Building stability by engaging communities in South Sudan

The winner of the 2011 UNOPS Project of the Year award was a stabilization project in South Sudan, where local communities helped plan and construct essential new water facilities and security buildings in order to reduce insecurity.


 "UNOPS has proven its ability to find innovative solutions for delivering results in some of the most remote, inaccessible and insecure target sites in South Sudan, in an expedient and cost-effective manner."

– Kunal Dhar
Programme Coordinator, UNDP-led SSRF Stabilization Programmes, Crisis Prevention & Recovery Unit, UNDP South Sudan

Lakes State remains one of the poorest and most conflict-affected of the 10 states in South Sudan, following the 22-year civil war that destroyed the country’s socio-economic infrastructure and displaced many residents. The scarcity of safe and adequate water sources, particularly during the dry season, is one of the drivers of inter-communal conflict between pastoral communities. In many cases, women risk their safety by travelling up to four hours a day to fetch water during the dry season. Communities are also forced to share water with livestock, which creates health risks, and the migration of these animals to areas retaining water causes disputes. Compounding these issues is the limited presence of Government and rule of law infrastructure in remote and insecure areas.

Programme overview

To promote peace and security in Lakes State, UNDP coordinated the development of the Lakes State Stabilization Programme, in partnership with UNOPS and WFP, under the state government. The programme received over $24 million in funding from the South Sudan Recovery Fund.

UNOPS has been implementing two core components of the programme: water reservoirs for cattle and boreholes for human consumption, as well as police stations and country courts in conflict-prone areas. UNOPS engineers have worked closely with state and local government counterparts as well as target communities throughout the implementation of the programme.

On behalf of its partners, by mid-2012 UNOPS had successfully constructed four water reservoirs, each having the capacity to store 30,000 cubic metres of water, and 16 boreholes. To support the extension of the state government's authority and rule of law to insecure, conflict prone areas, UNOPS also constructed and equipped seven police stations and seven courthouses.

How we added value

Despite working in challenging and remote environments with multiple partners, unpredictable security conditions, and terrain and weather constraints, UNOPS delivered the project ahead of schedule and within budget.

Cost-effective and sustainable

UNOPS focused on maximizing all resources to create the greatest benefit to partners and communities. Through cost-efficient project management we were able to stretch available funds to buy more goods than originally planned, such as furniture and power supply equipment. In addition, we focused on environmental sustainability, for example by installing solar-powered water pumps for the reservoirs. UNOPS aims to eventually provide solar power to all of the constructed buildings in order to lower long-term operational and maintenance costs for state authorities.

Engaging communities

UNDP led extensive community consultations which guided the project’s design. The aim of the consultation exercise, which included local men, women and children, was to analyze the perceived causes of conflict and to agree on key interventions to address these recurring issues as well as improve security overall.

UNOPS worked with partners to identify the appropriate location of each facility to better meet the needs of target communities. The project also collaborated with the state government on designs, as well as on a land survey and assessment of roads to be rehabilitated.

Building capacity

UNOPS focused on building local capacity by working closely with engineers from the Lakes State Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and conducting joint monitoring missions, training local workers in construction methods and management of water facilities. The project has ensured that the facilities constructed are owned and maintained by local communities and has provided tools and equipment to support this.

Where possible, UNOPS hired local people to carry out the construction works, particularly focusing on youth, women and ex-combatants. This labour-based approach engaged local community groups and contractors to deliver durable and sustainable works meeting international standards. In total, more than 15,000 labour days were generated for local people.

Improving lives

The project has contributed to the South Sudan Recovery Fund's goals for medium-term recovery in South Sudan. With the increase in police presence and access to justice in the most conflict-prone areas of Lakes State, communities are starting to feel more secure. "We used to travel several kilometres to fetch water for our use here at the police station, leaving few officers to man the station during this dry season," said the county police commissioner of Rumbek North County in Lakes State. "But now that we have water in our station, we can focus on providing security to our people."

New villages and businesses are now being created where police stations, courthouses and water reservoirs have been built, as communities seek to live and work in well-secured areas.

UNOPS in focus