Despite the implementation of the peace agreement and a referendum that returned a result for independence for the South, there were frequent outbreaks of violent conflict between communities. This escalated seriously in 2013, and despite several ceasefire agreements, violence has continued in the country. The IASC Principals declared an L3 crisis in February 2014. The L3 status was de-activated in May 2016, although the humanitarian situation remains exceptionally serious with (in October 2016) over 6.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and some 2.6 million internally displaced. And around 4.8 million were considered to be severely food insecure.
The STAIT team was invited by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) to carry out a light mission in October 2016, to look at the strategic leadership and coordination of the humanitarian operation and how it could deliver assistance more effectively in the complex environment. The mission team comprised three core staff from the STAIT project at the Director level. The team worked closely with the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and many other groups and individuals in the humanitarian response. This methodology included self-assessment exercises and focus group sessions, as well as bilateral individual meetings with UN agency Representatives and NGO Country Directors. The mission concluded with a retreat on the final day which brought forward issues for discussion, and developed an action plan for the HCT that outlined a series of measures to overcome some of the challenges the team faced.
The HCT members agreed to take measures to strengthen the spirit of togetherness in the HCT to capitalize on the collective response capacity of the team to work together more effectively; strengthen the two-way relationship between the strategic leadership (HCT) and operational ‘engine room’ of the response (the inter-cluster group); work more closely with the Government of South Sudan to get commitments to create a safer environment for humanitarian workers (and enhance access and delivery capacity); clarify the roles and responsibilities of the peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, vis-à-vis the humanitarian operation and protection of civilians.
The HC was required to provide an update report on the team’s progress to the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) and the Emergency Directors’ Group (EDG) by June, 2017.
The Update Report on the HCT Action Plan was slightly delayed, and was submitted in August, 2017. It clearly illustrates that the plan still provides a key direction for several issues that the team wanted to address at the time of the mission, and while many of the challenges have not been definitively overcome, progress was reported on several issues. An UNMISS Humanitarian Task Team has been established and meets with humanitarians on the distinction and clarification of the humanitarian operation and the peacekeeping mission; the HCT produced a common humanitarian vision that clearly illustrates the operation’s priorities; and the HCT has standing agenda items and inputs from the inter-cluster group at each meeting to strengthen the two-way relationship between the two groups.