Lucy Moore, Senior Policy Advisor and conflict transformation specialist, reports on an innovative Islamic Relief programme that is empowering communities in Sudan.
“I recently travelled to West Darfur to visit two places where integrated programming is helping to prevent and resolve conflict in complex environments – and addressing the basic needs of the community.
“In Darfur, the civil conflict that erupted in 2002 led to the displacement of millions of people. More than a decade later, the area is still considered an ‘emergency situation’ and there remain an estimated 1.7 million displaced people, many of whom have lived in camps for almost a decade.
“In Kerinding II camp especially, tensions between camp residents and local communities have arisen over access to basics such as water, firewood and aid services. Local communities felt marginalised and ignored by humanitarian efforts and violent incidents between the communities were reported.
“In Krenik, armed conflict in the region has seen the destruction of basic infrastructure, leaving communities without access to essential services. Local farmers clashed with nomadic people over access to vital but scarce resources such as water and grazing land – which were being depleted by drought and the impact of climate change.
The tools to live together peacefully
“In both locations our programme is actively providing people with the tools to live together peacefully. Our supportive and sensitive staff supported the development and expansion of reconciliation committees to include all affected communities. Members of the committees participated in training and workshops in dialogue and cooperation, facilitated by qualified professionals from Darfuri peace institutes and universities. Through the training and support for the committees, communities are increasingly using traditional mechanisms to build peace and resolve conflict once more.
“Through meetings and discussions at the specially constructed Community Development and Peace Centres, the communities come together to develop action plans that they support and implement themselves. This includes joint committees that manage access to water and to present their needs to local administration.
“In schools supported by Islamic Relief, we used sports and drama to help children make friends with youngsters from other communities, and to increase understanding of other cultures. Special concerts included plays and songs promoting peace and cooperation performed by women from all communities.
Tackling the causes of the tension
“Islamic Relief has been hard at work tackling the causes of conflict, too. We have constructed more water points for the use of all communities, who are trained to maintain them, and we have extended the health clinic in Kerinding II so it now serves both camp residents and local communities.
“Addressing the long-term needs of women and young people from all groups is essential. We have provided vocational training to create more livelihood opportunities – so more families are able to cover their basic needs.
The great potential of using an Islamic approach
“Islamic Relief strives towards greater awareness of how Islamic principles and approaches can be used in the transformation of conflict. I visited this programme while participants were taking part in a workshop on ‘Conflict transformation from an Islamic Perspective’.
“Throughout my visit participants highlighted to me the importance of shared faith in the transformation of their relationships with members of other communities. They saw how influential this learning can be in encouraging reconciliation and in making sure that reconciliation committees make decisions with wisdom and justice.
“Islamic Relief advocates for a holistic approach to tackling poverty and suffering. This integrated programme provides for the practical needs of the communities based on the priorities that they identify themselves. At the same time, we focus on the sources of conflict and support structures that enable communities to prevent disputes from taking place.
“This programme is a great example of how a coordinated approach to Islamic humanitarianism can empower communities to direct and advocate their own development – even complex and challenging environments.”