This event marked the launch of the new USIP Special Report, “Civil Society in Darfur: The Missing Peace.” The report authors examine the structure and composition of Darfuri civil society and discuss how civil society has been engaged in the Darfur peace process to date. In this panel discussion the authors summarized their findings and made recommendations for how civil society can play a productive and appropriate role in the peace process for Darfur going forward.

New USIP Report Examines how Civil Society in Darfur could Bring Peace to the Region

Although the crisis in Darfur, Sudan continues, there are concerns the international community is preoccupied with the upcoming January 2011 North-South referendum vote and may begin to neglect peace efforts in Darfur. While conflict still exists, greater civil society involvement could help address some of the region’s unrest and contribute to a peaceful resolution.

The United States Institute of Peace held an event on September 21 to launch the recently published Special Report, "Civil Society In Darfur: The Missing Peace," written by Theodore Murphy, from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and independent researcher Jérôme Tubiana. The report examines the structure and composition of Darfuri civil society and discusses how civil society has been engaged in the Darfur peace process to date. The authors presented the report to an audience that included the Darfuri diaspora, many who participated via webcast. USIP’s Jon Temin moderated the question and answer session.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in Darfur with the civil society process,” said Murphy, who expressed concerns that further civil society involvement in the peace process might be put on hold until after the North-South referendum, scheduled for January 2011. “There is a worry that the good work in Darfur will subside.”

According to the authors, civil society is composed of voluntary civic and social organizations that together form the basis of a functioning society, rather than social organizations sponsored by the state.

As a mediation specialist, Murphy has worked in humanitarian aid, human rights, regional analysis and mediation in the Horn of Africa. Tubiana is a consultant specializing in Darfur, Sudan and Chad and has written various articles and books on the region. Both summarized their findings and made recommendations for how civil society can play a productive and appropriate role in the peace process.

Although the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in Abuja in May 2006, unrest in region continues. Since the DPA, many commentators have advocated civil society as an important component of a possible solution to the violence and unrest. This year, peace talks have taken place in Doha between the government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a coalition of some of the many rebel groups.

While it is unclear at this point whether the Doha process will result in a peace agreement, Murphy and Tubiana agreed that the involvement of the Darfuri people, including the Darfuri diaspora and local civilians, should be included in the process to make these or other negotiations viable.

One of the difficulties of trying to understand civil society and implement it in Darfur is that it looks very different in Darfur than it does in other countries, Murphy noted. The report defines civil society for the purpose of peacemaking in Darfur as “a loosely defined concept,” which “offers mediators the chance to engage with actors who wield real power and influence in Darfur but who are not government officials or rebels.”

Tubiana said one of the goals of civil society engagement is to get influential people in the community involved and communicating with the government. By gathering a variety of people from different tribes and backgrounds, it is his hope the government will have more accountability to civilians.

Murphy and Tubiana both expressed concern for the involvement of rebels in civil society talks, because rebels’ concerns often receive so much attention that other, smaller groups’ opinions are neglected or overlooked. While armed groups can often threaten others to accept certain terms through intimidation, civil society engagement allows groups a more representative involvement in the peace process.

In August, the Sudanese government proposed a new plan for increasing security in Darfur, which focuses on returning civilians to their villages. But, the report found any process will be unsuccessful without independent civil society involvement.

“This report is the latest USIP effort to inject new ideas and critical thinking into the Darfur peace process,” Temin said. “The conflict in Darfur has lasted too long and as this report suggests, there is a growing consensus that civil society in Darfur have an important role to play in bringing peace to the region.”

In addition to Murphy and Tubiana’s report, USIP is active throughout Sudan in providing forums for constructive dialogue. In July, USIP’s Jacqueline H. Wilson and Nina Sughrue and the Boston-based, Sudan-registered group My Sister’s Keeper conducted a workshop for women in the city of Juba on peacebuilding and stability. Several Darfuri women participated in this workshop.

USIP’s commitment to supporting civil society processes in Darfur is re-enforced by the findings of the report. The report also supports the notion that while unrest still exists, civil society can increasingly help stabilize a region and play a positive role in resolving conflict.

Speakers

  • Theodore Murphy
    Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue
  • Jérôme Tubiana
    Independent researcher
  • Jon Temin, Moderator
    U.S. Institute of Peace

Explore Further

  • Read USIP Special Report "Civil Society In Darfur: The Missing Peace."

New USIP Report Examines how Civil Society in Darfur could Bring Peace to the Region

Although the crisis in Darfur, Sudan continues, there are concerns the international community is preoccupied with the upcoming January 2011 North-South referendum vote and may begin to neglect peace efforts in Darfur. While conflict still exists, greater civil society involvement could help address some of the region’s unrest and contribute to a peaceful resolution.

The United States Institute of Peace held an event on September 21 to launch the recently published Special Report, "Civil Society In Darfur: The Missing Peace," written by Theodore Murphy, from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and independent researcher Jérôme Tubiana. The report examines the structure and composition of Darfuri civil society and discusses how civil society has been engaged in the Darfur peace process to date. The authors presented the report to an audience that included the Darfuri diaspora, many who participated via webcast. USIP’s Jon Temin moderated the question and answer session.

"We’ve made a lot of progress in Darfur with the civil society process,” said Murphy, who expressed concerns that further civil society involvement in the peace process might be put on hold until after the North-South referendum, scheduled for January 2011. “There is a worry that the good work in Darfur will subside.”

According to the authors, civil society is composed of voluntary civic and social organizations that together form the basis of a functioning society, rather than social organizations sponsored by the state.

As a mediation specialist, Murphy has worked in humanitarian aid, human rights, regional analysis and mediation in the Horn of Africa. Tubiana is a consultant specializing in Darfur, Sudan and Chad and has written various articles and books on the region. Both summarized their findings and made recommendations for how civil society can play a productive and appropriate role in the peace process.

Although the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in Abuja in May 2006, unrest in region continues. Since the DPA, many commentators have advocated civil society as an important component of a possible solution to the violence and unrest. This year, peace talks have taken place in Doha between the government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a coalition of some of the many rebel groups.

While it is unclear at this point whether the Doha process will result in a peace agreement, Murphy and Tubiana agreed that the involvement of the Darfuri people, including the Darfuri diaspora and local civilians, should be included in the process to make these or other negotiations viable.

One of the difficulties of trying to understand civil society and implement it in Darfur is that it looks very different in Darfur than it does in other countries, Murphy noted. The report defines civil society for the purpose of peacemaking in Darfur as “a loosely defined concept,” which “offers mediators the chance to engage with actors who wield real power and influence in Darfur but who are not government officials or rebels.”

Tubiana said one of the goals of civil society engagement is to get influential people in the community involved and communicating with the government. By gathering a variety of people from different tribes and backgrounds, it is his hope the government will have more accountability to civilians.

Murphy and Tubiana both expressed concern for the involvement of rebels in civil society talks, because rebels’ concerns often receive so much attention that other, smaller groups’ opinions are neglected or overlooked. While armed groups can often threaten others to accept certain terms through intimidation, civil society engagement allows groups a more representative involvement in the peace process.

In August, the Sudanese government proposed a new plan for increasing security in Darfur, which focuses on returning civilians to their villages. But, the report found any process will be unsuccessful without independent civil society involvement.

“This report is the latest USIP effort to inject new ideas and critical thinking into the Darfur peace process,” Temin said. “The conflict in Darfur has lasted too long and as this report suggests, there is a growing consensus that civil society in Darfur have an important role to play in bringing peace to the region.”

In addition to Murphy and Tubiana’s report, USIP is active throughout Sudan in providing forums for constructive dialogue. In July, USIP’s Jacqueline H. Wilson and Nina Sughrue and the Boston-based, Sudan-registered group My Sister’s Keeper conducted a workshop for women in the city of Juba on peacebuilding and stability. Several Darfuri women participated in this workshop.

USIP’s commitment to supporting civil society processes in Darfur is re-enforced by the findings of the report. The report also supports the notion that while unrest still exists, civil society can increasingly help stabilize a region and play a positive role in resolving conflict.

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