The need of putting people at the centre of humanitarian and development efforts is widely acknowledged and emphasised. Yet, “activities [so far] are not enough to be transformational in the sense of the Participation Revolution, a pillar of the Grand Bargain that aims to establish aid recipients’ influence in decision-making. […] There are variations between countries but our findings show that depressingly high numbers of affected people do not believe they have much of a say.” (Humanitarian Practice Network [HPN], Everyone’s doing stuff but nobody’s accountable – will Grand Bargain 2.0 set us right?).
At JIPS, we are committed to supporting partners to engage displaced and displacement-affected communities in the data collection process to ensure the data and analysis best reflect their experiences and what they need or want. This is specifically important at the stages of data collection, analysis and action plan formulation, to avoid making assumptions on their behalf that are detached from their lived realities, and to ensure the data translates into concrete, coordinated action and tangible solutions that are in line with their priorities.
In this article, we discuss what this means in practice by looking at how the collaborative process implemented under the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) Sudan was shaped to engage displacement-affected communities to validate and prioritise the findings from the ongoing durable solutions profiling, and how this then laid the foundation for the crafting of action plans.
Read on for a summary of the process or click through the below slide deck to get a snapshot. For more on the durable solutions analysis process in Sudan, also check out our previous articles on the scale-up of the previous exercise in El Fasher, the collaborative platform and the pre-fieldwork missions and village sketching ahead of the survey implementation.
JIPS has been supporting government actors and humanitarian, development and peacebuilding partners in Sudan since 2016 in their efforts to inform and plan for durable solutions for internally displaced people. Two durable solutions analyses are currently underway: one under the PBF, led by UNHCR and the PBF agencies (composed of UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, UN-Habitat, FAO and IOM), with technical guidance from the Durable Solutions Working Group Sudan; and the other carried out under the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and led by UNHCR.
Following the completion of data collection and preliminary analysis (December 2020 – March 2021), community consultation sessions were carried out. Piloted in Tawila, the approach was then rolled out to the remaining seven localities and all population groups in focus of the PBF exercise. These consultations were pivotal not only to ground-truth the analysis, but also to increase transparency on how the data collected was going to be utilised, and to enable communities’ co-ownership of their locality action plan.
“Nomads welcomed the notion of the community sessions and were happy to participate in the session as they are usually ignored. It was their first time to take part in such an activity.”
– Feedback from Dr. Adam Ahmed Suliman Sabill, SUDIA’s facilitator on the community session in Yassin, East Darfur
More specifically, the objectives were first to report back to communities to validate the analysis results to ensure they reflect lived realities. Second, for communities to prioritise and rank the most important barriers to reach durable solutions to displacement, to feed into the action plan for their locality. Third, to capture local communities’ vision for solutions and how the action plans would enable them to achieve those.
The community sessions organised in each locality brought together between 25 and 35 participants across different age and sex groups. The preparation and implementation of the sessions was a true collaborative effort: at JIPS, we developed the qualitative and interactive tools for the validation of the results with all stakeholders, including the displacement-affected communities, returnees, local government and profiling partners.
We then conducted three remote training events on the facilitation approach and tools with SUDIA’s team, who was in charge of facilitating the community sessions with support from UNHCR and funding from UNDP. SUDIA is a Darfur-based non-governmental organisation, who had already supported qualitative data collection and preliminary analysis. Their well-established expertise in conflict and displacement dynamics in the region, paired with a solid network of local authorities and stakeholders, were key in this context.
In the design of the community consultation process, we placed particular emphasis on shaping the approach in a way that would ensure that community members with diverse literacy levels, means of livelihood and age groups, are given the chance to engage in a “locality-level” dialogue. For instance, we developed a set of cards utilising illustrations as well as simple local phrasing, to make the analysis results accessible to community members. The cards were individually adapted to the different population groups targeted in each locality (IDPs, returnees, non-displaced, nomads), while the community sessions were further split into subgroups by sex to identify potential differences.
Another example is the drawing exercise that was used to understand the communities’ aspirations for solutions. Drawing had already proven useful in the earlier stages of the exercise, when we tasked field focal persons to visualise the geographical locations in focus (see our related article on the village sketching): it had helped not only to get a better sense of the local displacement context, but also to further connect and nurture dialogue with local communities.
Community sessions in different localities in focus of the exercise. © Dr. Adam Ahmed Suliman Sabill, SUDIA. April 2021.
Following the community sessions in Tawila, UNHCR and UNDP led a two-day workshop with state- and locality-level authorities, locality-level UN lead agencies, NGOs and community focal points. The aim was on the one hand, to jointly elaborate concrete action plans for Tawila based on the identified priorities and sequencing by communities, and on the other, to explore synergies for program implementation and dissemination. It also served to pilot the approach with the aim to fine-tune it jointly with partners for replication in the other seven localities.
JIPS supported through developing the tools and material for the action planning workshop and organised several sessions with SUDIA, UNDP and UNHCR – who were in charge of facilitating the action plan workshop – to streamline the approach and facilitation of the sessions.
“Facilitating the translation of analysis into actionable priorities is a strategic priority for JIPS. We are happy to be working with Sudan partners and local authorities to design action plans that address community priorities and provide a roadmap and concrete steps towards solutions that aligned with other ongoing projects in the same area.”
– Ola Samarah, JIPS
At its current stage, all of the durable solutions and baseline analysis has been completed and the reports are available for all eight localities in focus of the exercise. The action planning approach has been consolidated on the background of the Tawila pilot and JIPS will be working closely together with UNHCR as PBF lead agency on durable solutions as well as the respective UN lead agencies in the different Darfur states to organise and co-facilitate the remaining action plan workshops over the coming weeks.
The thematic briefings with the consolidated profiling results and the online story map are expected for autumn 2021. At JIPS, we are also supporting UNHCR and PBF agencies as well as DSWG partners to further engage authorities to own and implement these action plans so that the data collected is effectively turned into action.
In addition, the exercise undertaken under the CERF and led by UNHCR is in full swing. Focusing on ten localities, including urban areas, the data collection exercises build directly on the durable solutions analysis approach piloted in El Fasher in 2019 and now refined under the PBF Sudan in 2020-2021.
Stay tuned to hear more from these exercises! While each of these efforts is aimed to inform programming, they have the potential to inform and support the implementation of the national-level strategy and response towards durable solutions in Darfur.