Picon, Mario (2009). "Breaking power structures through NGO collaboration for a more inclusive participatory development: an application to post-conflict South Sudan" Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.

How is the success of participatory programs conditioned by local power structures and aid governance? What strategies can an NGO follow to improve the chances of success of participatory programs? These are the key questions the present case study explores. The transition from humanitarian assistance to development programs is seen by international organizations and donors as a key step in consolidating peace processes and re-building local capacity through human and physical capital. Previous research (Collier and Sambanis, 2002) has shown that the probability of a return to conflict is high in the years following a ceasefire. A preferred approach among donors and NGOs for starting development programs in a post-conflict environment is the through participation. Participatory development involves the community from the onset in the identification of priorities, promotes a sense of ownership of the outputs and outcomes of the development program (Mansuri and Rao, 2004), and generates functional capabilities, the ‘substantive freedoms people have reason to value’ (Sen, 1999). Critics of participatory development consider that the approach might slow down the development process and, moreover, either legitimize the local power structure, or create new dominant elites (Cooke and Kothari, 2001). This paper explores the challenges a well-recognized (and relatively well-funded) international NGO faces while moving from humanitarian to development programs in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. After fifty years of almost uninterrupted war between the North and the South, the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 allowed thousands of South Sudanese to return to the lands they and their kin occupied before war. Most returnees have lived their whole lives in refugee camps, surviving only with food provided by donors. The CPA created a very particular status for Upper Nile State. While the area is part of autonomous South Sudan, and will participate of the 2011 Referendum to decide the independence of the region, Upper Nile is one of two states whose administrative authorities are still appointed by the Sudanese Government in Khartoum. Meantime, development coordinators are appointed by the autonomous government of South Sudan, in Juba.