An ambitious example of South-South cooperation paired civil servants in South Sudan with civil service support officers from Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, to rapidly build capacity in a country that is just forming, said Angeth Acol de Dut, the Undersecretary of Public Service and Human Resource Development in the Republic of South Sudan.
This initiative from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has been going on for two years and “did help, to a large extent, address the noted lack of skills by on-the-job coaching and mentoring through the concept of 'twinning' between the civil service support offices and civil servants from South Sudan,” Ms. de Dut said in this interview.
"Twinning" refers to the concept in the IGAD initiative of pairing highly skilled civil service support officers—199 of them—with their counterparts in the South Sudan to rapidly develop core capacity through coaching and mentoring.
Ms. de Dut said security is a key challenge there, as it prevents support from reaching the rural areas, where the vast majority of the people live. “For me to be able to take development to them, I should be able to deploy the people with the capacity to assist in training. However, with insecurity, I cannot put them at risk there. And that to me is a challenge.”
Ms. de Dut said that this initiative was a step towards trying more innovative ways of doing things. “We don't have to restrict ourselves to only tried systems, but try to explore innovative ways by which we can help build capacities—because situations are dynamic, and they're very different from country to country, region to region.”
The interview was conducted by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Visiting Fellow at the International Peace Institute.
Listen to interview (or download mp3):
Andrea Ó Súilleabháin: I'm here today with Ms. Angeth Acol de Dut, the Undersecretary of Public Service and Human Resource Development in the Republic of South Sudan. She has been the anchor person for the IGAD, or Intergovernmental Authority on Development, initiative in South Sudan since it began two years ago.
The IGAD initiative has sent 199 civil service support officers to South Sudan where they are “twinned” with counterparts across ministries and sectors of government to rapidly develop core capacity through coaching and mentoring. This is the largest and most ambitious example of South-South cooperation on capacity development that uses peer-to-peer learning or twinning as its main approach.
Angeth, can you describe the capacity needs and gaps that led to the IGAD project in South Sudan?
Angeth Acol de Dut: South Sudan is a new country that has emerged from decades of war—so the setup of the government itself made it very clear that we do have a lot of capacity gaps in various sectors of the government. As a result of that, the IGAD initiative was conceived as part of the reform program to help address these capacity gets that were noted in the government. So, the bringing in of civil service support officers from the IGAD countries of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya did help to a large extent address the noted lack of skills by on-the-job coaching and mentoring through the concept of twinning between the civil service support officers and civil servants from South Sudan.
AOS: What ministries and areas of government was it most common for these civil servants to work in?
AADD: We made it very open in the beginning because we had at our disposal 200 civil service support officers. We sent out a request to all the ministries of the government—by then we had 29 ministries—asking them to identify what kind of skills they needed. Based on the response that we got, we were able to deploy people in about ten to fifteen institutions. The vast majority were in the Ministry of Health, and then these were deployed across the whole country. Then my ministry benefited from them, as well as education and other sectors within the government.
AOS: With 200 civil servants in two-year placements, this is quite a major example of South-South and regional cooperation for civilian capacity development. So, from your experience, what are the benefits of this relatively new approach?
AADD: You know, when you look at it, there are lots of similarities between the countries involved. Aside from the fact that we are different countries—divided by imagined borders, in my opinion—we are very similar, which made the issue of cultural affinity become very prominent as an advantage to them being able to adapt and assimilate to situations in the countries.
We have also the situation whereby the civil service support officers came in with high skills and their civil service was formed in almost the same manner as the one in South Sudan. So, there were lots of similarities which enabled them to adapt to working.
And then when you look at the aspect of ownership, there was local ownership both from the receiving country as well as the countries contributing—whereby they felt that they are part and parcel of the development. So, they are helping their younger brother to come up and develop also.