South Sudan: Performance Monitoring, Community Engagement, Exit Facilitation.
Minerva staff embedded in a UN agency helped the Government of South Sudan generate a social licence to operate in one of the new country’s outlying states.
As a new country born out of a long civil war, South Sudan possessed fragile governance institutions. In outlying states, the Government’s writ ran only as far as it was seen to benefit local people. The UN’s stabilisation strategy aimed to underwrite the legitimacy of the government and expand its capability to deliver services to communities around the country – effectively, to help it establish a social licence to operate.
Minerva staff oversaw the implementation by contractors of client-designed programmes intended to prove the new republic’s ability to deliver services in remote areas and to establish infrastructure links to invigorate the economy, monitoring contractor performance and reporting on progress to the client.
Minerva staff also managed the relationship between the contractor and the community. In this role, they were heavily engaged in negotiating access for and safety of contractors constructing highways and compounds in tense rural border areas. A defining feature of the effort was educating, training and working with contractors to display respect for and proper and consistent engagement with local tribes. The Minerva advisor thereby ensured that the appropriate tribes, clans, and families supported and recognised the benefits of the road-building work. The success of this approach validated Minerva’s guiding tenet that, to gain and embed genuine acceptance in society and so to acquire a durable social licence to operate, it is essential to build societal relationships grassroots level, not only amongst the socio-political elites typically engaged by outsiders.
Minerva’s advisor also facilitated a smooth and trouble-free termination of the project. Having worked in Africa for many years, Minerva comprehends the importance of formulating an exit strategy and communicating it frankly to all affected stakeholders, if possible from project inception. Therefore, aware that project termination was set to have a dramatic impact on local labourers employed during road construction, the Minerva advisor kept local leaders and communities continually informed of the timing and mechanisms of project drawdown. This ensured that respected local leaders managed community expectations, enabling workers to seek new work in good time and minimising frustration and conflict.