your dedication to push the Sudd Institute to great heights and to continue providing critical analyses to inform public policy in South Sudan to improve governance, peace and security, and prosperity.


Happy 2021!


Abraham Awolich

Managing Director

The Sudd Institute


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