South Sudan

The political, social and economic situation in South Sudan is dominated by the ongoing conflict and power struggle between the Government and President Salva Kiir, and the armed opposition led by Riek Machar.

Facts about South Sudan

The flag for South Sudan
Life expectancy
The flag for South Sudan
GNI pr capita
The flag for South Sudan
Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
The flag for South Sudan
The flag for South Sudan

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Several neighbouring countries are directly or indirectly involved in the crisis in South Sudan. Uganda assists the Government with military support, while opposition forces receive supplies from across the borders in the region. Warfare by proxy is widespread.

South Sudan is entirely dependent on the neighbouring countries for all imports, including almost all food and all fuel. Oil exports go through Sudan and are practically the only source of income.

The population of South Sudan has been through challenging and turbulent years since the country became independent in 2011. After many years of civil war, roads, schools, health services etc. were still very poorly developed at independence in 2011.

The humanitarian situation is at the most critical level according to the UN, and the needs continue to grow. Development goes in the direction of a long-term and more permanent crisis. Two million people have been displaced, 1.5 million of whom are internally displaced. 113 000 of them still live in the UN refugee camp for internally displaced persons. 6.4 million people struggle to obtain food. 2.5 million of them have an acute need for food aid.

The conflict makes humanitarian work very difficult. Negotiations on access, humanitarian access, safety for employees, as well as close cooperation with the UN Peace Keeping Forces are some of the challenges humanitarian actors must solve on a daily basis.

South Sudan has been unceasingly in a state of internal conflict since its inception as an independent country in 2011. The conflict has been subjugated by the political, social and economic circumstances.

Despite the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the opposition in August 2015 the situation is still unstable.

Low income from oil

The drop in the price of oil and decreasing production, along with warfare, lead to major economic problems. The agreement with Sudan on transfers there means that with today's oil prices, South Sudan is left with very little income.

The state has a large monthly deficit, and there is an overhanging danger of economic collapse. The debt burden is rapidly increasing. The country has almost no foreign currency reserves. This is a threat to food security since the country is dependent on imported food.

There are no priority funds for operation of the public sector. Employees in the health and school sectors receive little or no wages, for example. Priority is given to the army and the security forces.

Services for the local population in health and education are very limited, and generally of poor quality. In Juba, there are a few private schools and hospitals with somewhat better services. In many places, the work of humanitarian actors and international voluntary organizations are the only services available.

Business and industry is characterized by foreign ownership interests, primarily from neighbouring countries. Norwegian business and industry is not directly involved. Norfund is engaged in the first private investment company in South Sudan.

Norfund is also a large actor in the planned hydropower plant Fula Rapids, which is currently on hold as a consequence of the crisis in the country.

In addition to increasing environmental challenges from the oil sector, climate and environmental challenges are particularly connected to deforestation and increasing pressure on water resources and grazing areas for cattle. This has been made very much worse by the conflict.

In the oil producing areas, pollution from the production facilities and leakage from the wells is an increasing problem. The degree of coverage for the supply of energy is extremely low, approximately two per cent. All generation of electricity in the country comes from generators producing air and noise pollution. Most people use charcoal.

Starting point for the conflict and the crisis

South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world. As a result of the conflict and the humanitarian crisis, the country was defined by the UN as the world’s most vulnerable state in 2014. The humanitarian challenges are enormous, and are seen by the UN as parallel to Syria and the Congo in degree of seriousness.

Nonetheless, much has been accomplished after the peace agreement in 2005 between the SPLM/A and the Government in Khartoum:

  • With the support of international aid, the government has undertaken a census, an election, a referendum on independence from Sudan, and has attained independence.
  • In a country twice the size of Norway, weak and lacking infrastructure still presents a major challenge, in spite of the fact that thousands of kilometres of gravel roads between towns and to neighbouring countries have been opened since 2005.
  • After nearly 40 years of civil war, all governmental structures, institutions and procedures must be built from the ground up. The employees in the new ministries, courts, commissions and local administrations all around the country often had little education. Many were former guerilla soldiers. Taking this into consideration, South Sudan has come a long way in establishing a state apparatus. At the same time, the capacity of the authorities to govern and produce results is still among the weakest in the world.
  • There has also been some progress in social development, but South Sudan is still in a very poor position when it comes to key development indicators:
    - More than 70 per cent of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate.
    - Maternal mortality is at 2054 per 100 000 births, among the highest in the world. o The same applies to infant mortality, which is at 102 per 1000 newborns. o 83 per cent of the population live in rural areas. Most of them live by simple farming or cattle herding.

Human rights

The human rights situation in South Sudan was already challenging before the crisis, but has become drastically worse as a result of the conflict. Massive and targeted attacks on civilians are documented in several UN reports. Ethnically-based killings were widespread on both sides of the conflict.

Women and children are especially vulnerable. The use of child soldiers has been documented, and the UN has ascertained that all parties systematically use sexual violence as a weapon in the conflict. The authorities' pressure on civil society and the media is increasing.

New legislation related to safety and the regulation of civil society provides extended opportunities for control and penal sanctions. An increasing problem is harassment from the security service, which is rarely prosecuted.

Critical articles about the ongoing conflict and criticism of the army and the government/president are often clamped down on, and both newspapers and radio stations have been shut down for periods of time.

After decades of war, an extensive amount of and easy access to weapons is especially challenging. Militias with roots going back to the civil war and other armed groups operate in conflict areas without being controlled by either the government's army (SPLA) or the opposition's military leadership. This further worsens security for the population in these areas.

Arbitrary imprisonment is a major problem, and legal protection for human rights activists has become worse after the conflict started. In addition, freedom of the press is under pressure. In 2015, South Sudan fell to 125th place on the list of Reporters Without Borders.

The Government has recently signed the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). However, the ability to implement these conventions is limited. The position of women in South Sudan is very weak overall.

The situation of women and gender equality is integrated in most of the programmes supported by Norway. In addition, Norwegian People’s Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, and the Norwegian Refugee Council, among others, work with issues of gender equality in South Sudan.

Reconciliation through media

Norway provides support of NOK 3.5 million to BBC Media Action for developing and broadcasting a very popular radio program – Life in Lulu. Through dramatizations and a folksy approach, the programme takes up central interpersonal issues, including conflict, conflict management, and reconciliation.

The BBC's listener survey estimates that the programme has around a million listeners. Life in Lulu thus contributes to spreading a message of peace and reconciliation to a very broad public.

Development cooperation

 The focus areas for Norwegian development cooperation are greatly affected by the conflict. Approximately 70 per cent of the budget has been redirected to short-term measures in response to the crisis. Support via Norwegian organizations was increased. Programmes and activities in resource management, energy, and capacity building were greatly reduced or put on hold. Planned measures in democratization and stabilization also stopped. The political, security and economic crisis affected all national development processes and developmental goals in a negative direction.


South Sudan is a focus country for education aid from Norway. Support to the education sector is given through international organizations and initiatives such as UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education.

Several Norwegian organizations also receive support for measures to educate children and young people. ADRA, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Strømme Foundation, Norwegian Church Aid, and Norwegian People’s Aid are important Norwegian actors in the education sector in South Sudan.

Education as a part of humanitarian aid is a focus area, as well as efforts in teacher training and vocational training. 60 per cent of teachers do not have teacher training, and only 13 per cent of teachers are women.


Norway is supporting the work of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the GFATM, in the amount of NOK 1.7 billion for the period from 2014 to 2016. In total, South Sudan has received more than USD 271 million between 2004 and 2015.

Of the total support, 57 per cent goes to fighting malaria, 17 per cent goes to fighting tuberculosis, 13 per cent goes to fighting HIV/AIDS, and 13 per cent goes to strengthening health care systems.

The support has contributed to 1100 HIV-infected persons receiving antiretroviral treatment, 20 900 have been diagnosed with tuberculosis and receiving treatment, and 7.1 million mosquito nets have been distributed for the prevention of malaria.

Oil for Development (OfD)

As a result of the crisis, Norwegian advisors were not present in Juba in 2014 as had been planned. Training took place primarily through meetings and training activities in the neighbouring countries. In spite of these limitations, the programme achieved several important results.

Much of the work on the laws and regulations for the implementation of the Petroleum Act continued in 2014. Other efforts were particularly aimed at the HSE obligations of the operating companies. This work was carried out in cooperation with USAID/Deloitte.

Even though no regulations became legally binding in 2014, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining (MPM) published proposals for the regulations on its web pages, and thus contributed to the transparency that is an important goal in the programme.

Three employees were hired in 2014 by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining (MPM) to work on technical solutions for increasing oil extraction. They received training via the Oil for Development programme. An IT system for geology research was developed and put into use.

Forest management

A decision was made to not implement the second phase of the forest management project due to the crisis. A small sum was given in aid to the Norwegian Forestry Group to secure equipment and data from the first phase.

Strengthening the capacity of public administration

The work to assist in increasing the capacity of the public sector was also greatly affected by the crisis. A new two-year agreement between the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) and the South Sudanese Ministry of Electricity on capacity building started at the end of 2014.

The work of NVE was coordinated with an agreement on legal and technical aid to the Ministry. This contributed to strengthening the Ministry's capacity to protect its interests in negotiations for the development of the hydropower project at Fula Rapids.

As a consequence of the crisis, the negotiations were not concluded.  With Norwegian support, the new office building for the Ministry was completed at the end of 2014 and was made ready for occupancy in 2015.

Statistics Norway, SSB, continued to offer the Ministry of Finance technical assistance in the form of a long-term advisor and shorter visits. The goal is to develop a sustainable unit for macroeconomic analysis and strategic financial policy at the Ministry.

Among other things, this work contributed to the macroeconomic model developed with Norwegian technical support being maintained and additional persons receiving training in the use of the model. A planned agreement for a new phase of statistical cooperation was not concluded in 2014 as a result of the crisis.

Statistics Norway continued work in surveying what would be possible to carry on in order to secure a sustainable programme of capacity building.

Norway is the only donor to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD’s) capacity building programme, which is administered by the UNDP. The overarching goal of the programme is to contribute to capacity building in South Sudan's public sector through seconding well-qualified civil servants from the IGAD member countries: thus far Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

The project has been ongoing since January of 2013. 199 civil servants have been seconded as mentors in 19 South Sudanese Ministries, deployed in all 10 states, and have a dedicated South Sudanese counterpart.

The project is an example of capacity building through long-term support, knowledge transfer and guidance. The project is strengthened by offering culturally adapted capacity, local ownership, and regional cooperation.

Thus far the project has contributed to the formulation of laws and plans. The mentoring scheme has been very well received by both the Ministries and the South Sudanese civil servants who have participated in it.

Medicines and food

In 2014, Norway contributed NOK 25 million to the Emergency Medicines Fund. The Fund is to assist with basic medicines in South Sudan. The Fund makes it possible to deliver basic medicine throughout the country, including the three conflict states.

Norway entered into an agreement with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, in 2014 to provide NOK 60 million for the procurement and stockpiling of emergency aid. This was extremely important with a view to the rapidly increasing food crisis, and the importance of getting supplies out before the rainy season arrived again.

United Nations

Support to the UN peacekeeping force UNMISS was continued in 2014. Some of the centres were destroyed or pillaged during the crisis. The unpredictable situation led to the decision not to build three planned bases and to halt construction of two.

20 of the 25 planned bases were completed, nine of which have been transferred to local authorities. The centres function as multi-purpose buildings for the local communities, in which local administration, meeting halls, etc. are housed under one roof.

Norway entered into an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, on support for the constitutional process, just days before the crisis occurred in December of 2013. The outbreak of violence put a stop to this work before it had begun, and the project has not had any results so far.

Along with the agreement on support for the work on the constitution, Norway also entered into an agreement with the UNDP on support for preparations for elections. This project did not get started either before the electoral process was cut off.

Humanitarian work

In 2014, Norway contributed NOK 320 million for humanitarian work in South Sudan, primarily through various UN organizations and Norwegian voluntary organizations with long experience in the country.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian People's Aid, the Norwegian Red Cross and Save the Children were the Norwegian organizations that received the most money for humanitarian work. The main focus was food security, education and protection.

Voluntary organizations

Due to the political crisis in South Sudan, Norway has drastically limited the state-to-state aid. Support through voluntary organizations has therefore become an increasingly important channel for long-term support to the population in South Sudan.

In 2014, support from Norad to voluntary organizations operating in South Sudan was approximately NOK 160 million. This is in addition to the humanitarian efforts through the organizations.

The most important Norwegian actors in long-term development cooperation are Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian People’s Aid, the Norwegian Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Strømme Foundation, and ADRA Norway.

One example is Norwegian People’s Aid, which with support from Norad operates a farming project that has helped small farmers to establish themselves in groups, increase production and to get their produce to market to a greater extent.

Voluntary organizations are important actors in the implementation of the Norwegian education focus. The Strømme Foundation has through one of its programmes contributed to children and young people who live in areas with limited opportunities for formal education being able to complete an alternative programme of education. In spite of the war, most of the goals set for 2014 were attained.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015