In South Sudan, the implementation of the 2009 Local Government Act seems largely stalled, real empowerment of the people over their government remains a challenge and a threat to peace, recovery and development of the new state.

It is in this context that the Local Government Board (LGB) and The Hague Academy, with support of VNG international (VNGi), convened a training course on Leadership and Decentralisation in Juba for four days. The participants to the course were selected by the LGB and included current leadership, as well as young talented “future leaders”, from local governments, various (state) ministries and the LGB. The trainers were Ronald Mac-Lean Abaroa, former mayor of La Paz and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance and Emmely Benschop, programme manager at The Hague Academy.

Building leadership skills and improving technical competency in decentralisation were the main focus areas of the course. The former focused on skills that are critical to managing the complex process that is at the heart of any governance reform program and exposed participants to a number of useful concepts and analytical tools. These included distinguishing between authority and leadership, between adaptive and technical challenges and carrying out a solid diagnostic of the challenges facing the leaders. The latter focused on bringing technical input into the course. Through a combination of leadership and technical capacities related to decentralisation, the course helped participants to make better informed decisions and choose the most appropriate leadership response to specific challenges they are currently facing.

The course was designed based on the learning needs as defined by the LGB and the experiences of several capacity development projects that have been organized in the light of the Memorandum of Understanding of VNGi and the LGB since 2010. It benefited from the thematic discussions held in the context of the preceding 2-day expert seminar on peacebuilding and decentralisation, in which representatives from various civil society organisations and the LGB discussed the key challenges and opportunities for decentralisation in South-Sudan.