Workshop on land rights in North Kordofan

The Foundation’s Sudan team continues to reach out to the regions.

In its continued series of workshops in Sudan, the Max Planck Foundation organised a further event in Al Obeid (North Kordofan) from 24-28 September 2022. The project entitled Constitutional Reform in Sudan, which is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, comprises two elements: Assisting the Sudanese stakeholders in the continued constitutional process as well as advising on related legislation and subject matters, such as elections, access to justice, and political parties. Another key topic is that of land rights. This includes the ownership of land, the competition between different forms of land use, and the powers to allocate and administer land. In a society with a population pursuing both, a sedentary/agricultural and a nomadic/cattle-based economy, rights over land have always been crucial for the different groups’ survival. Over the centuries, these groups followed traditional systems of balancing the different interests. However, the advent of a modern, central state and competition over influence, resources, and power threw the hereditary systems off course. Manipulative practices of former governments, the discovery of mineral resources (esp. gold), and the impact of the climate crisis have exacerbated the ensuing conflicts.

The workshop assembled key stakeholders of civil society and authorities as well as the major tribal leaders of the region.  Topics discussed included:

  • the rights of local communities in land allocation, particularly in the context of major investment projects;
  • the right of local communities to a healthy and safe environment, to be respected by investors and watched over by the government;
  • the rights of local communities vis-a -vis the central state in terms of their share of revenues gained from natural resources;
  • the prevention of illegal exploitation of natural resources, be it logging or mining;
  • mechanisms for conflict resolution between pastoralists and farmers.

The participants provided numerous comments as to the existing grievances and required improvements. The Foundation takes all proposals into account when devising further constitutional and legal concepts and reports back to its participants and to key Sudanese stakeholders overall. Such a ‘feedback loop’ constantly refines the ongoing debate. The objective is to contribute to solutions that are both, consensus-based and valid under aspects of international law.

The participants agreed unanimously on recommendations concerning the administration and in particular the administration of land which were transmitted to the Governors of South and of North Kordofan.

Finally, the team submitted, in cooperation with some of its experts, a comprehensive proposal to avoid or to resolve conflict over competing claims to the usage of land to the Governors of South and of North Kordofan. The team has been asked to return to this area for further activities.