South Sudan

Assessment of Policy and Institutional Responses to Climate Change and Environmental Disaster Risks in South Sudan


Nhial Tiitmamer


This report examines policy and institutional response to climate change and environmental disaster risks, with the view to providing recommendations to the government and its partners in South Sudan on where to focus their environmental policy interventions. To get a sense of the policy and institutional measures, we interviewed key government officials and examined legal and policy documents on environment, disaster management, food security, seeds, agriculture and livestock, fisheries, forestry, wildlife, land, electricity and petroleum and related institutional frameworks in target areas.

Climate change has increased the frequency of severe droughts, floods, storms and cyclones in various parts of the world (IPCC 2007, IPCC 2012, IPCC 2013, Meadowcroft, 2009). In South Sudan, seasonal patterns have become erratic and rain-fed agricultural areas have decreased significantly in the northern and eastern parts of the country (Funk et al., 2011).

Rainfalls have decreased in South Sudan by 10-20 % and temperatures have increased by more than 1 ºC since the middle of the 1970s. These rainfall and temperature changes are linked to increase in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) since the industrial revolution (IPCC, 2013, IPCC, 2012, the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences, 2014). The atmospheric CO2 has worldwide increased by 40% since the industrial revolution, and about 70% of this has been emitted since the mid-1970s (ibid).

Observations suggest that patterns in which floods and droughts occur in the same season have become widespread, with droughts happening earlier in the season around May/June and floods occurring later around August/September in South Sudan. These climatic shocks have wider negative impacts on people in terms of food security, health, and safety needs. The government and relevant actors can develop policy and institutional measures to address these shocks.

Summary of key findings Institutional frameworks:

Institutional frameworks in response to climate change, environmental and natural disaster risks are at nascent stages in South Sudan. Relevant institutional framework, which is in place, covers the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management2, South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Ministry of Environment, South Sudan Meteorological Service (SSMS), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Tourism, Animal Resources and Fisheries, Ministry of Electricity, Dams, Irrigation and Water Resources (MEDIWR), Ministry of Finance, Commerce and Economic Planning, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Physical Planning, Ministry of Petroleum, Mining and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Ministry responsible for wildlife. These institutions have been grouped in this study as part of climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster risks reduction institutional framework, because of their role in either contributing to climate change impacts or in helping the country adapt or mitigate the impacts.

The biggest challenge that we found based on interviews is that these nascent institutions have been weakened by lack of technical know-how, financial resources and by a low priority of the environment and climate change issues on the agenda of the government.
The Ministry of Environment has established a climate change unit but it is not operating due to lack of financial and human resources.
The South Sudan Meteorological Service faces challenges related to lack of weather and climate change forecasting equipment, international network connection, and trained personnel. There used to be a total of 43 stations all over South Sudan but most of them have been destroyed by the 1983 - 2005 civil war. Only three stations in Wau, Raga and Juba are currently operating. Two stations in Malakal and Renk stopped operating after the ongoing civil war started in December 2013.
South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC), with the support from the World Food Program (WFP), put in place an early warning technical unit in September 2013. Staffed with four national experts and two international experts, this unit is conducting a need assessment to establish an early warning system for environmental disaster risks reduction. An early warning information management center will be the product of this early warning technical unit, with the center expected to be fully operational in three years.

The ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has no climate change resilience department. However, it has a number of institutions, which can be improved for climate change resilience. Some of these include Yei Agricultural Research Center and Yei Seed Factory, which have been testing and developing seeds for climate change resilience.

South Sudan Wildlife Service does not have a climate change unit. The Act of parliament, which established it, does not contain a single word or phrase on climate change and environmental disasters although it declares its main purpose is to ‘‘protect the wildlife; to preserve and conserve the natural habitat of flora and fauna of South (ern) Sudan and; sustainably manage the natural resources in the context of this Act.’ This lack of mention of climate change and environmental and natural disasters demonstrates the thinking about climate change and disaster risks reduction has not been in the minds of the law and policymakers.