Issue 57 - Article 9

Double dividends? Exploring how Tearfund's water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in South Sudan can contribute to peace- and state-building

May 17, 2013
Sarah Pickwick
Maduany transition camp on the outskirts of Aweil town, South Sudan

pickwick-box-1Fragility, conflict and processes of state transformation can be challenging contexts for basic service provision by humanitarian agencies. Globally, practitioners are becoming more concerned with understanding the impact of service delivery on conflict, fragility and state-building – for example through the application of the ‘Do No Harm’ framework or forms of conflict analysis. Policymakers and donors increasingly ask whether service delivery programmes can do more to help build peace and the capacity of the state in the longer term. However, while many contributions are asserted, there is little rigorous evaluation to test the impact of service delivery on peace-building and statebuilding outcomes. N. Mason, Relationships Between Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Service Delivery and Peace-building and Statebuilding: A Review of the Literature, ODI Working Paper 362, December 2012; S. Carpenter, R. Slater and R. Mallet, Social Protection and Basic Services in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations, Working Paper 8, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (London: ODI, 2012).  In light of this, Tearfund, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), decided to explore the implications for its water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) work of wider processes of peace- and state-building in two projects in South Sudan.

The research findings point to the need to challenge the assumption that the delivery of WASH services per se will contribute to positive peace-building and state-building effects. Drivers of these processes are complex and often reflect historic legacies and systemic features not easily shaped by any one intervention. In the project sites visited, water, sanitation and hygiene conditions were not a central driver of conflict, and the provision of WASH services did not have the same perceived state-building benefits as other services such as education. That said, there is considerable scope to improve how these services are delivered, in order to take much better account of wider peace-building and state-building processes.

Research approach

Tearfund was funded by DFID to implement a five-year programme (2007–12) to improve access to WASH services by increasing the capacity of Tearfund teams, partner projects and local government departments across seven countries, including South Sudan. Peace- and state-building objectives were not included in the formal project design, but some positive results were nevertheless observed at the end of the programme. These included increased community cohesion, enlarged capacity for local conflict resolution and improved capacity for collective action by state and non-state actors. M. Burt and B. J. Keiru, ‘Strengthening Post-conflict Peace-building through Community Water-resource Management: Case Studies from Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Liberia’, Water International, 36:2, 2011.

In light of this, at the end of the project, and in response to UK government policy commitments, DFID funded research in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), carried out by Tearfund and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), to further analyse these elements. The overall purpose of the research was to produce evidence of the peace- and state-building role of WASH service delivery in fragile and conflict-affected states, and to explore whether there were opportunities to include explicit peace- and statebuilding objectives in future WASH programming.

pickwick-fig-1Following an initial literature review, potential dimensions and areas through which service delivery could impact on peace- and state-building were identified (see Figure 1). Processes of peace- and state-building are long-term, and shaped by a wide range of historical and contextual factors. There is no ‘one size fits all’ trajectory. However, some plausible links between service provision and peaceand state-building can be made, for example perceptions of who is included or excluded, potential conflict risks (where conflict is based on perceptions of marginalisation), perceptions around who is visible and capable to deliver services and processes of institutionalisation linked to statebuilding. Breaking these down into different dimensions is a useful way of thinking through the practical implications for programming, although no causal or automatic links can be assumed. These dimensions include:

  1. Opportunity: Identifying entry points where broader links can be made to enable economic or other opportunities.
  2. Visibility: Examining the relative visibility of different stakeholders delivering services, and assessing the risks where non-state actors are more visible than the state.
  3. Collective action: Identifying capacities for collective action and collaboration between and within different groups for the delivery of services.
  4. Inclusion: Mapping groups that are prevented from accessing or using services and identifying resulting conflict risks.
  5. Accountability: Mapping the nature of accountability relationships for service delivery between different groups (including local leaders).

Three analytical methods were then used in conducting the research in South Sudan, to further explore the utility of these dimensions for thinking through political and programming choices:

  • Political economy analysis – analysing key institutions, actors and incentives for peace- and state-building, as well as the drivers of conflict.
  • Modality of WASH service provision – assessing the what, who and how of WASH service delivery in the project sites.
  • Routes for potential impact on peace- and state-building – investigating the potential relationship between WASH service delivery and peace- and state-building through the five dimensions set out above.

WASH programmes in South Sudan

Two Tearfund field sites in South Sudan were visited for this research. In the first, in Yei River County (part of Central Equatoria), Tearfund has worked with and through an NGO called Across to facilitate its Church and Community Mobilisation approach, which supports communities to collaborate and address their needs, including WASH. In the second, in Aweil (Northern Bahr el Ghazal, on the border with Sudan and with higher ongoing insecurity), Tearfund is a direct provider of WASH services, and works with government partners in site selection and programme reporting. Where there were conflict risks, these were driven primarily by issues of marginalisation rather than specific issues around access to water points or related WASH activities. However, the study identified a number of ways in which these programmes could better impact broader peace- and state-building processes.


In some cases, there was scope for programmes to address perceptions of marginalisation and unequal access. The research identified practical ways to deal with these issues, including being more systematic and thorough in involving beneficiaries in site selection; improving community training in maintenance; and increasing awareness of the community’s own role in service provision, alongside conflict analysis to track and monitor local risks. This helped increase transparency in terms of who benefits and gave communities a greater stake in delivering or helping to deliver these services. It also seemed to help address perceptions of marginalisation and tensions within and between communities.

Collective action and collaboration

There can be particular collective action problems for water and sanitation provision, where the costs, for example of maintaining boreholes or latrines, may be seen as too high for communities to be able to meet these needs themselves. C. Mcloughlin with R. Batley, The Effects of Sector Characteristics on Accountability Relationships in Service Delivery, ODI Working Paper 350 (London: ODI, 2012).  Collective action can be further weakened where aid is provided in ways that undermine a community’s own agency.

Tearfund’s projects in Aweil recognised these challenges but did not always adequately address them. For example, in one returnee camp Tearfund reportedly found it difficult to bring residents together to help implement the project and maintain services and infrastructure. Tearfund was asked to repair a broken hand pump, even though tools and training had been provided to community committees. Similarly, latrines were not maintained and some were subsequently non-functional. By contrast, another returnee community led by an engaged headman contributed labour and community members were reportedly committed to maintaining services. This highlights the importance of understanding the underlying conditions likely to determine where there is capacity for collective action.

One of the core strengths of Tearfund’s approach is using faith-based groups to facilitate collective action and collaboration within communities. Such groups can be important convenors for communities where the state has historically had a limited presence, and can strengthen societal structures, build the capacity of communities to meet their own immediate needs and establish links with other local actors. There is potential to support local processes of state- and society-building by bringing together different groups (inside and outside the state) around shared service delivery problems. This seems to be a particularly valuable approach where capacity and resource constraints are significant.


Another key issue was whether the greater visibility of NGOs in service provision, relative to the state, undermines state legitimacy and therefore the sustainability of services in the longer term. Respondents interviewed uniformly identified NGOs rather than the government as their service delivery providers, and reported problems with provision to NGOs rather than local authorities. This is not necessarily surprising given low levels of capacity and resourcing for local government. But it does pose a challenge for organisations like Tearfund, which are seeking to support the development of local institutions and build local authority capacity.

In Aweil, the benefits of Tearfund’s WASH programme were clearly credited to Tearfund (rather than to the government, Tearfund’s partner in site selection and programme reporting). One village leader said that he used to go to the payam office to request services, but nothing ever came of these requests. The payam authority was perceived as unresponsive to local needs (‘why continue to ask for something that will never come?’ was the reported response). As state structures evolve there may be greater opportunities to support forms of joint delivery which can bring communities and local government actors together, but these may need to be more visible to local populations if they are to convince people that the government should be responsible for service provision. Other suggestions include removing some of the ‘branding’ of programmes, for example signs highlighting Tearfund support, co-branding with the government and increasing the involvement of payam and county leaders, for example in workshops and programme handover ceremonies.


This research has provided extremely useful insights for Tearfund WASH programming. It has revealed a number of key areas where policy commitments are not yet being fully realised in practice, and where there is greater scope to take better account of a range of peace- and state-building dynamics in decisions on programme design and implementation. This will require a shift in culture and working practices, greater understanding of peace- and state-building and increased monitoring of local political and conflict dynamics (and recognition of where humanitarian programmes fit within this). For technical WASH advisers and programmes, this could be achieved by partnering with organisations that specialise in conflict analysis or peace- and state-building and pursuing more joint work with other NGOs.

This research aims to help stimulate Tearfund to look at how its WASH programming can incorporate peace- and statebuilding most effectively. But equally it is hoped that some of the findings will also resonate across other organisations and service sectors.

Sarah Pickwick is a Policy Officer at Tearfund. This article draws on research carried out by the Overseas Development Institute and reports written by Leni Wild, Michelle Kooy and Nat Mason (Tearfund WASH Service Delivery in South Sudan: Contributions to Peace Building and State Building and Examining the role of WASH Services within Peace and State Building Processes, both ODI, 2012) and by Sue Yardley (Double Dividends: Exploring How Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programmes Can Contribute to Peace- and State-building, Tearfund, 2012).


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