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Bridging the divide

Nov 2017

Between July 2016 and June 2017, the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) funded, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) implemented, a project “Improving Livelihoods, Social Peace and Stability” in the contested Abyei Administrative Area (AAA) between Sudan and South Sudan. This project aimed to reduce the rick of natural resource based conflicts and enhance community resilience. The experience and result are a strong case-study on how supporting
livelihoods can be an entry point for community-led dialogue and conflict mitigation and resolution.

The AAA is a grazing hub in which both the Dinka Ngok (affiliated with South Sudan) and the Missiriya (affiliated with Sudan) tribal communities interact, sharing natural resources such as grazing land, pastureland and water. In the past, access to natural resources was regulated by customary laws within the traditional tribal system, which helped to maintain and strengthen peaceful relations between the groups. However, in recent years, natural resources have been a source of confrontation in the AAA, leading to frequent outbreaks of violence. Tension has been exacerbated by an ongoing power struggle at national level between various political groups. A United Nations peacekeeping mission has been mandated to patrol the area to monitor and mitigate any conflicts that may arise.

The project is based on three pillars:

  • Promoting confidence and peacebuilding between the different ethnic groups though improving access to the natural resource base in the area
  • Supporting alternative livelihoods and business initiatives, mainly among youths and women
  • Assessing the natural resources base to promote its efficient utilization and future development

As protracted conflict has kept the community members apart for many years, these activities have helped bridge the divide between them, paving the way to a community-level peace agreement.

Author: FAO/South Sudan