Everyone here in Juba says that they know the importance of documentation. Everyone says they do information-based programming, and use research-informed, evidence-based thinking. This is often, in my experience, complete nonsense. What Juba produces is endless reporting, often circular and frequently based on the same tiny pools of sometimes inaccurate or irrelevant data, or the same beleaguered researchers; and it discusses its information through endless, endless workshops.
Enjoyably, too, this system of workshop-based attempts at prioritising information were pervasive in the 1972 post-Addis Ababa Agreement peace period, according to the lovely files in the South Sudan National Archives project.
This document, from Sudan’s National Council for Research, is a case study in all the elements of a perfect Juba workshop. Externally-funded, it plans to hold a conference on ‘the use of documentation and information in planning and decision-making’, conveniently in Khartoum, where – much like in Juba now – participants will be put up in Sahara Hotel for a week.
The lecturers are mostly ‘foreign Professors’, with a few ‘reputable’ Sudanese ones. The topic is as follows:
To acquaint leading officials with the need for and use of Documentation in Development projects. It is meant to be a discussion of the problems officials meet in their institutions due to inefficiency or lack of proper information and documentation systems.
Juba remains a town full of workshops about the importance of (and management of) information, and the fight to find ‘proper information’. Maybe one day the National Archives will be one source of it.