Against this backdrop, in 2018, UNDP initiated a Joint Peacebuilding Project with UNICEF dubbed - The Sustainable Returns and Peacebuilding through Durable Solutions and Rule of Law in Golo Project aimed at enhancing the peace and stability in the area; thereby creating an enabling environment for sustainable return and reintegration of IDPs and ensuring peaceful co-existence among different groups. The project has been implementing a wide range of recovery activities to establish and enhance rule of law, prevent conflict through capacity building of state and non-state actors, and to improve livelihoods, support local economic recovery and basic services for the area’s returnees, IDPs and host communities.
Funded by the UN Secretary General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) at a value of US$ 3 million and jointly implemented by UNDP and UNICEF for the period of 2018 till 2020, the area-based project have so far achieved solid results with strong engagement and acceptance of communities despite the tough environment in which the project operates.
The project started its activities with a baseline survey, in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Development Studies at University of Zalingei, in order to guide its interventions. The survey revealed a poor perfection of the formal justice and rule of law institutions by the community members. According to the survey, 83 percent of the community members trust the informal justice system led by the community leaders, while only five percent trust the formal courts and five percent trust the police; 29 percent reported having been involved in a land-related communal conflict in the last twelve months. Based on these findings, the project further customized its interventions to ensure relevance to the prevailing gaps and amplify benefits.
The survey was met with approval by members of the community. "We have never had anyone coming to Golo asking us of our needs on improving security, livelihoods and basic services, since our displacement!" – says Ahmed Mohammed Fadul, 46-year-old returnee in Golo town, expressing his gratitude for being interviewed as it was his first time to be asked questions on security, rule of law, livelihood means and the status of basic services in their community.
Stepping stone to peace
As part of its strategy to address the needs for rule of law and local justice mechanisms, the project is constructing physical assets to be owned by Golo community. One of these assets is a Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Center (PJRC) to provide reconciliation, mediation services and legal awareness raising services to the community. For the construction, instead of using bricks that have to be cured by firewood, the project has opted to use stones, abundantly found in the area. The reason - accessing forests for firewood to cure bricks, in an area where ownership of forests is contestable in the absence of proper land registration and regulations, has been a source of conflict between host communities and IDPs as well as a serious protection issue for women who venture into the forests to collect firewood.
The use of stones instead of bricks is a preventive measure to reduce conflict, creating a strong peace incentive for communities due to significant reduction in natural resource-related clashes between host communities and IDPs. This choice by the project has set an example for most Golo households to use the abundant stones in the area to build their houses and therefore reduce environmental risks of deforestation and incidence of conflicts between communities.