South Sudan gained independence in July 2011, and with it came the plans to build the foundations of the world's newest state. The European Union (EU) rallied behind the country's state and nation-building efforts through significant diplomatic, political, humanitarian and developmental support. However, the country has suffered from an inland armed conflict since 2013, which has led to widespread violence and has hindered development. The signature of a revitalised peace agreement in September 2018 is a step in the right direction but its implementation will need to be tested. The EU has strongly supported the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to guide the peace process. Now, the challenge is to ensure that the peace agreement is indeed respected.
At present, one third of the South Sudanese population is forcibly displaced, either internally or in the neighbouring countries. There are around 2.5 million South Sudanese refugees hosted in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Around 6.1 million people (59% of the population) face alarming levels of food insecurity. The EU has adapted its developmental assistance to respond to the needs of the South Sudanese population.
The EU developmental assistance in South Sudan focuses on agriculture and food security (to enhance the productivity of small farmers, strengthen markets and value chains, and construct rural roads), basic services delivery (primarily health and education), justice and reconciliation, and on public financial management to improve local governance, transparency and accountability.
The main vehicle of such assistance is the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). Under this instrument, the EU has so far made available around € 139 million since 2015. As South Sudan is not a signatory of the Cotonou Agreement, bilateral development cooperation with the Government of South Sudan is not possible.
In South Sudan, the EU follows a joint approach with EU Member States concerning implementation. For example, in the sector of health the EU has worked together with the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on a project to increase access to health services. Since 2012, this action has contributed to the increase of the number of outpatient consultations of children under the age of five from 773 054 to 2.5 million per annum (2017/18) and the increase of the annual percentage of one year olds vaccinated with a third dose of the DPT vaccine (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) from 11% to 49%.
The EU is also a major donor of humanitarian aid in South Sudan, which is one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian organisations. In 2017 alone the EU has mobilised €120 million to respond to the South Sudanese refugee crisis in the country and in its neighbours. An additional €45 million has been announced for 2018.
Other EU instruments such as the African Peace Facility, which also supports the peace agreement, in particular regarding security arrangements and the monitoring of the ceasefire; the EU’s Food Security and Non-State Actors Programmes, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.