South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, is one of the poorest countries in the world. The impact of decades of marginalisation and the far-reaching destruction of economic structures in a devastating civil war is omnipresent. In spite of a brief phase of economic upswing in the capital city of Juba, there has been little in the way of a "peace dividend". Power struggles within the governing party, the SPLM, escalated in 2013, leading to an outbreak of violence that quickly took on an ethnic dimension, hitting the civil population particularly hard.
In political, economic and social terms the country faces enormous challenges, but is almost completely devoid of the political and administrative capacities needed. The former liberation movement, the SPLM, faces the difficult task of introducing a balanced system of separation of powers and rule of law. Inclusive nation-building processes, the task of coming to terms with the violent past and the establishment of civil society and political public are only at the outset.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the only German political foundation with a permanent presence in South Sudan and it has been active in Juba since 2008. Its activities focus both on the political elite and non-state actors that are assigned a crucial role in the shaping the political future of the new state. In the political centre of Juba as well as in the regional states, FES supports the work and establishment of civil society and trade union structures, promotes the dialogue between research and policy and offers forums for political participation. Above all, facilitating an internal societal dialogue is of tremendous importance in this fragile situation, as the willingness and capability of this young state to negotiate and accommodate conflicts of interest and claims to participation in a peaceful manner will play a crucial role in its future options and prospects.