The Triple Nexus and Local Faith Actors in South Sudan
This report presents findings from field research conducted in South Sudan on the intersection of operationalizing the triple nexus (humanitariandevelopment-peace nexus), localization and, the particular role of local faith actors (LFAs). The report is based on twenty-one interviews with NGO staff. The organizations included DCA, five local faith actors, and three local non-faith actors. Two focus group discussions were also carried out with beneficiaries in Kapoeta. The first FGD was composed of nine respondents while the second included twelve respondents. The interviews and FGDs were conducted in March 2019 in South Sudan. This report is the second of two reports. The first report focuses on a review of literature on the intersection of the triple nexus, localization, and local faith actors and is entitled, The Triple Nexus, Localization, and Local Faith Actors: The intersections between faith, humanitarian response, development, and peace.
From an overview of programming areas, we found DCA’s local partners particularly involved in peacebuilding work, with education, livelihoods, and food security programming appearing as the second, third, and fourth most active areas respectively.
Almost seventy percent of the local actors interviewed work in multi-sectoral, integrated programs, often incorporating humanitarian, development, and peace activities that constitute the Triple Nexus approach.
Siloed approaches continue. Humanitarian-only approaches remain particularly common. Humanitarian-development, as well as development-peace programs also occur. Humanitarian-peace work is conceived to be more difficult as humanitarian principles are sometimes perceived to be at odds with the potentially political nature of peacebuilding.
However, peace was highlighted as the factor most crucial to making the Triple Nexus work as it helps to tackle root causes, rather than merely responding to them. Peace is the added value element of the Triple Nexus approach but also constitutes the most challenging element to integrate in humanitarian projects.
The main value of localization and working with local actors for the Triple Nexus approach stems from their understanding of local contexts and their proximity to local communities, as well as the sustainability of their operations thanks to their commitment to their surroundings. Although local actors advocate for their greater involvement at every stage of the project cycle, they focused particularly on context analysis and project inception to help with community participation. Doing so will solidify the aims of a triple nexus program. Local actors’ sustainability is eroded by the silos existing in the aid system and local actors have had to navigate ways to work across humanitarian, development, and peace areas using short-term funding from different partners, which has placed extra pressure on these local actors.
As they have professionalized, local actors have been asked to work in silos, leading to the implementation of humanitarian-only, development-only, or peace-only projects. After adapting their ways of working and following a siloed approach, local actors are now viewing the Triple Nexus approach as a new trend modeling the way in which they previously worked. International humanitarians risk losing the added advantage of engaging local actors (their contextual knowledge, proximity to communities, and sustainable presence) in the process of professionalizing them to fit the existing humanitarian system.
All local actors noted an improvement over the past few years in how international actors involve them in decision-making processes. Nevertheless, many still felt they were highly restricted in the area of independent decision-making. The involvement of local actors in decision-making processes is also extremely fluid and most interviewees explained their involvement depended on the trust they had with their international partner.
Greater involvement of local actors in decisionmaking processes was one of the most requested changes from interviewees in terms of operationalizing the Triple Nexus approach. Local partners prioritized mutual understanding and dialogue with international partners. They advocated for their greater involvement at every stage of the project cycle and, particularly in the areas of context analysis and project inception, as well as with a clear and connected chain of implementation.
The role of local faith actors was particularly notable in work related to peacebuilding where their national and local presence as trusted, honest, moral, and respected leaders helps to galvanize their authority and legitimacy. They are not only peacebuilders. They also work across the triple nexus.
Local faith actors already work within a “holistic approach” that aims at responding to human dignity and the needs of the person as a whole. While this means they implicitly understand the Triple Nexus approach in many ways, it also means local faith actors add elements not otherwise incorporated in the aid sector’s current definition of the triple nexus, such as the spiritual aspects of life and the need for spiritual support across humanitarian, development, and peace sectors.
The research participants offered their ideas for operationalizing the Triple Nexus approach. These included: o Multi-year funding arrangements to break away from the disadvantages of short-term funding that only allows for siloed approaches. o Capacity sharing (as opposed to capacity building, capacity sharing recognizes local actors hold many capacities international actors do not have such as contextual awareness). o Consortia, in which local actors are equitable partners and able to bring their specific expertise, such as peace work with local faith actors, to a capacity sharing space that builds upon complementarities, rather than sub-contracting, in order to implement triple nexus programming.