Land, Conflict and Humanitarian Action

A new book edited by Sara Pantuliano, Uncharted Territory: Land, Conflict and Humanitarian Action (ODI and Practical Action, November 2009), breaks new ground in addressing the land dimension to crises, including Sudan.
uncharted territory
Land issues, particularly its access, ownership and use, are often central to understanding the dynamics of conflict and post-conflict settings, particularly in contexts of large scale displacement. The issues affect both the choice to return and the prospects for recovery, yet an understanding of these issues is minimal amongst the humanitarian community.

Although there is a growing recognition of the importance of addressing land issues, assistance and programming rarely incorporate sufficient analysis of local land relations, instead focussing on the return and restitution despite the fact that these interventions are often inappropriate for the type of land issues involved.

Through the expertise of longstanding academics and practitioners, this edited volume by the Humanitarian Policy Group attempts to bridge the humanitarian and land tenure divide to highlight their mutually important relationship and instigate a process that seeks to understand how Housing, Land and Property (HLP) issues can and should be practically incorporated into humanitarian responses in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The book is divided into three parts:

* Exploring the theoretical nexus between land, conflict and humanitarianism;
* Discussing the architectural challenges for a more integrated response; and
* Presenting the findings from selected case studies undertaken during the research project. These include Angola, Colombia, the Great Lakes Region, Rwanda and Sudan.

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2 thoughts on “Land, Conflict and Humanitarian Action

  1. Nyala Case Study
    at the ODI 18 February 2011

    I was one of those who attended the presentation on 18 February 2011, the report “Urbanisation and Vulnerability in Sudan – Nyala Case Study” at the Overseas Development Institute. It was moderated by Dr. Sara Pantuliano. Participants were: Susanne Jaspars, Margie Buchanan Smith and El Khidir Daloum.

    In my comments, I described the report as “very impressive,” It was based on extensive field work in Darfur, involving several Sudanese Research assistants (who help overcome the language barrier and the in-built suspicion of the motives of the Khawajat).

    The report quoted and referred to government documents and plans. It had relevant tables and statistics as well as a map. Last, but not least, the panel included a Sudanese citizen who comes from the Nyala area and who had relatives there. All these are quite refreshing factors, very different from other half-baked and politically motivated reports that are seen by us Sudanese as mere cogs in the well oiled and orchestrated anti-Sudan campaign. The report is quite balanced because it acknowledges openly that: “Responding to such a rapid pace of urbanization would be challenging in any context”
    While The Report is impressive, it is not necessarily perfect or complete. It is by its very nature-transitional; analyzing an on-going and developing situation. Most of the recommendations will probably have to be revisited soon, depending on the negotiation in Doha.

    Some points, however, require a closer look.

    The report claims that “Government policy is confusing and inconsistent.” This is unfair to Sudan which faced major upheavals on two fronts: the South and Darfur. Websites, radio stations and several organizations were set up in order to destabilize the country. The challenge was not only “urbanization” which was a result or symptom; but upholding sovereignty, the system of governance and rule of law in Darfur.

    Inconsistent is an inaccurate description; because the report seems not to give enough weight to many factors informing the government’s position. These include the FACT that returning the IDPs to their original villages is not only a government goal, it is what the IDPs called for, and what Abdul Wahid (putting on weight in Paris and Tel Aviv) kept repeating to the queue of emissaries who visited him and tried to persuade him to join the Doha negotiations.
    The international Community too has repeated it.

    The government is of course, aware of the arguments quoted in the report that most young people might not want to go back to their rural past. That is why the government’s practice included in HAC’s offer to the IDPs to be resettled if they give up their IDP status and cards (as the report notes p.17). 1800 plots were distributed.

    Moreover, one of the report’s shortcomings is the failure to visit or discuss the “controversial model village programme”. Eight such villages were constructed near Nyala (with Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Conference, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and China). They are not “controversial”. Their sustainability is beyond doubt, because they are part of a whole strategy that includes reconciliation, development and compensation and aims to involve and engage the IDPs.

    What the government strategy openly and rightly tries to avoid is for the IDP camps to become “permanent” as festering wounds and an impediment to a peaceful solution of the crisis. Tony Blair (no less) has written in his memoirs that some NGOs do not like to admit improvement in crisis situations because they would “put themselves out of business” if they do so.
    The IDP camps are centres of crime, where family values collapsed. Kalma camp had a history of violence. In 07 “15,000 Zaghawa and Massalit IDPs were “cleansed” from the camps by an organized militia of young Fur and Dadjo (according to Fabrice Weisman of Doctors Without Borders).

    The report’s reference (p.25) to the “non-traditional” donors is very unfortunate. The “traditional donors” of the decaying world order have a role to play; but the world is changing. China, the Arab League, the OIC are involved in “major infrastructure projects” that fit the Sudan government’s long-term strategy. The “traditional donors” came up against a government in Sudan without Tunisian or Egyptian style subservience. They had better learn to live with such governments in the future too after the collapse of the docile and compliant rulers in the region.

    To conclude, there is a repeated reference to the 13 NGOs that were expelled. This matter has been settled satisfactorily on different levels. The expulsions were a result of interference (including boasting of ICC-gathering roles). Sudan acted within its rights as a sovereign state.

  2. Khalid, Thank you for your informative posting on the February 18th presentation. Do you know if the report: “Urbanisation and Vulnerability in Sudan – Nyala Case Study” is available on line?

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