2004 SUD: Evaluation of the Grassroots Peace-building Project
Author: Thomas, E.
Initially, peace-building activities were part of the Education and Information, Communications and Advocacy (ICA) sections. In 2000, UNICEF established a new Rights, Protection and Peace-building (RPPB) section that took over these activities. The project was thus thematically and financially linked to a particularly diverse RPPB programme that includes urban and conflict-related child protection, human rights promotion and mine-risk education. The project was the first attempt to set objectives and indicators for peace-building. Its main objectives were to reduce grassroots or second-tier conflicts, to promote a rights-based framework for peace-building for UNICEF and its partners in Government and civil society, and to mainstream peace building in UNICEF’s work.
The reference to “grassroots” or “second-tier” conflict-reduction signified that the project would not work on the main North-South conflict, but focus on local contests over local power or resources. These lethal, impoverishing conflicts are the immediate context for the denial of many children’s rights in Sudan. Because the conflicts are meshed in much-manipulated local societies, economies and ethnic identities, they are sometimes bewildering for the outsider. UNICEF’s project started with the assumption that some of these conflicts could be understood through research, isolated from the main conflict, and – with the support of local and national authorities – reduced. “Conflict reduction” involves working with some unfamiliar partners in Government, and modern and traditional (or tribal) civil society. It means working with an eclectic mix of interventions. These interventions included peace festivals, radio messages, football games for soldiers, workshops on negotiating skills, and meetings and conferences that aimed at reinstituting traditional, tribe-based reconciliation systems.
The evaluation was commissioned in preparation for UNICEF’s Mid-Term Review in 2004. The evaluation examines the differences that the project has made in the Government, UN agencies, civil society and communities in conflict areas. It asks questions about:
- Project design: were planned activities and strategies appropriate to objectives?
- Project effectiveness: did the project progress towards its objectives of reducing conflict and mainstreaming peace-building? What indicators measured that progress?
- Project management: did the structures and systems of the project contribute to its effectiveness?
Lessons learned: what project functions could be developed for further work? Recommendations, at the end, come in the form of three options for project development.
The evaluation began with a review of literature on conflict and peace-building in Sudan and the principles of peace-building in the United Nations system, then a review of project documentation and budgets. Interviews and group interviews were the only method of field research; this method was appropriate to a small, complex project that required multiple qualitative measurements. There was a general preference for individual or small group interviews. Most interviews sought to establish project participants’ views of progress towards peace, and the role of the project in facilitating or obstructing that progress. In Khartoum, interviews were conducted with Government counterparts, representatives of donor Governments, UNICEF section heads and staff in country office; with UNDP staff working on peace-building, a journalist, academics and NGO staff involved with or informed about the project, and a tribal chief visiting Khartoum. Evaluation field visits took place in Omdurman displacement camps (Dar al-Salam, Wad al-Bashir), Kordofan (El Obeid, Dilling, Kadugli, Demeik, Katcha); Upper Nile (Malakal, Canal, Adong) and Bahr al-Ghazal (Wau town and East Bank settlements). Interviews and group interviews were conducted with the following groups:
- Displaced children and child musicians not involved in the project (Omdurman)
- Young, educated people involved in the project and other young people (some with less education) not involved in the project (Kadugli, Malakal, Wau)
- People attending village public meetings (Katcha, Demeik), cultural group members (all areas)
- Members of CFCI Community Development Committees (all areas)
- Academics (Dilling), media workers (Wau, Malakal) and teachers involved in the project (Kadugli, Wau)
- Dance group members (Wau)
- Men and women (interviewed separately) living in IDP camps in Omdurman and in project areas of operation elsewhere, some of whom were involved with the project (all areas)
- Women NGO and CBO leaders (all areas), and a woman cultural leader/poet or hakkama (Kadugli), some of whom were involved in the project
- Chiefs involved in the project, chiefs committees, and public meetings of chiefs (all areas)
- Representatives of churches and NGOs working on peace-building (all areas)
- Representatives of international peace-keeping operations (Kadugli and Malakal)
- Field staff of UNICEF, WFP, FAO and OCHA (all areas)
- State governors' offices (all areas), state officials of Ministries of Social and Cultural Affairs (all areas), Education (Wau and Kadugli), Health (Malakal), Humanitarian Affairs (all areas), and officials of local Government (Malakal).
Findings and Conclusions:
In spite of these considerable design and measurement difficulties, the project has made significant progress. Its first objective aimed to reduce conflict, and six of the 11 conflicts targeted by the project have reduced in intensity or been resolved. The project’s intellectual energy, financial resources and human commitment all contributed to this result. However, the project’s focus on conflict-reducing tribal agreements between tribal elders means that young people and children are, unintentionally, excluded from substantive participation in the project. Focusing on a limited number of conflicts made the project more manageable, but did not avoid the problem of attribution: tribal agreements are the outcomes of a confluence of events, not all of them within the project’s control. Finally, the project’s targeting approach is potentially dangerous: it means the project can overlook less visible conflicts, and it may allow warring parties to direct UNICEF only towards conflicts that they want to resolve.
Project outcomes in the area of conflict-reduction are much easier to describe and evaluate than project impacts. The project developed original research on localised or “second-tier” natural resource-based conflicts, linking them to rural politics (tribes) and rural economics (farming and herding, land and water). They used community development techniques to apply this knowledge to plan service provision, support people to build negotiation skills, and bring tribal leaderships together. Applied knowledge – often the most difficult kind of knowledge – is the project’s big achievement.
Successful project outcomes did not, however, include “[promoting] the application of a framework for rights-based peace building” required in its second objective. Instead, the project used an astute research piece, along with workshops and networking, to achieve consensus between an exceptionally diverse group of stakeholders on the meaning of grassroots peace-building. This consensus allowed committed stakeholders a space to address local conflicts. Progress on the third objective – mainstreaming within UNICEF – was patchy. Several field office staff have taken up the project enthusiastically – it offers ways to understand and act more effectively. Most sections have some funded activities in support of peace, but conflict analysis and local community peace-building activities have been weakly mainstreamed into many other sections of the country office. The structures for mainstreaming – regular forums, monitoring systems for budgets and planning – do not exist for peace-building.
Project implementation rates and project funding declined over the course of the project, because of confusion about the peace process and insufficient capacity building. Project review systems identified problems, but responses to identified problems were weak, partly because of lack of funding. Nevertheless, UNICEF is highly respected by other actors in a difficult field of operations.
Recommendations are presented as three options at the end of this report; the project could combine any of the below proposals:
- The project could continue to work on conflict reduction, but it should then reformulate its objectives towards clear outcomes.
- The project can be adapted to work on child protection networks, using its applied knowledge of how rural Sudanese society is changing, and helping children and young people monitor children’s rights and reintegration.
- The project could help children and young people monitor how customary law governing children and women’s rights in South Sudan is developed and implemented. Understanding and influencing legal practice is usually much more important than influencing legislation.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
The evaluation came up with a number of insights into work with tribal structures that could be useful for future programming. Almost every informant saw tribes as the future of rural Sudan. Tribes will most likely be the local framework for claiming or enjoying rights in rural Sudan for the next ten years at least. In many areas, they – more than Sudan’s impoverished system of decentralised ministries – will manage much of the transition from relief to rural development. They will define what vulnerability means locally. They are already providing support for spontaneous IDP return in many areas, often with no financial resources. They will be expected to provide land and livelihoods for many demobilised soldiers, absorb alienated or abused children who have had to leave their homes, deal with orphanhood and other, more unfamiliar, forms of child separation. Finally, tribal or customary law will play a decisive role in the legislative development of South Sudan. Tribal leaderships preside over primary courts, which interpret and enforce the areas of that law that affect children most: family law, juvenile justice and (to a lesser extent) land law. This project could be adapted to help UNICEF understand these crucial processes – processes that make up a protective environment for children.
The project’s strengths – its ability to learn and apply learning about local societies, politics and economics – will be vital in helping UNICEF develop its work in Sudan. But the project can also choose to address a major weakness: it is not open to young people and children. It focuses its attention on the male elders who lead tribes and conclude peace agreement: it does not look at how tribes manage internal conflicts between old and young, or between men and women. Such representation issues will be crucial for the way that different tribes manage the return of children associated with fighting forces, alienated children from Khartoum, or the marriages of returned abducted girls. The project could easily be adapted to address these issues, and involve young people in developing networks for the protection and participation of young people who have nearly all lost out because of war.
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