Responding to UNDP Administrator's Call for Community Resilience in Sudan


Former fighters assist in community development. Photo: UNDP Sudan

Following Administrator Helen Clark’s call for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to move away from being an overly risk calculating organization into one that is risk taking and making a tangible difference in people’s lives on the ground, UNDP Sudan was instrumental in supporting a number of activities in a conflict area when literally all other activities came to a standstill. Through its Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme, a community‐based organization was formed consisting of ex‐combatants, community youth and women representatives in the remote village Zindia in Blue Nile State, where conflict broke out last September.

 

As a result, a unique synergy emerged between this community based organization, residents of the surrounding communities, the Sudan DDR Commission (SDDRC), UNDP and the Ministry of Health. This culminated in the creation of a clinic that will not only serve the health needs of the region, but also act as reconciliation point, whereby conflicting communities will jointly use, manage and maintain this same facility. The clinic becomes instrumental in peace building and recovery giving a collective sense of ownership to the ex-combatants and the communities in which they live. The Ministry of Health has further deployed medical personnel whose housing will be contributed jointly by the community and the Ministry.

 

It was in this context that, for the first time after the outbreak of the conflict in Blue Nile State, the SDDRC and UNDP took senior diplomats to witness success of not this clinic alone but of a number of other activities carried out in the last six months. The delegation included Norway’s ambassador as well as deputy ambassadors and senior diplomats from Japan, Germany, Spain, Canada and DFiD, SDDRC

 

Commissioner General, the Minister of International Cooperation and UNDP Deputy Country Director, Amin Sharkawi; all of whom were accompanied on the ground by Acting Governor, local ministers, locality Commissioners, tribal leaders and hundreds, if not thousands, of excited village inhabitants. The message being sent out was clear: UNDP wasn’t returning to Blue Nile State ‐ UNDP had firmly maintained its presence through these kinds of silent transformations.

 

The visit to Damazine demonstrated that UNDP could adjust and deliver in most complex situations. As the village leader remarked in the shade of the rakuba, the traditional tented meeting point where the villagers gather, “We rejected the war and we welcome the peace. These are the actual peace dividends and that we look forward to seeing many more.

 

We are happy to see the Government, UNDP and the donors here so they can see the roots of their efforts and the benefits.” For Sharkawi, the occasion was a momentous one, not only for what the UNDP was bringing but also for what the tiny village of Zindia was bringing back. “These efforts were churned out during the conflict and instilled confidence among the NGOs, communities, state administration and the donors that UNDP could really deliver in a challenging environment”.

 

This visit followed with a trip to an area where three ex‐combatants from different factions collectively started and operated a motor repair shop and spare parts dealership, a powerful testament to peaceful co‐existence between factions. As Mohamad Osman, former combatant and shop mechanic said, “Nobody has returned [to war] from those that I know. Because people that tasted what it’s to take control of your life through reintegration. If you tasted the atrocities of war, you would never go back, but you need a livelihood to sustain.”

As UNDP Sudan Country Director, Sayed Aqa noted after the visit, “For the UNDP this is a concrete step in reinforcing its presence in the beleaguered region. We are taking the lead in ensuring that operations are fully functioning and we are working against the odds to ensure their success. “