South Sudan — Fragility Study Report - Understanding Multidimensional Fragility in South Sudan - 2023




DTM South Sudan,
South Sudan
Period Covered
Jun 19 2023
Jul 19 2023
  • Survey
  • Return Intention

This study provides a comprehensive assessment of the multiple dimensions of fragility in South Sudan at the subnational level: political and legal, social, economic, security, and environmental. By providing evidence-based contextualized insights, the study seeks to guide the development of programming and policies to support peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan, in in alignment with the Humanitarian Development Peace Nexus (HDPN) approach. South Sudan is an important case for the study of fragility because the country is in the process of transitioning from a humanitarian-only response plan to a more recovery-focused approach in which fragility, rather than armed conflict, is the primary barrier to sustainable peace and development.

The study deepens the understanding of how fragility varies across these dimensions within four distinct South Sudanese counties (Yei, Kajo-Keji, Bor, and Wau). It explores the impact of this variation on the local contexts where peacebuilding interventions are carried out by IOM and partners. To address these objectives, the research was conducted through a face-to-face household survey involving 1,595 adult respondents (51 per cent female, 49 per cent male), with approximately 400 participants in each of the four selected counties.

The findings reveal a complex landscape across multiple fragility dimensions. On the political dimension, there is a notable lack of confidence in government authorities at local, state, and national levels, and concerns persist about expressing political opinions in the context of national elections. However, there is a positive trend towards greater acceptance of women in politics. In the security dimension, perceptions vary across counties, with overall low trust in security actors and a reliance on informal mechanisms for dispute resolution. Informal armed groups continue to be seen as a source of insecurity, and concerns about renewed conflict linger. Opinions on transitional justice, accountability, and reconciliation are divided. In the social dimension, feelings of community acceptance are generally high, regardless of displacement status, although these results should be interpreted cautiously in light of potential social desirability bias on sensitive questions. Gender-based violence (GBV) including child marriage remains a challenging issue. Around 23 per cent of respondents had experienced Housing, Land, and Property (HLP) disputes, which are typically resolved by village chiefs, and acceptance of women’s land ownership was mixed. Lack of documentation of legal ownership and conflicts over natural resources including cattle and water are significant risk factors for HLP disputes. The majority of respondents rely on subsistence farming for their livelihood, and have limited purchasing power. Many also report an increase in the number and frequency of natural hazards contributing to environmental fragility.

The analysis shows important differences between the four counties across different dimensions of fragility. Bor stands out as the county with the highest levels of security, environmental, and economic fragility. Kajo-Keji, on the other hand, exhibits the highest level of political fragility, alongside high scores in economic and environmental fragility. Yei County records the highest level of social fragility and moderate levels of political and security fragility. In contrast, Wau County displays moderate overall fragility levels, with the lowest political fragility scores, along with low levels of social, economic and environmental fragility. Although the baseline pilot study does not enable precise identification of the drivers of subnational variation in fragility, we suggest potential explanations based on local context that could be more rigorously tested with follow-on studies.


This study aims to assess multiple dimensions of fragility in South Sudan at the subnational level in order to inform evidence-based and locally contextualized peacebuilding programmatic interventions in line with the HDPN approach.

Specifically, the study is designed to advance the following objectives:

  1. Improved understanding of how variation in fragility across five dimensions (political and legal, social, economic, security, and environmental) in four different counties affects the local contexts where IOM and partners implement peacebuilding interventions;
  2. Inform evidence-based and context-specific programming and policies within the HDPN approach;
  3. Identify remaining knowledge gaps and open questions in need of further research including the effects of different types of fragility on efforts to promote sustainable development and peace.

Understanding variation in fragility across different regions within the country is crucial for developing context-specific interventions in line with the HDPN approach. This pilot study is the first empirical analysis of subnational variation in fragility in South Sudan across five different dimensions: political and legal, economic, social, security, and environmental. The results provide detailed insights into the needs of the four counties studied, which have broader implications for IOM programming in South Sudan.