Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 14 March 2011

The Urgency of Implementing the South Sudan Research Council Act

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By Jane Kani Edward

March 13, 2011 — Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in January 2005, and the subsequent formation of the two Governments - Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan respectively, many foreign and national researchers, journalists, consultants, as well as research and academic institutions descended to Southern Sudan. The intentions of these foreign and national entities are to conduct research, collect information, as well as implement programs ranging from service delivery, organizing workshops, conferences and seminars on a host of issues such as capacity building, good governance, public service reform, women and gender issues, transitional justice, food security, etc.

Despite the fact that these activities and research projects and findings in particular, might be useful in influencing and guiding government policies, however, the goal and intent of conducting research in the South is neither clearly defined and articulated nor transparent. Similarly, research methodologies, ethical issues related to consent, confidentiality, and safety of research participants, as well as the impact and benefit of the research outcome were and are still not clearly defined, regulated and monitored by the Government of Southern Sudan. This lack of regulatory measures of research activities in Southern Sudan is partly due to the absence of a government-led institution responsible for reviewing, regulating and monitoring research projects, programs and activities of those individuals, research and academic institutions operating in the society.

The absence of government regulations related to research activities in the South, often might result in the production and dissemination of distorted and/or Eurocentric knowledge that do not reflect the societal realities of Southern Sudan and its people. Such knowledge might also lead to designing of government policies and programs that do not meet the needs and aspirations of the people of Southern Sudan, but rather fulfills the intentions, and agendas of those involved in such research activities and programs.

The people of Southern Sudan will soon embark on the formation of an independent state. It becomes crucial to minimize such misrepresented and distorted knowledge base and to accelerate the process of implementing the Southern Sudan Research Council Act (SSRC Act 2007) so as to address some of the aspects outlined above. The implementation of the SSRC Act 2007 is urgently needed to tackle some of the challenges facing the field of social and scientific research in Southern Sudan which is currently struggling to cope with the changing global knowledge production, inventions, issues, and challenges of the twenty first century.

The SSRCA Act 2007 came into being after a long process of engagement and planning by some officials of various institutions of the Government of Southern Sudan as early as 2006. After numerous meetings and discussions, the final draft of the Southern Sudan Research Council Bill was first tabled and read in the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) on Wednesday September 26, 2007. The Bill went through second and final readings in the SSLA in mid-November 2007 and passed on 26th of November 2007. It was signed into an Act by the First Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan on December 26, 2007. The purpose of the SSRC Act is to establish and manage the Southern Sudan Research Council as an independent public institution. Some of the most important objectives of the Act are related to issues of setting standards, priorities, regulations, and evaluation and validation of research activities, methodologies, scholarship and teaching programs in the South. Therefore, I urge, the Government of Southern Sudan to take an immediate action to implement the SSRC Act in order to enforce standards and regulations of research activities in Southern Sudan.

Dr. Jane Kani Edward is Director of African Immigration Research, & Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of African and African American Studies, Fordham University. She is the Author of Sudanese Women Refugees: Transformations and Future Imaginings, 2007, & numerous articles. She can be reached at kanilado@yahoo.ca



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