Coordination at the Crossroads: NGO coordination in Southern Sudan 2007-2011


Background to the Evaluation

Southern Sudan has presented a unique operating environment for the NGO community for the better part of 22 years. During the civil war, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) defined the space for NGO activity regardless of participation in OLS itself; and since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, Southern Sudan has been in a political purgatory that has presented the NGO community with a series of problems in principle and practice.

The NGO Forum was created in 1996 to bring together international NGOs associated with OLS, which had itself been established in 1989 as the umbrella operation for UN agencies and NGOs working in Southern Sudan. The Forum was created to discuss common issues around programming, access and aid, meeting monthly in Nairobi and represented to the UN and donors by an elected Steering Committee of seven to eight NGOs.

The signing of the CPA between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement lead to political stabilisation of the region and formation of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). The NGO community based in Nairobi began to move back into Southern Sudan, and were joined in the Forum by non-OLS members, local NGOs and a range of NGOs new to the region. The migration and growth of the Forum had two results: first, the NGO Forum grew in size and scope; and second, Steering Committee members became overloaded by their responsibilities, despite expanding the membership to 12 elected NGOs.

To deal with these problems, a new Country Directors meeting was initiated - essentially to recover the focus that the NGO Forum itself had initially - and a Secretariat function was created to support the Steering Committee and meetings. The Secretariat was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for 22 months with a staff of four based in Juba. With funding coming to an end in January 2010, the Steering Committee commissioned an evaluation to evaluate the structure and contribution of the NGO Coordination Structure and to look at models for enhanced future coordination.