The run-up to the UN water conference: an Intergenerational Dialogue on Climate Change and Natural resources in South Sudan
On 11th March 2023, The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in South Sudan, Youth and Society- Africa and University of Juba conducted together the second Intergenerational Dialogue (IGD). The Netherlands Embassy will continue the intergenerational dialogues four times a year in order to provide a forum for different generations in order to build trust, understanding and optimally utilize the potentials of all in order to foster political, societal and economic transformation that South Sudan so desperately needs.
The theme of this IGD was on “Climate Change and Environmental Protection in South Sudan” and was well attended with a high physical audience of over 150 people and many more attending virtually. The dialogue preceded the Conference on Nile River Basin & The Sudd Wetlands 20 -21 March and the UN Conference on Water which will be held in New York from 22 -24 of March. This IGD led to conversations on the effects of climate change, specifically the capacity as individuals, institutions and, on a larger scale, as members of society to better care for the environment as South Sudan joins the rest of the world in combating climate change.
The dialogue brought together representatives of relevant institutions from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Young entrepreneurs on green initiatives, young climate activists, students, civil society members and members of the academia. The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Mr. Joseph Africano Bartel, was in a panel with Lam Mabor, CEO of Eco Friends (Waste management initiative) and Maura Ajak (Freelance journalist and Climate activist). The IGD was focused on barriers and possible solutions to the effect of Climate Change in the country. The session was moderated by Prof John Akec, Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba and David Ayuel, Programme Coordinator for Youth & Society- Africa and youth representative in the National Constitutional Amendment committee.
Prof. John Akec set the scene for the dialogue by covering the importance of more conversation and action to combat the effects of climate change. He spoke on recognizing the truth of social issues in the country and how institutional weaknesses and incapacitation have affected the environment and climate justice in South Sudan. He also praised the Netherlands for its efforts in creating a Department of Water in the University of Juba and how this will support more research on water and the need for more investments in climate initiatives and allowing the environment to inform policy and economic development of South Sudan.
Speaking from the perspective of South Sudan, the dialogue paid close attention to environmental protection by adopting more subtle measures to do so. In particular, the amount of plastic waste in the River Nile and the Sudd as the main source of water, the effects of the shifting geopolitics, climate change seen in floods, drought and famine and the existing competition over scarce resources.
The undersecretary, Hon. Africano spoke of his ministries mandate to protect the environment, and how the disconnect between the National Ministries and the state ministries and municipalities has affected the mandate. With the many resources of South Sudan such as wildlife, the Nile and the Sudd as the largest freshwater land in Africa, Cattle, fish, and fertile land; Hon. Africano spoke on the need to strengthen environmental policies and structures to ensure the protection of the Natural resources, agriculture and the green economy.
The young panelist, Lam Mabor, spoke of the existing institutional gap in relevant authorities that do not regulate waste and sewage disposals and the use of plastic. “I started my initiative to help keep my city clean and fulfill my individual role in keeping the environment clean." He iterated how financial institutions should invest in financial grants and loans for green initiatives. Maura Ajak, a climate activist and journalist, spoke of her many experiences in different states of South Sudan and how many South Sudanese are affected by the floods and drought across the country leading to huge food insecurity. She also spoke of the educational gap on climate change and urged for the need to push community education on protection of the climate especially against deforestation and waste disposals.
Key messages that came out of this intergenerational dialogues are:
- Strengthen human capacity by supporting the set-up of the Institute of Water Studies at the University of Juba. The stakeholders welcomed the initial interest of the Netherlands to potentially support this process. Further support to town councils such as Juba city council to tackle environmental pollution.
- Improve access to credit facilities to the private sector to actively take part in environmental management and protection.
- Improve institutional and legal environment to protect the environment for example by passing the environmental bill and the water bill that have been in drafts for almost 10 years.
- Intensify civic engagement to educate the population about the impact of environmental degradations. One aspect is to increase the number of dialogues in this important topic.
- Increase investment in research to enable South Sudan to understand its environmental and water resources.
The dialogue brought forward the agency in protecting the environment, the effects of poor waste management in the country and the huge gaps of opportunities to protect the environment. With floods and droughts across major parts of the country affecting millions of South Sudan since 2020, more efforts to combat the effects of climate change are urgently needed.
The Embassy and Youth and Society-Africa are looking forward to leading more intergenerational dialogues across the country on social challenges and issues to provide a platform that informs policy, actions and collaborations between generations in South Sudan. The next IGD will be held in May/June 2023 on the role of entrepreneurship and SMEs.