By Toby Lanzer
October 31, 2012 — On 24 October the world celebrated 67 years since the United Nations came into being. As the United Nations Deputy Special Representative and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, I am proud to work for the world’s largest body for international peace, security, development and humanitarian relief. However, while the occasion of UN Day placed much attention on the activities of the UN, I would like to take a moment to reflect on our key partners, Non-Governmental Organisations, without whom the UN’s agencies would be unable to carry out its development or humanitarian work.
The first international NGO arrived in what is now the Republic of South Sudan in 1956. On average an international NGO in South Sudan has worked here for 13 years, a period which has enabled each NGO to amass local experience and expertise on which the UN relies. NGOs work hand-in-hand with UN agencies in all spheres of development and humanitarian aid. For example, NGOs construct classrooms and support literacy, work with the ministry of agriculture on livestock vaccination, provide specialized health services, distribute food, drill boreholes, build capacity of institutions, and work on reconciliation and peacebuilding with local communities. NGO staff often work under the most difficult conditions, far from their families, often sleeping in tents, on rough terrain, and in inhospitable environments. Many NGO staff have put their own lives at risk in order to contribute to the welfare of South Sudan. NGO colleagues are among the most dedicated people with whom I have had the honour to serve.
In my roles as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, I work with NGO colleagues in Juba and in the field. In the three months since my arrival in South Sudan, I have visited eight of ten states where I have witnessed how the programmes of NGOs empower people to address their development and humanitarian challenges. For example, in Eastern Equatoria I am impressed with the work of NGOs on livelihoods. Intensive community consultations have led there to the strategic construction of haffirs that have protected the livelihoods of hundreds of people and their cattle. In the refugee camps in Upper Nile State I found NGO staff running clinics, therapeutic feeding centres, water points and hygiene campaigns staffed to attend to the needs of refugees.
International NGOs have a strong commitment to ensuring full engagement of national staff in their programmes. More than 16,000 South Sudanese were employed by NGOs in 2011. There are nine South Sudanese citizens for every international staff member working in the NGO sector. At the managerial level the ratio of nationals to internationals is nearly one to one.
In 2011, the collective amount spent by international NGOs in South Sudan exceeded US$ 577 million. This had and continues to have a positive impact on government finances. South Sudanese employees of international NGOs contributed an estimated SSP 20.5 million in personal income tax and revenue to the government. A further estimated SSP 44 million in social insurance fund contribution has been set aside. And NGOs have worked to ensure that such data is publicly available.
The United Nations has pledged its support to the world’s newest nation in many spheres. When it comes to development cooperation and humanitarian action, NGOs are a key component of our engagement. In so many ways, NGOs make the international community’s support tangible for the people of South Sudan. So, with UN Day behind us let me thank my NGO colleagues, South Sudanese and those who travelled far to work here, for their dedication, commitment, and work.
The author is the UN Deputy Special Representative and Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.