Research topic: Understanding the power of the ‘local’ in manoeuvring between humanitarian and peacebuilding paradigms in South Sudan
Abstract: Over the past decade, a number of, primarily western led, events, discussions and policy documents in international aid have acknowledged and purportedly opened up space for local actors including national non-governmental organisations (NNGOs) to play greater roles in aid initiatives. However, there are also long-standing power dynamics within the system that hinder widespread change where NNGOs are more than obligatory requirements. These dynamics playout in different ways depending on the context and the type of actors and activities being delivered. There are two divergent views on how peacebuilding and humanitarian interventions are delivered in fragile contexts such as South Sudan. Some see both as necessary, but completely separate components of international aid with peacebuilding focused on long-term change and humanitarian activities on emergency relief. Conversely, others argue that one should be included in the other – there are supporters for humanitarian actions being included in peacebuilding and vice versa. In contexts of protracted conflicts where multiple aid actors are implementing humanitarian, peacebuilding and development programming, the role that NNGOs play in influencing change in communities is often overlooked. Specifically, there is a lack of understanding of why and how NNGOs engage in humanitarian and peacebuilding projects and their everyday power to shape policy outcomes. This research looks to add to the body of knowledge of the ability of NNGOs to manoeuvre between humanitarian and peacebuilding activities and influence change in the communities and wider environment where they are active. This insight will shed light on how the international aid system might shift to create stronger and more equitable partnerships with NNGOs in contexts of protracted conflict.