Three decades of war and unrest have dominated the Sudanese political and civil scene but the ousting of Omar al-Bashir in 2019 has offered a window of opportunity for a political transition in Sudan. In 2020, significant political gains were made towards achieving peace in Sudan with the signing of a peace agreement in Juba (South Sudan) between the power-sharing government and five key rebel groups. 11 The current signed peace agreement—a product of a Sudanese-led process—aims to address historically root causes of conflict and marginalized populations in Sudan’s conflict zones.
While the political and overall context in Sudan witnessed a historic shift in the last two years, the humanitarian and development aspects have been subject to continuous and significant challenges. Protracted and new displacements continue to be a major issue—as a result of decades of conflict and natural disasters, there are currently approximately 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country and 800,000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries.12 In the context of efforts to build a comprehensive peace and the ongoing UNAMID drawdown, in September 2019 Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok requested that Sudan be declared eligible for the UN Peacebuilding Fund. In his request, the Prime Minister asked that funding be made immediately available in the three priorities areas identified for Darfur; namely, the rule of law, durable solutions, and peacebuilding at the community level.
Durable solutions have to be an integral part of peacebuilding. Peace in Sudan cannot be divorced from durable solutions and thus must tackle the issue of conflict and protracted displacement in Darfur. ‘There is much talk about peace, but you cannot talk about peace in Sudan in isolation from durable solutions for IDPs and the issues of land and compensation. Peace cannot be reached without addressing these issues.’13 The Juba Peace Agreement regards solutions for IDPs as an important element of building peace and establishes durable solutions as a key priority. The agreement looks to resolve the consequences of conflict, such as the safe and voluntary return of IDPs and refugees to their original lands, whilst also paying attention to compensation, development and reconstruction. To support this, the peace agreement contains a protocol that deals with refugee and IDP return with specific attention paid to the situation in Darfur.
Just as durable solutions are integral to peacebuilding, lack of peace is often an obstacle to achieving solutions that are durable. Thus, solutions programming needs to identify the specific challenges and address these with suitable measures. The Juba Peace Agreement acknowledges these linkages and looks to address the root causes of conflict, such as issues of identity, marginalization, the relationship between religion and state, governance, resource-sharing, land issues and social justice.
IDPs living in protracted displacement can contribute to peacebuilding or be an obstacle. In other words, internally displaced persons are both peace and conflict actors. Displacement is highly political in Darfur and peacebuilding that includes IDPs and displacement affected communities are less likely to fail. Hence, peacebuilding and supporting durable solutions for IDPs must go together.14 The Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) portfolio involves programming in all of Darfur’s five states that supports and underpins peace. The programme strategy recognizes that durable solutions for IDPs, the rule of law and local conflict resolution are building blocks for peace but also interdependent. To build peace and support durable solutions for IDPs and returnees, PBF programming pays special attention to addressing the root causes of Darfur’s conflict, thus creating a conducive environment for return and integration of IDPs, strengthening local conflict resolution mechanisms, peacebuilding capacities and the rule of law.
At the request of the Government of Sudan, an integrated political and peacebuilding mission, UNITAMS, has been established pursuant to UNSC Resolution 2524 (2020). UNITAMS and its integrated UNCT partners are mandated to support Sudan in achieving a successful transition. UNITAMS has four strategic objectives.15 The peacebuilding objective provides for support to the implementation of the peace process. It will sustain peace through legitimate and functioning State institutions that provide basic security, protection and services to the population with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.