Canadian Charge d’affaires to Sudan H.E. Mr. Salah Bendaoud in a field mission to Gedarif State. Canada has been a huge supporter of the CIDA Climate Change Adaption project utilizing solar energy for irrigation and domestic household usage.

Canada has been one of the largest donors to Sudan in both the developmental and humanitarian fronts.  Canada’s support to Sudan comes in line with it’s guiding values of foreign policy:  independence, defense of human rights  and economic prosperity for all.

In order to achieve these goals,  Canada has partnered with  UNDP Sudan in  various domains such as promoting Climate Change adaption measures, partnering against violent extremism as well as supporting the Rule of Law in Darfur.

We met with H.E. Mr. Salah Bendaoud the Canadian Charge d’affaires to Sudan, as he departs Sudan to his next post to learn  more about Canada’s humanitarian and developmental support to Sudan.

Q. It gives us great pleasure to interview you today ambassador.  Can you give is more insight on your first impressions  about Sudan when you first arrived?

A. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to discuss a few topics with you. This is my third and last year in Sudan, and I am departing in a few weeks. I have to admit this has been an interesting experience for me ; a learning experience as well.

When I landed here in Sudan in 2015, I have to admit I didn't have any idea about Sudan and its people. I was really impressed by what I have discovered. First of all: I was impressed by the people, I think it's the people who make a difference. You know Sudan is extremely rich in terms of diversity, in terms of ethnic groups. I visited Kassala, Darfur, White Nile... etc. and I saw a big diversity of people and traditions. Take Red Sea for instance and its diversity.

I think this is a country that looks like Canada in terms of large territory and secondly, in terms of diversity of religions in Sudan; an important aspect of this society. Diversity of traditions and lands. When you visit the Northren State and Blue Nile you see big differences in landscape, but again it's something really beautiful to discover.

Sudanese are very welcoming people and very friendly. I remember my first Ramadan here and how welcoming people were in terms of stopping cars and inviting people to share their Iftar. That's something unique... I have travelled a lot but I haven't seen this elsewhere so that's very touching.

Sudanese are very resilient as well. They care about their families and their neighbours. It's an interesting aspect of the society.

As I said earlier, my three years in Sudan have been a learning experience. I have made a lot of friends, and I am very sad to leave, but this is the life of diplomats.

Q. I would like you to talk to us about the opportunities and development challenges that you see are present in Sudan:

A. As you know Sudan has gone through challenging times; the economic sanctions and the impact of the several conflicts has impacted Sudan. Darfur is transiting from conflict to peace, to recovery and reconstruction and to the rebuilding of institutions. So, the truth is that they are challenges.

Since the separation with South Sudan, the country has lost a lot of its traditional oil revenues. These challenges should be viewed as opportunities because the government has a plan to shift the economy towards other domains. I think about the mining sector -where Canada is present here in Sudan- and agriculture as well. These two areas have huge potential for development. Obviously, it's going to take a lot of efforts to change the approach to all of this, but I think these problems today are working in favor of Sudan because the Sudanese government has a plan to shift the economy and to revive all these sectors in terms of development.

I think the international community; the EU the UN are shifting their humanitarian assistance towards more development as well and that's also something very important. I believe, humanitarian assistance is important to tackle immediate crisis however, without development, we do not address the root causes of the problems.

The Government of Sudan has the ultimate responsibility for its citizens, but the international community is there to assist too and to work with government to improve the quality of life and provide people with the tools they need to develop themselves. This is what the international assistance is for.  

Obviously challenges are there -you know this is nothing new- a lot of countries in Africa face these challenges but I think there is a goodwill. There is a lot of interest from the international community, especially during the last three years. I think there is a good momentum for partnerships and assistance to develop strategies for the interest of the people of Sudan.

Many opportunities exist. Obviously the international environment is sometimes difficult, but I think Sudan is gifted in terms of water resources, land, diversity of climates and more importantly, Sudan has the human capital. A final point to add is that Sudan is also geographically very well-situated vis-a-vis rich Gulf markets. Therefore, a good strategy is important to look at all these aspects.

Canadian Charge d’affaires to Sudan H.E. Mr. Salah Bendaoud and UNDP Country Director Dr. Selva Ramachandran talking to beneficiaries of the CIDA Climate Change Adaption project in Gedarif State.

 

Q. My next question is about Canada and UNDP’s collaboration for the prosperity of the Sudanese people. How do you see this collaboration?

A. First, Canada believes in peace and prosperity for everybody. We also believe in the UN system and we are strong supporters of the multilateral system. We see the UN and its institutions as means to achieve our Canadian foreign policy.

Canada is an important contributor to the UN system. In Sudan, since I've been here, we have been working closely with UNDP in several areas. I would say the first one is probably the project which UNDP implemented in Gedarif on climate change and adaptation – the CIDA project which was an extremely important project for us- because it has several dimensions. The project is not only about bringing water to people, it's also about bringing security to women and girls.

 

Q. We would like to know more details about the Joint Rule of Law programme, could you please elborate more on the programme?

A. The main reason Canada joined the Joint Rule of Law Programme in Darfur was that we wanted to be part of the rebuilding process and we wanted to show that we were determined to help in Darfur.

Stabilization in Darfur is important and rebuilding capacity is equally important. As you know, the Darfur region suffers from several issues, and criminality is one of them.

The Government of Sudan has taken several initiatives in this regard. One of them is the disarmament which is a very important step to bring peace. The government has the responsibility to create the enabling conditions for people to return to their homes.

Canada wanted to focus on justice and to work with several stakeholders such as the police, prosecution, the courts and the corrections and the local administration to provide them with the required capacities so they can better deliver on their mandates.

Another important aspect in our foreign policy, we is the Feminist policy because everything we do in our international assistance is geared towards the empowerment of women and girls. By bringing water to villages, we help girls to devote their time to other activities such as education which is really important and a determining factor for their future. Therefore, we see these projects as paramount because they bring water and security and we noticed that the water points equipped with solar pumps are becoming a gathering point for communities. Regarding security for women and girls, in the past, they used to walk for long distances to secure water and now they have to go a few meters to obtain it.

We have collaborated with UNDP on other aspects such as fighting radicalization, as it is part of human rights and an important aspect of our foreign policy. I have to commend here the efforts of the Government of Sudan in the field of preventing violent extremism. First of all, to recognize that there was an issue of radicalization in Sudan, and the willingness to cooperate with the international community to tackle the problem is commendable. I also think that the project that was led by UNDP in this regard was remarkable. The study- funded by Canada and Japan- showed the motivations behind radicalization and helped explain the nature of causes within the communities which makes it easier and possible to tackle radicalization issues when we are aware of the reasons.

The findings of the study will help the formulation of an action plan. There was another component linked to this project, which was the film called “Iman”. The film received high scores and was screened in many places around the world. I find that it was a very clever advocacy instrument, telling the story of a few families and members affected by violent extremism.

We have also worked with UNDP on human rights and Canada has provided support to the Sudanese Human Rights Commission to build its capacity. That's also important because human rights are important in our Canadian foreign policy and we see an instrumental role for the Commission for the promotion and protection of human rights in Sudan.

Generally speaking, with UNDP all, our projects are focused on helping the most vulnerable people and people at risk. With UNDP we worked closely to ensure that we are able to achieve concrete results.

Another project of focus is the Joint Rule of Law Programme in Darfur. This was an initiative by a cluster of UN agencies and Canada was the first country to be part of it. We were determined to show that development is possible in Darfur. The rule of law Programme  has proven to be feasible and useful for the community.

This is, in a nutshell a few initiatives that reflect on our partnership with UNDP.

 

Women in Gedarif State used to travel large distances to obtain water for their houses. Now thanks to the Canada supported Climate Change Adaption project this has changed and water is only a few meter away.

Q. Canada's contribution to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is enabling Sudan to combat Climate Change. Can you tell us more about Canada's intervention in Climate Change adaptation in Sudan?

A. Climate change is becoming a global problem. Many countries in the Horn of Africa are facing this problem. This problem has ramifications and we've seen its negative impact everywhere. The flooding in many areas, drought, and desertification which are pushing people to move and migrate elsewhere. We have seen fighting over land and water resources. There is a series of consequences to climate change, and even a country like Canada is impacted by climate change in a different manner than that of Sudan. That's why Canada has allocated up to 2.6 Billion dollars to adapt to the effects of Climate Change.

Canada is working with different partners to provide them with funding like we did with Sudan to mitigate the impact of climate change with special emphasis on empowering women and girls. 

Canada will be organizing in the coming weeks an international conference with the Government of Kenya called “Sustainable Blue Economy Conference” on Climate Change. There will be a number of Heads of States attending this conference. Like many other countries, we believe in the importance of combating Climate Change and finding creative solutions to mitigate its negative impacts.

 

Q. What about the situation in Sudan, what are your views on Climate Change impact on Sudan ?  

A. Sudan is facing the same Climate Change situation as  in Eritrea, Ethiopia, etc. Populations are impacted in the same way. In Sudan, there is goodwill and you can  see that the Government of Sudan is concerned about the impact of Climate change.

Sudan is gifted because of the Nile waters but better management of the Nile waters is crucial for the development of the Sudan.

Therefore, I think it is important for all stakeholders, the Government of Sudan, the local communities, the international community and the U.N. agencies responsible for climate change, to work hand in hand to tackle this problem. I think first of all we need to make sure that we measure the impact of this issue through assessments and studies. The second step is identify priorities and how to assist the populations to mitigate the effect of Climate Change.

Obviously, populations in Sudan are growing which is putting pressure on demands for  food and water. Therefore, the response has to be multidimensional. Educating people, farmers, local decision makers, etc. is part of the approach. Increasing productivity and using new technologies for water usage for food security are also  part of the challenge.

The  need for a comprehensive strategy is paramount. It involves on one hand the Government of Sudan and the various involved institutions and on the other hand the international  community to tackle Climate Change in Sudan.

 

Q. At the end of this interview, I wish to know what are last parting thoughts. What is your vision of the future of Sudan and your inspirations for this country ?

A. Well, As I said earlier, Sudan is in a transitional period. Rebuilding and reconstruction in areas where there have been conflicts and creating secure environment for people to go back home. This not easy, as there are many challenges ahead. It is challenging because of the required investment in infrastructure, security, education and health centers.  I recently read some very good news about the government’s plan to build schools in numerous places.

A shift also from humanitarian assistance to development is inevitable- what is known as the humanitarian development nexus-  to address the root causes that led to conflicts. Development will be the real solution for Sudan’s problems.

Current challenges should be seen as an opportunity to reform the economic sectors and I think the government is working on it. The other aspect that is equally important is investing in education and creating jobs.

In order to create jobs, there is a need to attract foreign investment and a favorable environment for investment. Sudan has huge potential and can compete with other countries in Africa in the mining sector for example. Sudan has the human capital and the strategies to achieve these goals and the international community has the goodwill to assist Sudan in this domain.

Canada will continue it support to Sudan. Canada has been providing humanitarian assistance to Sudan and is one of the main donor countries. We remain committed to Sudan and will continue to support capacity building efforts in all sectors to achieve sustainable development for the benefit of all Sudanese. 

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