Reflections: My journey in Sudan

September 28, 2020

My time as UNDP Sudan’s Resident Representative concludes at the end of September. It is my privilege to have served here for a little over five years, my longest posting in a country.

These years have been momentous. It is not often we see such transformative change in a country, and I feel deeply honored to have witnessed the people’s revolution and history-making transition process.

Sudan’s modern history is a living example of struggling development, and a demonstration of what the desire for truth and justice can achieve. Sudan has a unique opportunity to become a beacon of hope and inspiration for all seeking social justice and democracy, particularly among its neighbors. However, the economic decline that ignited the revolution and conditions under which the Transitional Government emerged create mammoth challenges, only exacerbated by COVID-19 and recent flooding.

What I have learned

Trust is key in delivering our work. We cannot deliver effectively without being trusted by all partners. Trust means listening, understanding needs, providing support, building partnerships - and not shying away from providing honest advice, and receiving it. Without trust, our work would not be possible.

Equally, in a rapidly changing context like Sudan, continuous engagement with partners and opinion-leaders is essential - as is working both at the Government level, supporting policy, and at the grassroots level, directly with communities. All are required to make a meaningful contribution during this transition period.

In this way, I am proud of how UNDP developed strong ties with groups across Sudanese society – particularly women, youth groups, CSOs, academia and development partners. Of course, the Government as well. This helped us understand the nation’s views, adapt our work to meet needs, manage challenges, and better provide meaningful contributions. To see this in action, I look to our partnership with the University of Khartoum and other entities in Sudan. Collaborating on a broad range of areas, covering energy, poverty, security and peacebuilding, youth engagement and more as the situation and our focus in Sudan evolves, working with local institutions also provided us superb local expertise, and a chance to build capacity and capability through nationwide projects.

Similarly, as the situation changes, so must we. We cannot be afraid to act on new ideas or support bold and creative thinking. The introduction of our Accelerator Lab has assisted this, but innovation does not belong to one team, it is something everyone must consider. During my time, UNDP Sudan has worked hard to innovate, fund under-supported but necessary projects, and experimented. The film “Iman”, produced by UNDP to prompt discussion on violent extremism, won international awards and is now used as an educational tool in different parts of the world. That is innovation at work. And of course, every innovation attempt provides a learning opportunity and a chance to improve.

Finally, communicating. As UNDP, we are often caught up in the job, but communicating about our work is equally important. Having seen firsthand the people of Sudan’s excitement at progress and solutions achieved in their country, it has been a heady reminder to share what we are doing, creating a space for dialogue and discussion with those we serve. Communicating creates a conversation, and in shaping a New Sudan, all voices must be heard to ensure no one is left behind.

My parting thoughts

On a personal note, it is so, so difficult to bid farewell. Sudan has become my home. Despite my sadness, I move from Sudan with a feeling of accomplishment. Though there is so much not yet done, there is much that we have achieved.

Together we delivered results and impact on several fronts: peacebuilding, stabilization, partnering against violent extremism, rule of law, health, climate change, renewable energy and others. I cannot express how happy I am with the US$25.6m approved recently for Sudan’s first Green Climate Fund project, focusing on climate-resilience for 3.7m people, the result of three years’ work.

Perhaps the area I wish I had made even greater efforts, and see the most potential, is further enhancing the role of women in society – to ensure men and women have an equal role. Our strong ties with women and youth have shown me how powerful the women of Sudan are and how transformative they can be. While the role of women has expanded, much work remains to truly unlock their potential. I will always be proud of our support to the next generation of Sudan’s female Parliamentarians and look forward to seeing their progress from afar.

Similarly, our solar transformation efforts to improve the lives of millions in Sudan is gaining momentum. I hope the “National Solar Fund” we have proposed and continue to work on will assist farmers to improve agricultural productivity, lift millions from poverty, and have a positive impact on the environment as Sudan moves to a low-carbon economy. The potential of renewable energy to address poverty and development in Sudan must be unleashed.

My final thought - we must work seamlessly together, collaborating with all parties towards a common goal. With the transition, humanitarian challenges, and arrival of UNITAMS, the UN family, international partners and the Transitional Government face a complex environment with multiple priorities; working seamlessly together makes us stronger and moves us closer to achieving the nation’s goals. We have a long way to go and will go much further if we remember these words: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”

Of course, any achievements, and my journey in Sudan overall, would not have been possible without the support of our international partners and the friendship of Sudan’s greatest asset – its people. From our UNDP staff, to the wider Government and development community, to all those across Sudan we have served, and continue to serve – thank you. I will treasure my time with the people of Sudan and wish them every success as they work towards the New Sudan they so greatly deserve.

My farewell to Sudan.