Strengthening Social Protection in South Sudan
Endashaw Tadesse Gossa
The Government of South Sudan sought to reduce poverty and food insecurity, which had persisted through years of social conflict. Authorities prioritized improving social protection policies and initiatives, including programs providing Cash Transfers (CT) to vulnerable households. Country officials, however, lacked knowledge about social protection programs and the skills to implement them. Under renewed engagement with the World Bank, South Sudanese officials engaged in a study tour to Rwanda and Ethiopia to raise awareness of options and designs for social protection programs, enhance their skills to execute them, and build their capacity in monitoring and evaluation.
South Sudanese delegates from the National Assembly, diverse ministries, and other organizations visited Rwanda and Ethiopia from May 2 to June 7, 2012. Delegates engaged in discussions and workshops with staff from government agencies, non-governmental associations, and donors, and consulted with representatives of social protection projects and beneficiaries of cash transfers in local communities. Besides learning about social safety net programs, delegates witnessed how cash transfers had improved the lives of vulnerable groups while encouraging public works, environmental protection, and youth welfare. After the exchange delegates prepared a detailed report on the lessons of the study tour, which they presented to government agencies and a donor working group.
The exchange improved the quality of policy dialogue in South Sudan and helped convince government officials to engage in the development of a broad-based social protection policy and program. Soon after the exchange, the Government created a Core Team of government officials, led by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, to advance on social protection policies and programs. The exchange helped pave the way for the World Bank’s US$21 million Safety Nets and Skills Development Project, which was approved in June 2013 and supports a broad-based social protection program informed by the exchange.
The success of these visits also led to additional South-South learning and donor support. For example, UNDP and UNICEF financed a follow-up visit to South Africa focused on social protection, as well as state-level workshops to disseminate learning from the South Africa visit and the exchanges with Rwanda and Ethiopia.
Beneficiaries / Participants
As a conflict-affected country, South Sudan had a high share of households facing poverty and food insecurity. In response, the Government prioritized strengthening social protection; one action was to incorporate a national Cash Transfer (CT) program into the country development plan to support vulnerable families. However, South Sudanese authorities did not agree on how to implement a CT program given a lack of awareness of different approaches and inadequate skills to implement a program. South Sudanese officials worked with the World Bank to explore opportunities for assistance in social protection under the Bank’s renewed country engagement, as reflected in an Interim Strategy Note developed for 2012 to 2014.
The Bank sent missions to South Sudan in 2011 to discuss the scope and potential types of assistance, including a proposed project funded by the Bank Netherlands Partnership Program. To help bridge knowledge gaps among country officials, the Bank organized a study tour financed by the South-South Facility to learn about social protection programs from Rwanda and Ethiopia, both of which had implemented national social safety net programs with support of the Bank. This study tour aimed to inform the South Sudanese about options for designing social protection programs, enhance their skills to execute them, and strengthen their capacity in monitoring and evaluation.
Upon the Government’s request, the World Bank and South Sudanese officials developed and approved a US$21 million IDA Credit to South Sudan in social protection. This Safety Nets and Skills Development Project aims to enhance income opportunities and employment among poor and vulnerable groups. The project supports a component to develop a national social protection and cash transfer program, which was informed by learning from this exchange.
In addition, the success of these visits triggered requests from country officials for additional South-South learning and assistance from development partners. For example, UNDP and UNICEDF financed a follow-up study tour on social protection to South Africa, as well as state-level workshops to disseminate the lessons from this visit and the previous exchanges with Rwanda and Ethiopia.