Refugees as agents of peace
The project in brief
East Africa (Uganda and Kenya)
This ongoing project began in 2018, but earlier for some partner organizations.
The participating organizations understand that refugees have power to help address the root causes of their own displacement. Therefore, refugee response programming should engage and support refugees to take up this role. We believe that refugees can contribute to peace-building while outside of the country, and that by learning to live together peacefully while in refuge, they will also be better prepared to support sustained peace whenever they may return to their country of origin. Oxfam International, as part of a group of international non-governmental organizations and refugee-led organizations, seeks to empower refugees to be their own agents of peace.
To support and run programs where South Sudanese refugees in particular have an opportunity to learn about and engage with the national peace processes.
To improve social cohesion within South Sudanese refugee communities, particularly across the ethnic and political divides that are at the heart of the conflict in South Sudan and trigger violence even within refugee communities.
ICAN South Sudan music video, refugee children singing for peace, Bidibidi settlement, Uganda
Main activities of the Good Practice
In Uganda and Kenya, there are many ways that young South Sudanese refugees are working to bring an end to violence and promote peace. This includes ensuring that refugees are engaged in the national peace process by raising awareness about the 2018 peace agreement (e.g. through trainings) and sharing information about the status of its implementation (e.g. through radio talk shows).
With support from UNHCR, some even participated in the peace negotiations themselves, with the opportunity to directly address parties to the conflict.
A number of refugee-led organizations are also working to address ethnic and political cleavages among themselves, using tools such as music, dance and theatre; trainings in conflict resolution; community dialogue; trauma healing; and online campaigning and media work.
One partner organization (IRRI) has engaged in analytical research that describes concerns with inter-refugee relationships.
Action for People in Need Organization (APINO) refugee-led organization
Community Action for Transformation (CAFOT) refugee-led organization
Dynamic Action for Peace and Rehabilitation (DA4PR) refugee-led organization
I CAN South Sudan refugee-led organization
Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT), refugee-led organization
Global Refugee-led Network (GRN) refugee-led organization
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) INGO
Oxfam, YSAT, CAFOT, DA4PR video on South Sudanese refugees engaging in peacebuilding
Challenges and how they were overcome
Some challenges faced include:
1) Refugee-led organizations struggle to receive adequate funding.
Solution: Campaigning and use of social media to raise awareness about the importance of the work done by refugee-led organizations and to rally more financial support from INGOs and UNHCR.
2) Peace processes are inherently political in nature and refugees are usually discouraged from engaging in national “politics.” This leads to some self-censorship and uncertainty about legitimate/permissible ways for refugees to contribute to national peacebuilding.
Solution: Engaging with host government authorities to emphasize objectives of peacebuilding, encouraging presence of authorities in activities to ensure their understanding of the nature of work.
3) Because there is a deep ethnic/political distrust among South Sudanese communities, refugees hoping to promote peace sometimes encounter suspicion when they try to reach across ethnic/political divides and bring different groups together.
Solution: Carrying out risk assessments, thoughtfully designing presentations and engagements to build community trust.
Results of the Good Practice
Tensions and distrust among refugee communities has reduced.
Refugees are more aware about and engaged in national peace processes.
Refugee youth are actively involved in addressing the causes of their displacement.
Ensure programming spreads and deepens.
Initiate similar programming in Gambella, Ethiopia and in Sudan where tensions amongst South Sudanese communities and between them and host community are particularly deep.
News story about IRRI and YSAT school debates about conflict dynamics between refugees, Rhino settlement, Uganda.
Elizabeth Deng, Regional Rights in Crisis Policy and Advocacy Coordinator—Horn, East and Central Africa Region, Oxfam International