Aid in the Big Picture – What will our impact be on Sudan’s transition?
As aid workers in Sudan, we often find ourselves balancing competing crises, with our days dominated by demands from all directions (both contextual and bureaucratic). It can sometimes be difficult to see our cumulative impact on the hugely significant trends underway around us, especially during a time of transition, economic crisis, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the last three months we have spoken to many donors, aid workers, experts, civil society and local stakeholders to gain a better sense of the conflict sensitivity challenges facing the aid sector in Sudan. Many donors and aid workers that we’ve spoken to are often frustrated that they seldom have the time and the mental space needed to take a step back and think – individually and collectively – about the larger, and longer-term impacts of their presence. These impacts can be both deliberate and accidental, positive and negative. Aid can fuel the fires of conflict and perpetuate negative trends, or it can shore up social cohesion, help to create incentives for cooperation, and contribute towards lasting peace.
International aid has played a significant role in Sudan for many decades, and is now integrated into the fabric of its society and economy. It interacts with short-term and long-term economic, political, and conflict dynamics in ways that are often overlooked. The risks associated with providing aid in a politically-contested, conflict-riven context have been well documented in Sudan for many years. The new political space for transition does not remove the challenges, but does offer new opportunities for donors and implementing agencies to develop and adopt more conflict-sensitive practices and policies.
Conflict sensitivity is an approach that seeks to maximise the positive impacts of aid for peace, whilst avoiding unintended harm.
The Conflict Sensitivity Facility (CSF) is a new resource that will work with donors and aid agencies in Sudan to build our collective understanding of the impact of aid, and our ability to reduce unintended harm while strengthening our collective contributions to peace.
With initial funding from the United Kingdom, we will be a resource for the aid sector Sudan, helping to develop the right skills and capacities, sparking inclusive and frank conversations about complex issues, and pooling relevant analysis and learning. With you, we hope to build a diverse community of practice, looking to improve our collective awareness of the contexts we work in and improve our role within them. In doing so, we will amplify voices which can help others to better understand and navigate Sudan’s complex geography, culture and politics, focusing particularly those who know them first hand.
For its first year, the CSF has identified four priority thematic areas with major implications for conflict sensitivity.
- Firstly, we are eager to support localisation efforts, helping international aid agencies navigate the local landscape and understand the power dynamics, whilst supporting national organisations to strengthen their collective analysis, planning and leadership in managing conflict sensitivity challenges
- Second, we’ll work closely with aid agencies to navigate complex and interlinked issues of land, livelihoods and displacement, which are central to historical inequalities, grievances and social norms.
- Meanwhile, the CSF will help aid agencies make sense of how their behaviour, presence, targeting, and approaches interact with ongoing political developments in Sudan as the country undergoes a tentative and fraught transition.
- Lastly, we will help aid workers understand Sudan’s diversity and history of marginalisation and promote the voice, inclusion and leadership of victimised and marginalised groups over aid.
We have a strong set of tools in place, including a new comprehensive research repository, a strong research-to-practice model, facilitating collective problem-solving, providing a range of free short trainings, mentoring opportunities, convening roundtables and events, and finding ways to develop and test new ways to improve the way that aid works.
We’re eager to hear from you and work with you to find practical and tailored solutions to the challenges you encounter, so please reach out to introduce yourselves and join the conversation.
Find out more the Conflict Sensitivity Facility in our About Us section
 Curtis, Devon. Politics and Humanitarian aid: Debate, Dilemmas and Dissension. ODI Humanitarian Policy Group. 2001
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