South Sudan: informing international policymakers and humanitarian practitioners

Train Sudan towards Wau
Train in South Sudan (credit: Bertramz/wikimedia)

Through a development partnership with South Sudanese universities, Nicki Kindersley has developed new understandings of migrant and military labour markets and political-economic systems in South Sudan and its central African borderlands from the 1960s to the present. This information has directly informed policymakers at the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the United Nations, the United States Agency for International Development and the European Union.

Kindersley’s research involves extensive local collaborative fieldwork in remote South Sudan regions including months of field interviews, training local early-career researchers and engaging communities in debates and dissemination.

The research provides critical insights into fundamental shifts in military recruitment, North African migrant labour and near-famine economies, and informs donor and humanitarian interventions and policymaking at a critical time in regional peace-building.

The research has shifted diplomatic and development policy for the UK government and other donors who have spent hundreds of millions of pounds in South Sudan over the past five years attempting to mitigate a humanitarian disaster and end a vicious civil war that has created one of the largest refugee crises in the world.

Kindersley has also worked extensively with academics and students at universities in South Sudan to increase research capacity there. The research has expanded the size and capacity of the South Sudan research sector and has created space within the South Sudanese political sphere for key debates that have supported better local government and court decision-making.

Other beneficiaries are local communities in South Sudan. For example, in April 2018, with a local arts group, Kindersley turned some of the main points of the first stage of research into a series of plays in local languages for communities, government authorities, chiefs, youth and women leaders. This led to community meetings with difficult conversations over chiefly authorities’ roles in famine migrations, and the exploitation of young men and women through military recruitment.

“This work has shaped the way that HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] understands the South Sudan context, and the design and goals of its intervention and programs.”

– Principal Research Analyst, Foreign & Commonwealth Office