Monday, April 16, 2012

Learning from Sudan's 2011 Referendum

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) published in March 2012 a report titled Learning from Sudan's 2011 Referendum by Jon Temin, director of USIP's Sudan program, and Lawrence Woocher, an expert on strategies to prevent violent conflict and mass atrocities.

The report makes the following points:

--Numerous predictions asserted that the referendum on the secession of South Sudan would lead to renewed civil war.

--Despite ongoing violence in many parts of Sudan and South Sudan, the referendum process was largely peaceful.

--It suggested warnings of impending violence were overly dire. (While there was little violence during the referendum, recent events suggest the aftermath is trending towards a more dire outcome.)

--Two prominent narratives explain why the referendum process was peaceful: one that emphasizes domestic factors and another that focuses on international intervention by Africans and westerners. It is highly likely that both contain important explanations for the peaceful referendum.

--People in Sudan and South Sudan tend to emphasize the domestic narrative; members of the international community tend to focus on international engagement.

--Several lessons from global conflict prevention can be drawn from the Sudan referendum experience:
--Preventing conflict in what seems like dire circumstances is possible.
--Coordinated outside actions should support local conflict-mitigating dynamics.
--Technical actions, such as election or referendum logistics, can have a significant positive impact on political processes.
--International actors need to be receptive to taking preventive action.
--Focusing on successes, as well as failures, is critical.

Click here to read the entire report.

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