Communities driving development: Why ownership is essential for stable communities in Sudan

October 13, 2021

Author: Tomokazu Serizawa, Peace & Stabilization Portfolio, UNDP Sudan

UNDP supports more than 68 Community Management Committees, diverse groups that guide local development and peacebuilding in six states, and more than 200 similar groups in Darfur, collectively assisting more than half a million of Sudan’s most vulnerable. 

At the heart of successful development in any nation are communities. Strong communities, supported with basic services and opportunities, pave the way for progress and peace – particularly in an expansive country like Sudan, where two-thirds of the population live in rural areas with strong agricultural links.

Strong, empowered communities can better withstand crises. They can better cooperate on rural development to create jobs and reduce poverty, address security or women’s rights issues, resolve conflict, support displaced groups, and work towards common goals.

This type of community stability is essential for Sudan’s transition to succeed.

To achieve this, support to establish livelihoods and infrastructure is required. But, an often under-invested in component of community development is community leadership and ownership.

From many years working with communities in Sudan, it is clear that interventions tackling challenges in isolation cannot effectively address their scale, complexity, and interconnected nature. Equally clear is that interventions not managed and owned by those we serve are unsustainable.   

These insights informed the design of UNDP’s stabilization approach, which supports conflict-affected communities to identify, prioritise and meet their needs.

Core to this are Community Management Committees (CMCs) - local coordination and governance organizations, which include regularly elected representation from often unheard demographics like youth, women and displaced people. Under CMCs are sub-committees addressing area-specific needs like conflict resolution or natural resource use.

Once established, we work with members to identify and support development priorities. We provide training and economic assets to ensure they can operate as independent entities, and guide investment back into the community to ensure sustainability for CMCs and local development.

CMCs are supported to register as legal entities with Ministries and the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) to ensure they can own assets, open a bank account, and receive funding. Members are provided with training in project and financial management, conflict resolution, and monitoring and evaluation.

Working with many communities across Sudan, including those at-risk, our approach has successfully established 68 CMCs in six states, with 13 created in 2020, empowering 85,650 people through local initiatives such as rural development, education, conflict resolution, women’s empowerment, and vocational training. More than 200 similar groups in Darfur focus more specifically on conflict resolution.

Hammad Alsayer Ahmed is a community leader in South Kordofan who has seen the benefits local ownership of development has brought to his community. UNDP Sudan/Staff

Developing solutions for a diverse population – and ensuring their ownership of the process – relies on each group’s interests being reflected and protected by leadership, something Hammad, a community leader in South Kordofan, attributes to his CMC’s success.

“The CMC plays an important role, filling a large gap that the civil administration cannot do independently,” he says. “We at the civil administration level will always be part of the CMC, working together to achieve peace and development.”

Mohamed, who is his CMC’s head in South Kordofan, highlights the value of local ownership: members oversee projects, manage assets, select workshop participants and identify people most in need of assistance. This approach also harnesses local expertise, which, with UNDP-supported training, equips members with the skills to implement activities that are most relevant and tailored to the community.

“CMCs have sub-committees that target different needs in communities,” says Mohamed. “Our 37 members divide work among each other based on our experiences.” 

For Mohamed Siddig Mohamed, local ownership and management has enabled his CMC to develop solutions that suit the needs of his community. UNDP Sudan/Staff.

CMCs can also play a valuable role in connecting communities with the private sector, creating employment opportunities, and serve as a strong coordination body, particularly with partners, supporting the humanitarian, peace and development nexus.

Finally, they offer a powerful tool for national peace efforts, providing a local organization for national activities to connect with, source feedback from, and work through.

For Sudan’s transition to succeed, supporting stability at the community level is vital, and this is only possible with local ownership. While CMCs are a good tool, they are just one solution for what is required – a sensitive and localised approach to local development, connected to national peace efforts.

In 2020, UNDP’s stabilization efforts supported half a million conflict-vulnerable people, creating 55,000 seasonal jobs and over 6,000 hectares of farmland for refugees, returnees, IDPs and local communities. Who better to chart the course of that development and stabilisation than community members themselves?


Peace and stability are essential for development in Sudan. That makes them UNDP’s top priority. Our approach provides support at national, state and local levels, combining efforts to address conflicts and their root causes. We aim to improve access to basic services, employment and fulfilment of essential needs for people all over the country. Additionally, we implement peacebuilding initiatives and provide conflict mediation to address problems when they occur. In 2020, UNDP supported half a million of Sudan’s most conflict-vulnerable people through stabilization projects.