Last week, parliaments in Khartoum and Juba ratified a historic border and oil deal recently signed by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan. Following ratification of the agreement, on Thursday, the South Sudanese government instructed oil companies in the country to resume oil production. In January 2012, Juba had halted oil production amid a dispute with Khartoum over oil transit and processing fees. Oil production accounts for 80 percent of South Sudan’s economy.
Yet while South Sudan’s impending resumption of oil exports has calmed fears of an economic collapse, the country continues to face serious development challenges. Still reeling from two decades of conflict with the North, South Sudan’s human development indicators are among the worst in the world. Over half of the South Sudanese population live below the poverty line. And even as Juba has maintained a tentative peace with Khartoum since their 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in parts of South Sudan, interethnic violence has spiked in recent years.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has provided bilateral assistance to South Sudan since the 1980s. Over the last decade, USAID has helped facilitate the Sudanese north-south peace process which laid the groundwork for South Sudan’s independence last year. And in December 2011, the United States hosted the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan which mobilized pledges of assistance for the country from donors including the United Kingdom, Norway, Turkey and the European Union.
In its 2011-13 Transition Strategy for South Sudan, USAID reaffirms Washington’s continued support for the world’s youngest nation. The document states that the overarching goal of USAID programming in South Sudan during the period following its independence is to foster stability in the country. According to USAID, the agency will also release a country development cooperation strategy for its long-term engagement in South Sudan.