South Sudan

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in South Sudan

South Sudan’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 41 reads:

  1. Every person or community shall have the right to a clean and healthy environment.
  2. Every person shall have the obligation to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
  3. Every person shall have the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations, through appropriate legislative action and other measures that:
    • prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
    • promote conservation; and
    • secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting rational economic and social development so as to protect genetic stability and biodiversity.
  4. All levels of government shall develop energy policies that will ensure that the basic needs of the people are met while protecting and preserving the environment.

Featured Legislation

2001: The Environmental Protection Act was passed. This was legislation before South Sudan became independent. Even though the Environmental Protection Act of 2001 is no longer legally binding in South Sudan, it remains an important piece of legislation that is used to give guidelines in ensuring environmental conservation in the country. Its principal objectives were: (i) To protect the environment in its holistic definition for the realization of sustainable development; (ii) To improve the environment while ensuring sustainable exploitation of natural resources; (iii) To create a link between environmental and developmental issues, and to empower concerned national authorities and organs to assume an effective role in environmental protection. Section III of the Act outlined general policies and principles for the protection of the environment. Article 17 of the Act required that any individual who intended to implement any project that was likely to have a negative impact on the environment to present an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for approval by the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the Higher Commission for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR) of the then Federal Government of Sudan.

2003: The Wild WildLife Conservation and National Parks Act was signed. This Act provides with respect to wildlife protection and the establishment of National Parks, Game Reserves, Forest Reserves and other protected areas in South Sudan. The Secretariat of Wildlife Conservation Environment Protection and Tourism shall be the principal authority for purposes of this Act and shall, among other things be responsible for conservation, management and administration of parks, controlled areas and other protected areas, the management, preservation, conservation and protection of wildlife and environmental resources, and the control of trade in protected animals and trophies.

2003: The Wildlife Forces Act was approved. This Act provides with respect to wildlife administrative and enforcement forces at national and regional level. The Wildlife Forces shall be deployed for the protection, preservation, conservation, management of Wildlife and Environment, detection, apprehension and prosecution of poachers, protection of clients, visitors and tourists, custody of exhibits on behalf of the Secretariat of Wildlife Conservation, Environment Protection and Tourism. The Act also establishes the National Wildlife Forces Board and defines its functions and powers, defines offenses, contraventions and penalties. The Commissioner may from time to time constitute an Advisory Council to assist in the performance of duties under this Act and may make Regulations to provide for the constitution and functions of the Council and for other purposes.

2003: The Timber Utilization and Management Act was promulgated. This Act makes provision for the regulation of timber harvesting in Sudan on lands as specified in section 7 of this Act. No person shall harvest timber from any such land unless he or she holds a timber utilization contract. Such contract shall be applied for in accordance with provisions of this Act and evaluated by the Timber Rights Evaluation Committee established for this purpose. Timber rights shall be granted by the Forestry Commission and be awarded by a contract the Commission shall enter into with the successful applicant. The contract shall be subject to terms and conditions as set out in this Act and ratified by the National Liberation Council. No rights over or interest in timber granted under a timber utilization contract shall be transferred or assigned without the written consent of the Commission. The Act prohibits, among other things, the harvesting of timber to which this Act applies without a valid contract.

2007: The Southern Sudan Water Policy was introduced. This Policy concerns water resources management and water supply and sanitation in Southern Sudan. It is divided into five Chapters: Introduction (1); Government Of Southern Sudan Water Policy (2); Water Resources Management Policy (3); Rural Water Supply And Sanitation Policy (4); Urban Water Supply and Sanitation (5). The purpose of the Policy is to outline the Government of Southern Sudan’s vision for the water sector, and to establish basic principles and objectives to guide future water sector development. The Policy addresses specific issues in relation to three main sub-areas of water policy, i.e. Water Resources Management (WRM), Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS), and Urban Water Supply and Sanitation (UWSS) and establishes guiding principles and objectives in relation to each. It is a first step towards the establishment of a comprehensive regulatory framework for rational management and utilization of water resources in Southern Sudan; and provides a foundation for future development of more detailed strategies, setting out the institutional, administrative, technical and financial arrangements for policy implementation. An important guiding principle in the process of developing water policy has been involvement of those affected, or their representatives, in assessment of the options on an informed basis. The Policy is to support social development and economic growth by promoting efficient, equitable and sustainable development and use of available water resources, and effective delivery of water and sanitation services in Southern Sudan.

2009: The Land Act was brought into force. This Act regulates land tenure and protects rights in land in Southern Sudan. It classifies land as public, community, or private land and provides with respect to the registration of rights in land. The Act pays particular attention to (protection of) customary land rights. The Act consists of 101 sections divided into 16 Chapters: Preliminary Provisions (I); Land Ownership (II); Land Classification (III); Rights to Land (IV); Customary Rights to Land (V); Derivative Rights to Land (VI); Land Administration and Management (VII); Registration of Land Rights (VIII); Acquisition of Land for Investment Purposes (IX); Pastoral Lands (X); Land Use, Social and Environmental Preservation (XI); Expropriation of Land for Public Interests (XII); Land Rights Restitution and Compensation (XIII); Unauthorized Occupancy (XIV); Land Disputes Settlement (XV); Miscellaneous Provisions (XVI).

2019: The Forest Policy was implemented. The Forest Policy of South Sudan was launched in 2019. The Policy is broadly intended to protect the roles forests play in stabilizing the global systems including the hydrological balance, the carbon balance, atmospheric systems, etc. The policy broadly aims to achieve ecological stability of river systems, the lakes, swamps, agricultural production and other natural ecological systems. It is also meant to ensure that there are optimal benefits from forestry and agroforestry activities for food security and poverty alleviation among rural communities through provision of woody and non-wood forest products. The policy integrates forest sector actions with rural development efforts to ensure that the rural population of South Sudan has access to basic needs which include sustainable household food security, shelter, wood fuel, safe clean water, as well as sanitation and health facilities.

2015: The National Environment Policy was established. The strategic goal of the National Environment Policy 2015 to 2025 is to ensure the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the natural resources of South Sudan without compromising the tenets of inter-generational equity. The policy will pursue and archive to develop laws, regulations and guidelines to ensure sustainable management of the environment as well as the prudent utilization of natural resources. The policy contains ten chapters including chapters on climate change, management of resources, corporate social and environmental responsibilities and environmental planning.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2020, a legal challenge was mounted by Hope for Humanity Africa in the East African Court of Justice. The government of South Sudan and the two major producing consortia, Greater Pioneer Operating Co. (GPOC) and Dar Petroleum, have been ordered to halt oil flows because of incessant oil spills. The challenge will force companies to tackle environmental damage, as locals have described the  oil spills as an “environmental genocide”. Indigenous communities depend on local waters from the streams and swamps for drinking, for cooking and for bathing; however, rivers and streams feed into the Nile and then into the Mediterranean Sea, making these spills a “universal disaster”. The problem seems to be the government and the companies involved in oil production: unregulated and unethical practices plague the country and the government of South Sudan is being called upon to instruct GPOC and Dar to clean up the environment. Human health is threatened by these practices and the soil is polluted to the extent that it cannot be used for agriculture. General damages and exemplary damages can be granted by the court and it might end up in the billions, according to environmental activists. Dar has refused to accept the summons. Article 41 of the South Sudanese constitution, on the other hand, enshrines the right of people to have a “clean and healthy environment”, for the present and for future generations. Concerns about South Sudan and the oil industry’s environmental legacy are not new. The European Coalition on Oil in Sudan (ECOS) published a report in 2010 on human rights violations in South Sudan. According to Egbert Wesselink, South Sudan is one of the worst managed and worst monitored oil operations in the world.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment and Forestry Republic of South Sudan/Juba, Hon. Josephine Napwon Cosmos Minister: