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Relative quiet in Darfur: a window for progress in Sudan and eastern Chad

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Right now, productivity is poor or nonexistent. International aid in Darfur and Chad has, understandably, and heroically, devoted resources to the here-and-now of humanitarian projects like sanitation, education, and medical supplies.

But the region needs long-term peace-building, environmental rehabilitation, and economic development assistance.

The well-meaning aid groups are not the groups who should or can provide these next steps forward. In fact, they could actually unintentionally stymie development efforts. Because of their scale, reputation, and organizational muscle, internationalist agencies could crowd out new and potentially effective initiatives.

So who should help Sudan and Chad? Given the scale of destruction in Darfur, rebuilding in the region needs a unique focus. Donor nations and multilateral organizations ought to create a special Darfur development bank that would fund infrastructure projects and nurture interethnic collaboration. Such a bank could be a microversion of institutions like the World Bank or African Development Bank.

Before the crisis, land in Darfur was managed communally. Given the rivalries of the past several years, such collaboration may now be distant. Support should be given to local councils that intimately understand such divisions and can peacefully determine and map title to land.

Such councils already exist. Some were created by the international community to give voices at peace talks to leaders who weren’t warlords. These councils have included Darfur’s various ethnic groups, and women. Unlike most rebel groups, who plunder from their own supporters, they tend to accurately represent opinions of long-suffering residents.

Their power should now be expanded. Similar councils should be created among nomad leaders who renounce violence. Schedules and routes for nomads should be carefully and consensually mapped.

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