Within and Without the State

Within and Without the State in South Sudan

At a glance

Within and Without the State aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of civil society programming in fragile and conflict-affected settings.


Half of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people are living in fragile or conflict-affected states.

Within and Without the State is a five-year global initiative enabling Oxfam to pilot a variety of approaches to working with civil society to promote more accountable governance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. The programme has a component which captures and shares knowledge and learning about what makes programming in these settings effective. 

The programme, which runs from 2011-2016, has shown that effective governance work is possible in fragile contexts, and can achieve change. It has demonstrated that working with civil society is an appropriate entry point; beyond this, empowering civil society actors to engage with power-holders is essential to achieving good governance and accountability. The programme has also explored: 

• Using the 'social contract' model to enable constructive engagement between citizens and the state
• Tackling gender inequality
• Understanding informal power-holders and how to influence them 
• Adapting civil society capacity building techniques from long-term development work
• Risk management and applied complexity theory when setting strategy

Core publications are displayed below, all Within and Without the State resources can be found in our publications section. The Within and Without the State programme is funded by UK aid through the Department for International Development's (DFID) Programme Partnership Arrangement (PPA) for work on conflict, humanitarian and security issues.

Where we work

Within and Without the State works in three focus countries:


WWS has become increasingly aware of the role of religious leaders (Ulema) in shaping attitudes and practices in Afghanistan, and of the possibility of harnessing their potential as change-makers. WWS has therefore worked to make new connections between religious leaders and women leaders. This has helped to shift attitudes and build co-operation; some Mullahs have now suggested that women qualified in Islamic law could work together with them on resolving conflict, tackling harmful traditional practices, and expanding the culture of tolerance.

Occupied Palestinian Territories / Israel (OPT/I)  

In Gaza, WWS co-financed work funded by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). WWS is now building the capacity of NGOs and community-based organisations to address the impact of the Israeli blockade and advocate for freedom of movement throughout the OPT.

An action research project has been carried out which aims to identify how change happens across OPTI, what opportunities for influence exist in this increasingly restrictive environment, and what Oxfam's role in achieving change should be. The research found that women with disabilities is one of the vulnerable population groups that has been most impacted by the war. Around 40,000 people with disability are living In Gaza Strip, approximately 20,000 of them are women. Women organizations acknowledge the fact that women with disabilities are rarely their focus of work and this programme seeks to build a coalition with an action plan to address this.

South Sudan

Oxfam in South Sudan has a historical focus on humanitarian programming and had previously undertaken limited development work. WWS has provided an opportunity for the country programme to innovate around governance, and has successfully developed activities to promote accountability between citizens and the state. This involves strengthening civil society's voice and ability to engage effectively with power-holders at various levels. This approach promotes the idea of a 'social contract' between civil society and the state. Each actor has their own roles and responsibilities to fulfil; by engaging with each other, sharing views, experience, and expertise, they can work together to create a more effective state.

This work has acted as a catalyst for the rest of the Oxfam programme as it has demonstrated that it is possible to start a long-term development programme in a fragile context. WWS in South Sudan is now working in two states, building cooperation and accountability between civil society and the state as well strengthening women's empowerment at the household level.

Yemen / Democratic Republic of Congo

Until March 2015 we were working in Yemen, but the humanitarian crisis which has engulfed much of the country has led the country team to close its planned WWS-funded governance work. As a result we are working now in DRC on a programme modelled on the Community Protection Committees which have worked so well in Eastern Congo. The intention is to do similar work in Western Congo.

Within and Without the State blogs

Six lessons on how to support change in South Sudan

What does active citizenship look like in a conflict affected state like South Sudan? Richard Chilvers, WWS Learning and Communications Officer,... Read more

Promoting active citizenship in fragile states - four lessons

Is long term programming possible in fragile states? For the last three years we've been working with civil society in South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan... Read more

Gender inequality as a driver of conflict

Can Oxfam tackle gender inequality in conflict-affected countries? Here, Louie Fooks explains why working on gender inequality is not only possible,... Read more

Building a social contract in South Sudan

Long term governance programming in fragile contexts is painstaking but rewarding work. Rama Anthony shares experiences from South Sudan and... Read more

Governance and Fragility: lessons learnt

This week the Within and Without the State (WWS) programme is sharing its experience from South Sudan at a UNDP expert practitioners meeting in New... Read more

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