Opening Remarks at the South Sudan Economic Partners Forum
I am especially pleased to welcome distinguished Ministers from the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. I had the honor of meeting with the delegation yesterday. We had a very productive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing South Sudan and the partnership we are building with one another and that South Sudan is building with the international community.
We gather here today at a critical crossroad for South Sudan. Behind us are dark and trying times: four decades of civil war, religious and racial persecution, untold destruction and loss of life.
Our destination is clear -- enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan as “a united, peaceful and prosperous society based on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
The question is how to get there. No single path guarantees success. And there are no shortcuts around the enormous obstacles standing in our way -- endemic deficits in health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, and governance -- and of course, continued tensions with the Government of Sudan.
But just as the people of South Sudan found their way out of war to independence, they can surely navigate the perilous path from fragility to stability, and from poverty to prosperity. And just as friends of South Sudan have been there to provide relief and humanitarian aid in times of conflict, and diplomatic support during peace negotiations and the transition to independence, we will remain unwavering partners to South Sudan as it works to reap the dividends of peace.
We are encouraged by recent progress in implementing the September 27, 2012 agreements between South Sudan and Sudan, including the resumption of oil production and the expected reopening of the border for trade. These steps will provide a vital boost to the communities on both sides of the border and the governments of both countries.
Yet even with these hopeful signs, this young state will face significant adversity in the next phase of its development. And this is why an updated framework of cooperation between South Sudan and its international partners is indispensable.
We welcome the Government of South Sudan’s proposal to use the New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States as the foundation of a reinvigorated partnership.
The New Deal builds on decades of lessons learned about how best to address what matters most to those affected by conflict and fragility around the world. It provides clear goals to strengthen state-society relations. It puts South Sudan in the lead in its own development. And it outlines a set of benchmarks and mutual commitments – more robust economic and political reforms by South Sudan, and more transparent, timely, and targeted international assistance that not only works through host country systems but strengthens them.
The concept of mutual responsibility is vitally important.
For international partners this means not just living up to the principles of the New Deal but also providing the funding required to achieve sustainable results. There are a number of mechanisms through which funding can be channeled, including a Partnership Fund that will be discussed later today and developed over the coming months.
I know many of us are going through tough fiscal and budgetary environments – our own government released a budget last week that made painful cuts across the board, including in the foreign assistance budget. But we have come too far, invested too much, and worked too hard to walk away from the people of South Sudan at this crucial moment.
For the Government of South Sudan, a new compact with international partners will not suffice in and of itself. It is also time for a renewed compact with the people of South Sudan that delivers on the promises of a responsive government, an inclusive democracy, human rights and the rule of law. As we detail our partnership agenda, I urge that we not lose sight of these critical signposts.
The independence of South Sudan twenty-one months ago was a historic and momentous occasion. But we all know it is just the beginning of a long journey to realize the hopes and aspirations of the people of South Sudan.
I am confident that if we each deliver on our respective parts of this bargain we will see this young nation join the ranks of Africa’s rising democratic powers. And that will give great hope to all those who still yearn for the opportunity to write their own future.