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South Sudan’s Capability Trap: Building a State with Disruptive Innovation

Author

Listed:
  • Greg Larson

    (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

  • Peter Biar Ajak
  • Lant Pritchett

    () (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

Abstract

The prevailing aid orthodoxy works well enough in stable environments, but is ill-equipped to navigate contexts of volatility and fragility. The orthodox approach is adept at solving straightforward technical or logistical problems (paving roads, building schools, immunizing children), but often struggles or outright fails when faced with complex, adaptive challenges (fighting corruption, upholding the rule of law, establishing democratic institutions). South Sudan, the world’s newest country, presents a post-conflict environment full of complex, adaptive challenges. Prior to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 South Sudan had no formal institutions of self-governance. During the CPA period and after independence in 2011, foreign development agencies have contributed billions of dollars of aid and technical assistance to "build capacity" in the nascent Government of South Sudan (GoSS). The donors utilized approaches and mechanisms of support that at least nominally reflect the prevailing aid orthodoxy. We argue that orthodox state building and capacity building more or less failed in South Sudan, leaving the world’s newest country mired in a "capability trap" (Andrews, et al 2012). Despite countless trainings, workshops, reforms, and a large corps of foreign technical assistants embedded within state ministries, there is an absence of real change, and GoSS now "looks like a state" but performs as anything but. The challenges presented by this new, complicated, post-conflict country demand innovative approaches to building state capability which go beyond importing "best practice" solutions while feigning "client ownership." We explore one such approach to disruptive innovation that has emerged: Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). To escape from the world's newest capability trap, South Sudan’s government and its international donors must challenge themselves to imagine innovative paths to state building, which diverge from "business as usual" and attempt to create something that lasts.

Suggested Citation

  • Greg Larson & Peter Biar Ajak & Lant Pritchett, 2013. "South Sudan’s Capability Trap: Building a State with Disruptive Innovation," CID Working Papers 268, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cid:wpfacu:268
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    File URL: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/centers/cid/files/publications/faculty-working-papers/268_Sudan-PDIA.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Canavire-Bacarreza, Gustavo & Nunnenkamp, Peter & Thiele, Rainer & Triveño, Luis, 2005. "Assessing the allocation of aid: Developmental concerns and the self-interest of donors," Kiel Working Papers 1253, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    2. Andrews, Matt & Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2013. "Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 234-244.
    3. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    4. Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2004. "Solutions When the Solution is the Problem: Arraying the Disarray in Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 191-212, February.
    5. David Booth, 2011. "Aid, Institutions and Governance: What Have We Learned?," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 29, pages 5-26, January.
    6. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-64 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. World Bank, 2017. "Somali Poverty Profile, June 2017," World Bank Other Operational Studies 28470, The World Bank.
    2. Utz Pape & Nicola Pontara, 2015. "Alternative Social Safety Nets in South Sudan," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22499, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    South Sudan; Capability; Disruptive Innovation;

    JEL classification:

    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • L3 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise

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