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2.1 Introduction

Sudan is a federal country as established by the 4th constitutional decree of 1991 (El Harizi et a, 2007) and later by the Interim National Constitution (INC) of the Republic of Sudan of 2005 endorsed after the signing of the peace accord between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The Interim National Constitution specified four levels of governance: the national level, the South Sudan level, the state level and the locality level. With the secession of South Sudan in 2011, only the national, state and locality levels remain. The country is divided into 18 states, each of which is further divided into several localities. The Interim National Constitution defines the relationship between the different levels of governance, as well as the limits of authority of each state and the balance of power between the states and the federal government.

Islamic Law is a major source of legislation in the country. Aspects of customary law – accepted ways of doing things – are also recognized and applied mainly by traditional administrations and tribal leaders. Most rules governing the environment and natural resources, such as those relating to fisheries, game, wildlife, forestry, rangelands and pastures, are based on statutory law (law passed by a legislative authority). Attitudes to these different types of law vary considerably. For example, while customary law is less widely recognized than statutory law, it carries more legitimacy among local communities, especially in relation to land and natural resources.

Environmental governance at both the federal and state levels is the responsibility of multiple institutions and small units that are not closely linked or integrated. The most important federal institution was the former Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development. This ministry was abolished in 2018 and a National Council for the Environment was established. On 30 April 2020 the Transitional Supreme Council endorsed amendments to the Environment Protection Act of 2001 whereby a new Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources was established (Ministry of Justice 2020).

Other key institutions include the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests; the Ministry of Animal Resources, Fisheries and Range; the Ministry of Industry; the Ministry of Investment; the Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity; and the Ministry of Interior.

Environmental governance in Sudan is at a crossroads. Many of the laws governing natural resource management and land tenure have been made irrelevant by the rapid social, economic, environmental and ecological changes in the country over the last four decades, particularly the severe drought of the mid-1980s and the tragic and devastating famine associated with it. Although the Interim National Constitution includes provisions to reform governance structures, the country’s institutions continue to suffer from a lack of coordination and accountability. Furthermore, the central government has steadily been encroaching on the powers of the states, particularly in relation to land, meaning that local interests are not properly represented in decisions about sustainable development. This in turn has made it harder to manage natural resources equitably and heightened the risk of conflict.

Sudan’s internal conflicts are in one way or another all related to land and natural resources. They are exacerbated by the erosion of environmental governance, weak law enforcement, poorly implemented policies and weak institutional arrangements. Good governance in Sudan is seen not only as essential to sustainable development, but also as a path to peace.

The environmental movement in Sudan began in 1975 with the establishment of the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society, the first Sudanese civil society group concerned primarily with the issue of environment (UNEP 2007a). Other groups were formed soon afterwards, including the Environmentalists Society, the Sudanese Social Forestry Society, the Engineering Society, and Al Massar Organization for Nomads and the Environment. Although some Sudanese civil society organizations have gained international and regional recognition, civil society movements are largely urban-based.

2.2 Overarching Policies

Policy is a tool of governance, and governance is the manner in which a society exercises control over its resources. Governance can take place through the state, the market or civil society groups and local organizations, and through a variety of mechanisms such as law, social relationships, property rights and tenurial systems, norms, beliefs, customs, value systems and codes of conduct, as well as multilateral environmental agreements, international conventions and financing mechanisms. Environmental governance relates to the norms, rules and institutions that control the way government, civil society and the private sector regulate the environment (UNEP 2012).

Islamic Laws and the Environment

Sudan partly derives its environmental laws and governance systems from the Islamic Laws and Teachings. Islamic Laws or Sharia in Sudan are mainly applied within the domain of family affairs such as marriage, divorce, theft, adultery, punishment and inheritance. The Qur’an and the Prophet’s teachings, the Hadith, do not explicitly mention the word “environment” in Arabic, but they speak about the “signs” of Allah, linking the creation with divine revelation and seeing the natural world as testimony of Allah’s all-encompassing presence (Khalid 2002).

Islam is seen as promoting reverence for all forms of life, including the fair treatment of non-human species. Religious literature, especially the Hadith, contains an abundance of traditions on this theme. The emphasis in Islamic teaching is on living in harmony and in balance with creation and with Allah who is all-encompassing (Hope and Jones 2014). The Qur’an teaches that humans were given responsibility to act as stewards and custodians of creation, and therefore by extension it is the responsibility of Muslims to protect the environment from disturbance and use natural resources without causing pollution and degradation.

Interim National Constitution

The Interim National Constitution (INC) of 2005 was amended in 2015. Further amendments took place in 2016, 2017 and 2018. As of 17 August 2019, with the signing of the Constitutional Document, Sudan is governed under the Sudan Transitional Constitution 2019.

The 2005 (INC) established a National Legislature composed of the National Assembly and the Council of States. The members of the Council of States are indirectly elected by the State Legislature. The responsibilities of the National Legislature include to assume legislation in all national powers; approve plans, programmes and policies relating to the country and society; approve the annual national budget; and ratify international treaties, conventions and agreements. The function of the Council of States is to introduce and oversee legislation relevant to the states, particularly concerning the decentralized system of government. As well as passing laws, the Council of States is charged with fostering social harmony, endorsing state policies, monitoring the performance of the executive legislature and promoting good governance.

The Interim National Constitution includes guiding principles and directives stipulating that the people of Sudan have the right to a clean and diverse environment, and that both the state and the citizens must preserve and promote the country’s biodiversity. The constitution also takes a strong stand against any policy or action that may adversely affect any species of animal or vegetative life or their habitat. The constitution therefore makes it the duty of the state to promote the sustainable use and management of natural resources.

Federal and state governance

Responsibilities for environmental management in Sudan are divided between the federal and state governments. The federal government has jurisdiction over matters relating to natural resources, minerals and other underground wealth, and trans-boundary waters. Detailed regulations on land, forests, agriculture, livestock and wildlife are the responsibility of the state, but are subject to federal planning and coordination. Environmental issues at state level are dealt with under the custody of the State Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Natural Resources. After the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development was dissolved in 2018, environmental and natural resources administration was assigned in most states to the Ministry of Production and Economic Resources, an umbrella ministry embracing agriculture, industry, mining and investment.

The division of responsibility over natural resources between federal and state powers is laid out in the Interim National Constitution and shown in Table 2.1 below.

Table 2.1: Federal and state powers over natural resources

Federal powers State powers Joint federal and state powers
  • National land and natural resources
  • The management of the Nile, transboundary waters and disputes arising from the management of interstate waters and national protected ecosystems
  • Local Government
  • State land and state natural resources
  • The management, lease and utilization of land belonging to the state
  • Enforcement of state laws
  • Laws in relation to agriculture within the state
  • Pollution control
  • Traditional and customary law
  • Environmental management, conservation and protection
  • Regulation of land tenure, usage and exercise of land rights
  • Water resources other than interstate waters
  • Disaster preparedness, management of relief and epidemics control
  • Pastures, veterinary services and animal and livestock diseases control
  • Urban development, planning and housing

The Interim National Constitution stipulates that government institutions at all levels should not encroach on the power or function of institutions at other levels, and that they should promote cooperation and communication between all levels of government. The constitution also maintains that new legislation on the use of land must take account of customary laws and practices, local traditions and international trends.

In 2015, the Interim National Constitution was amended to allow the presidency to take decisions over land tenure issues, including the sale of land for investment (Government of Sudan 2015). This has complicated the process of devolving decisions about the management of natural resources from the federal government to the states.

Statutory and customary laws

There are numerous federal laws governing the way the environment is protected and natural resources used. Examples include the Land Resettlement Act (1925), the Civil Transaction Act (1984), Forests National Corporation Act (2001), Physical Planning Act (1994), National Water Act (2007) and Range and Pastures Law (2015).

At the state level, there are laws covering water, rangelands, and forests. In the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, natural resources have been at the centre of conflicts, and state laws have been helpful in managing some of the conflicts (Partners in Development Services 2016), as Table 2.5 shows.

Customary law encompasses tribal territorial rights and social customs that were established during successive indigenous kingdoms of pre-colonial Sudan and reinforced through legislative provisions during the British colonial administration. Within the tribal homelands, these rights constituted the collective security of the tribe. They recognized individual rights to use land which could be inherited, though the land would remain under the ownership of the tribe (Shazali 2006).

Under customary law, an individual’s access to land was legitimized through their membership of a village or community. Among pastoralists, access to the rangelands was legitimized through membership of fluid tribal structures which controlled strategic resources, or through negotiated arrangements with village leaders.

The main feature of customary law is that it guarantees every tribal group and village resident access to resources on the principle of “No harm inflicted; no antagonism created” (la darer wa la dirar) (Esen 2017). In other words, you have the right to access and use land, pasture and water provided you do not cause loss or harm to life and property. Such rights are accepted because they are a democratic way to allow people access to land whether they are a tribal resident, a passer-by or a member of a migratory group. This is especially beneficial to the poorest groups, who find representation through their sheikhs or the Nazir (or Emir) of the tribe. Local government administrations are closely tied to these traditional structures, unlike state government departments which are only accessible to wealthy or urban groups.

Although customary laws are not written, they shape the life of the people. They are highly adaptive. Tribal chiefs often meet in conferences where they agree to change an existing practice if it is perceived to be harmful. One example is the abrogation of the Damage Committee System in the conference held in Abyei, South Kordofan, in March 2018, which was attended by representatives of the Dinka Ngok and Misseriya tribes. The system was replaced by the five-person Joint Community Peace Committee, a body of community leaders from the two tribes supported by the UN and NGOs working in conflict resolution. The committee is dedicated to resolving disputes over issues such as cattle raids, grazing areas for cattle and access to water (Radio Dabanga 2018).

Sustainable Development Goals

Sudan’s environmental policies are partly informed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sudan’s government has adopted Agenda 2030 and the SDGs global planning framework. The 17 goals and 169 targets are designed to integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Sudan is striving to incorporate this approach into its plans and strategies at the national and state levels.

Table 2.2: Main differences between customary and statutory laws

Customary Law Statutory Law
Concerns the laws, principles and customs of indigenous peoples and local communities. Created by lawmakers (parliament) and administered through attorneys and judges. It is used throughout the country as a standard.
A rule of conduct established by long usage. Enacted by the legislature. They are almost always prospective, meaning that they deal with broad, future-looking topics.
Established pattern of behaviour that can be objectively verified within a particular social setting. A written law set down by the legislature.
Not codified. Codified law.

The focal point for implementing the SDGs into Sudan’s development agenda used to be the National Population Council, which is working in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Food Programme and the World Bank. The council has drawn up the National Programme for Sustainable Development 2016-2030 and aims to make the SDGs the guiding principle for all development in the country (Government of Sudan 2018). This process will involve all sections of Sudan’s society, including government, members of Parliament, civil society organizations, the private sector, researchers and academics.

The focal point within government for implementing the SDGs is the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.

National goals

To achieve its aims for sustainable development, Sudan has drawn up several goals of its own. These are designed not only to preserve the country’s environment, but also to ensure that global targets such as those in the SDGs and the earlier Millennium Development Goals are supported by national policies. The three national goals that are most relevant to the environment are Zero Thirst, Zero Hunger and Poverty Reduction.

Zero Thirst: The Zero Attash or Thirst programme is a presidential initiative started in 2016 that aims to ensure that everyone in the rural areas of Sudan is within 500 metres of a reliable water supply by the year 2020. The initiative builds on the ongoing water harvesting activities carried out through the Dam Implementation Unit under the umbrella of the Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity. The objectives of Zero Thirst (Hamad 2017) are to:

  • Develop rural areas and water resources away from the River Nile;
  • Enhance livestock and crop production;
  • Mitigate floods, drought and climate change;
  • Settle nomads and pastoralists;
  • Encourage Internally Displaced People to return to their homes;
  • Improve forests and grazing lands;
  • Support national security and promote peace and stability among neighbouring societies.

Zero Hunger: The Zero Hunger project was born out of a consultation between the World Food Programme and the Government of Sudan, which led to the government drawing up an interim country strategic plan (World Food Programme 2019). The objective is to provide long-term solutions against hunger in line with the UN’s SDG 2 (End Hunger).

The Zero Hunger strategic plan identifies land degradation, land tenure challenges and climate change as major contributors to food insecurity in Sudan and recommends prompt actions to deal with them. The strategy also recognizes the potential negative impacts of improved agricultural systems on the environment and recommends preventative measures. The emphasis is on increasing crop yields using improved technologies and inputs, rather than greater use of fertilisers and pesticides which can be damaging for the environment.

Sudan’s Zero Hunger goal will be supported by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) through its Country Programming Framework, which has four priority areas (FAO 2012):

  • Policy development and strengthening of agricultural statistical systems;
  • Enhancing productivity, production and competitiveness;
  • Conservation and development of natural resources; and
  • Disaster risk management.

Poverty Reduction: 46.5 per cent of people in Sudan live below the poverty line (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016). Rural poverty is strongly linked with natural resources since rural communities rely heavily on them for their livelihoods. The deterioration of natural resources leads to land degradation, deforestation and competition over water and pasture. These can result in the displacement of people into urban centres, triggering further environmental deterioration.

In 2012, with support from the World Bank, Sudan produced an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (Government of Sudan 2012), which provided a roadmap for implementing the country’s full Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in 2019-2025. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers are a requirement of the World Bank’s debt relief initiative, in which Sudan is taking part; they contain details of a country’s poverty-reduction plans. The interim strategy is based on four pillars: strengthening the governance and institutional capacity of the public sector; reintegrating internally displaced persons and other displaced populations; developing human resources; and promoting economic growth and employment creation.

Sudan’s progress in implementing the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper was assessed in 2016 by the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (World Bank and Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning 2016). The evaluation concluded that although the interim strategy correctly highlighted the important role of the agricultural sector in reducing poverty, it failed to address the environmental consequences of agriculture and the effects of this sector on natural resources.


Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Sudan has signed and ratified many international conventions, some of which have been domesticated into the country’s national laws. Among the prominent conventions signed by Sudan are the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the associated Paris Agreement on Climate Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity; the Convention to Combat Desertification; the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Table 2.3). The international conventions have influenced Sudan’s domestic policies, especially those policies concerned with environmental issues.

Sudan’s dedication to environmental protection began in the mid-1970s following the desertification and drought that badly affected the African Sahelian States – including Sudan – from 1968 to 1973. Global awareness about the state of the environment and the need for regional and national cooperation received a boost with the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment of 1972, and again with the 1982 Nairobi Declaration on the State of the Worldwide Environment, and in 1987 with the publication of Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development. These events and other regional and international conferences have helped strengthen Sudan’s commitment to the protection of the environment and human health and to sustainable development.

Table 2.3: MEAs which Sudan has ratified.

Agreement Signature Agreement Name Ratifications (or similar)
16/10/1945 Constitution of The Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations  1956
06/12/1951 Rome International Plant Protection Convention 1971
23/10/1956 Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency 1958
20/08/1962 Convention for the Establishment of the Desert Locust Control Organization for E. Africa 1986
05/08/1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water 1966
15/09/1968 African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources 1973
02/02/1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat 2005
23/11/1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1975
10/4/1972 Convention On The Prohibition Of The Development, Production And Stockpiling Of Bacteriological (Biological) And Toxin Weapons, And On Their Destruction 2003
03/03/1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1983
23/11/1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1975
10/4/1972 Convention on The Prohibition Of The Development, Production And Stockpiling Of Bacteriological (Biological) And Toxin Weapons, And On Their Destruction 2003
01/11/1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1990
28/11/1979 International Plant protection Convention 1991
03/03/1980 Convention on The Physical Protection of Nuclear Material 12000
10/12/1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1985
14/02/1982 Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Environment 1984
14/02/1982 Protocol Concerning Regional Cooperation in Combating Pollution by Oil and other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency 1985
22/03/1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 1993
26/09/1986 Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency 1992
16/09/1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 1993
22/03/1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes And their Disposal 2006
30/11/1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation 2015
30/01/1991 Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes Within Africa 1993
09/05/1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1993
05/06/1992 Convention on Biological Diversity 1995
24/06/1993 Constitution of the Centre for Marketing Information and Advisory Services for Fishery Products in the Arab Region 1995
13/01/1993 Convention on the Prohibition of The Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction 1999
18/02/1993 Agreement on the Establishment of the Near East Plant Protection Organization 11995
16/03/1994 Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured Global Environment Facility 1994
17/6/1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification 1995
17/06/1994 Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa 1995
16/06/1995 Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds 1996
10/09/1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (IEA ID# 3249) 12004
11/12/1997 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2004
10/09/1998 Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade 2005
29/01/2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity 2005
03/11/2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture 2002
22/05/2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 2006
11/07/2001 Convention of the African Energy Commission 2006
21/05/2003 World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 2005
22/11/2009 Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing 2016
29/10/2010 Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity 2014
26/01/2009 Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency 2011
12/12/2015 Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2017

Compiled from:

Regional Initiatives

Sudan is a member of river basin initiatives such as the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), and regional and economic communities such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Both the NBI and IGAD are important reference points for some of the country’s environmental policies.

The NBI is an intergovernmental partnership of ten Nile Basin countries, namely Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Eritrea participates as an observer (Nile Basin Initiative 2020). The initiative seeks “to develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples; ensure efficient water management and the optimal use of the resources; ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries, seeking win-win gains; target poverty eradication and promote economic integration; and ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action” (Nile Basin Initiative 2020).

The NBI helps the ten countries that share the Nile to manage the river sustainably and use its resources equitably (Nile Basin Initiative 2012, Lake Victoria Basin Commission and GRID-Arendal 2017). To achieve this, the NBI member states have committed to developing a common policy and strategy under the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework, which includes guidance on the management and assessment of aquatic ecosystems (Nile Basin Initiative 2012). Under the NBI’s Environmental and Social Policy, member countries are required to explain how they will integrate environmental and social concerns in NBI programmes; help Nile Basin countries protect critical environmental resources; and demonstrate commitment to international best practices on the environmental and social management of development activities.

The NBI supports the establishment of “environmental flows”, which are defined as “the water regime provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to maintain ecosystems and their benefits where there are competing water uses and where flows are regulated” (Dyson et al. 2008). To date, among the Nile Basin countries, only Tanzania and Kenya have established flow policies and strategies, while Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia have written general statements and provisions into their respective water policy documents. The only agreement to which Sudan is a signatory that applies explicitly to the river Nile is the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement between Sudan and Egypt.

Table 2.4: Regional and international conventions and national policies highlighted by the Nile Basin Initiative for Sudan

International and regional conventions, treaties and protocols related to water to which Sudan is a signatory Sudan’s national policies, laws and regulations related to water
  1. African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1968)
  2. Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (1971)
  3. Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972)
  4. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973)
  5. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982)
  6. Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985)
  7. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987)
  8. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (1989)
  9. United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)
  10. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994)
  11. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (1994)
  12. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (1999)
  13. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Kyoto Protocol (2005)
  1. Land Settlement and Registration Ordinance (1925)
  2. Land Acquisition Act (1930)
  3. Central Forest Act (1932)
  4. Provincial Forest Act (1932)
  5. Nile Water Pumps Control Act (1939)
  6. Freshwater Fisheries Act (1954)
  7. Water Hyacinth Control Act (1960)
  8. Unregistered Land Act (1970)
  9. Environmental Health Act (1975)
  10. Public Health Act (1975)
  11. The Civil Transactions Act (1984)
  12. Wildlife Protection and National Parks Act (1986)
  13. Forestry Act (1989)
  14. Irrigation and Drainage Act (1990)
  15. Seeds Law (1990)
  16. Environmental and Natural Resources Act (1991)
  17. National Water Policy (1992)
  18. Water Resources Act (1995)
  19. National Water Corporation Act (1995)
  20. Environmental Health Act (1997)
  21. Ground Water Act (1997)
  22. Groundwater and Wadis Directorate Act (1998)
  23. Archaeology Protection Act (1999)
  24. Antiquities Protection Act (1999)
  25. National Water Policy (2000)
  26. Sudan National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2000)
  27. Environmental Protection Act (2001)
  28. Electricity Act (2001)
  29. Forests and Renewable Natural Resources Act (2002)
  30. First National Communication (2003)
  31. National Plan for Environmental Management (2007)
  32. National Adaptation Programme of Action (2007)
  33. National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2007)
  34. Desertification Control Act (2009)
  35. Environmental Health Act (2009)

Source: Nile Basin Initiative 2013

IGAD is a trade bloc made up of eight countries in the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. The region has an area of 5.2 million km2, 60 to 70 per cent of which receives less than 600 mm in annual rainfall. Much of it is arid or semi-arid with very large climate variability (Intergovernmental Authority on Development 2012). The area is increasingly vulnerable to drought due to growing population, changes in land use, land degradation and desertification. With global warming, droughts are expected to become more severe and frequent, and there is an increasing need for drought monitoring and early warning.

In Sudan, as in many parts of the IGAD region, drought and the harsh ecological circumstances, exacerbated by climate change, war and conflict, have created conditions of chronic vulnerability. Extreme poverty, persistent food insecurity, widespread economic hardship and human suffering are common. Sudan’s environmental policies, which are designed to address these problems, are partly informed by the vision of IGAD, including its Regional Platform for Drought Resilience and Sustainability, which aims to provide effective collective action in the management of drought (Intergovernmental Authority on Development 2012).

Natural resources management laws

Sudan’s natural resource management procedures date to the beginning of the 20th century and are linked to the country’s forestry service. In 1902, during the first years of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, the government established the Forests and Woodlands Service, and in 1908 and 1917 issued regulatory acts aimed at conserving nature (Badi et al. 1989). The first formal national forest policy was drawn up in 1932, and in 1935 the Wildlife Act and several national parks were established (Badi et al. 1989).

Over the years, Sudan’s environmental legislation has been implemented on a piecemeal basis and has lacked a comprehensive long-term strategy. There are now more than 150 laws and regulations dealing with health, water supply, land tenure, game, protected areas, fisheries and other aspects of natural resources (Ali 2007). Among the most significant are the Environmental Health Act (1976), the Public Health Act (1975), the Labour Act (1998), the Wildlife Protection Act (1935), the Freshwater Fisheries Act (1984), the Road and Traffic Act (1983), the Natural Parks and Protective Areas Act (1986), the Urban Planning and Disposition Act (1994), the Environmental Protection Act (2001) and the Investment Act (2013).

One of the most recent and important federal laws is the Regulation of Range and Pasture Resources Development Act (2015), which recognizes public range land, private hema (a protected area where grazing is restricted), community-held hema and privately cultivated rangeland. The Act defines and regulates how rangelands are managed. Masarat (passageways) are defined and protected as well as the rational use of pesticides in rangelands.

Table 2.5: Legal frameworks in water and natural resources sectors in the realm of regional conflict areas

State Water Range, Pastures and Forests Remarks
South Kordofan
  • Water Corporation Law
  • South Kordofan Pasture Act 2014
  • The creation of protected pastures is hampered by lack of resources, inability to fence reserved areas.
  • Departmental disagreement over control of pasture administration within different ministries.
  • Successful distribution of pasture seeds by Sudan Peace Building and Development Project and State government and recovery of vegetation cover in many areas.
  • Land use policy, water and public health document
  • Native administrative laws.
  • Livestock Routes document
  • Native Administration law
  • The livestock document was implemented and recognized by different stakeholders.
  • The draft water document was not approved by the public council.
North Darfur
  • Water Corporation Law
  • The organization of agriculture and grazing law
  • Tree shelter belts, and gum Arabic belt development law
  • Native Administration law
  • Water law implemented.
  • Pasture law partially implemented with no by-laws in effect.
South Darfur
  • South Darfur Water Authority of 2003
  • Agriculture and Grazing Organization Act 2011
  • The Local Order No.1-9 for pasture protection in Idd El Fursan Locality
  • Legislative Council Decree No. 17/2005 to reduce NRM conflict between government departments particularly the MOA and Sudan Survey Authority
  • The Act was applied in South Darfur.
  • Local orders and decrees are applied and their functions determined.
West Darfur
  • West Darfur Water Law 2013
  • The Protection of Water Sources Act.
  • The Rationalization of Water Uses Act
  • The organization of agriculture and pasture law 2014
  • The law is not strongly enforced. There is little grassroots awareness of the law. The ineffectual local government and native administration weakened the implementation of the law
  • The West Darfur water law bans the drilling of any water source without the approval of the water department. It is implemented but weakened because of political influence, with politicians intervening and making the decision to drill for water.
  • In October 2015 a workshop was held in EL Geneina to explain to participants both the federal range law and state pasture and rangeland laws with the aim of raising awareness of the law and improve applicability.
East Darfur
  • East Darfur State Water Corporation Act of 2013
  • Range and Pastures Law for East Darfur state – 2015
  • The state water corporation controls all water stations within the state.
  • The degradation of pasture and of forests continues despite the law because of lack of rangers, vehicle and means of enforcement.
Central Darfur
  • The Water Corporation Act 2013. Passed by the State Legislature and the State Council of Ministers
  • The organization of agriculture and pasture law 2009 (West Darfur 2009) law
  • The state is two years old established in 2016 and is located in the midst of Darfur conflict as well as suffering tribal conflicts. Legislation is mostly derived from West Darfur from which most institutions and ministries were originated. There are no laws governing the demarcation of pastures however around 100 km of grazing routes were demarcated.
  • Partial implementation.

Source: Partners in Development Services 2016

As Table 2.5 demonstrates, Sudan’s laws and regulations can play a vital role in managing natural resources and strengthening peace-building. One problem is that the administration of these laws and knowledge about them is fragmented across various institutions. This lack of coordination means that the laws are often interpreted and applied subjectively. Another problem is that they are often not properly enforced. Furthermore, ordinary people tend to recognize customary laws but not statutory laws, reflecting a disconnect between the government and local people. This issue is recognized in the Interim National Constitution, which calls for harmonization of customary and statutory law.

Policy goals

Since independence, the goal of Sudan’s governments has been to achieve better welfare for the people through development that is based on the judicious and sustainable use of natural resources. Sudanese policy on natural resources and environmental conservation has made great progress in the last three decades, driven in part by the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs and other international poverty reduction strategies, as well as by domestic efforts to conserve and protect natural resources and promote conflict resolution and peace-building.

The management of natural resources falls under the jurisdiction of several key federal ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity. However, continuous restructuring and institutional instability have undermined their effectiveness.

Table 2.6 below highlights some of Sudan’s policies and plans that relate to the environment and natural resources.

Table 2.6: Some of Sudan’s key policies on the environment and natural resources

Policy or plan Policy goals Policy measures or programmes Body responsible for implementing the policy
1. Decentralization Policy (1997)
  • Conservation and protection of natural resources.
  • State responsibilities over land and management of natural resources.
Government bodies at locality, state and federal levels.
2. Sudan national adaptation plan (2016)
  • Response to the threats of climate change.
  • Reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
  • Promote the integration of climate change adaptation into existing and new policies, programmes and activities.
  • Building adaptive capacity and resilience at various levels.
  • Identify projects and actions through participatory process.
Government, non-government and private institutions at state and national levels.
3. Quarter Century strategy (2007-2031)
  • The sustainable management of land.
  • The environment comes under the economic strategy rather than the national development framework.
Higher Council for Strategic Planning assumes overall responsibility for the plan and its implementation.
4. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) (Contribution to the UNFCCC) Achieve the objectives of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its national development objectives.
  • Measures to facilitate adaptation to climate change.
Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources is responsible for the convention, but it suffers from poor coordination and funding mechanisms.
5. National water policy (1999; revised 2006)
  • To ensure sustainable and integrated management of valuable water resources.
  • Recognition of water as an instrument for conflict management.
  • Cost effective and appropriate technologies.
  • Public and private partnerships.
  • Cost-sharing and cost recovery mechanisms.
National Water Corporation.
6. Natural water supply and sanitation policy (2009)
  • Ensure equitable and sustainable utilization of safe water and sanitation.
  • Integrated water resource management.
Ministry of Water Resources to lead integrated water resources management.
7. National Biodiversity Strategy (2015)
  • Management of biodiversity through sound policy advice and best practice.
  • Programmes that demonstrate sound biodiversity management practices.
Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources supported by UNDP.
8. Sudan National Forest Policy Statement (2006; updated from Sudan’s Forest Policy 1986)
  • Poverty reduction,
  • improve Sudanese population welfare by enhancing food and income security
  • combat of desertification.
  • The measures include alignment with Water Policy, Forest Outlook* and commitment to social development and population policy.
The Forests National Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Federal Agriculture and Forestry.
9. Poverty reduction strategy paper (interim 2012)
  • Environment as a vehicle for poverty reduction.
  • Recognition of the links between environment, risk management and poverty reduction.
  • Strengthening people’s resilience to environmental risks and climate change.
  • Establishment of institutions for the sustainable management of natural resources (water, forest and land).
  • Comprehensive land reform and security of land title.
  • Preparation of land use maps, especially for marginal areas.
  • Social and water harvesting programs.
  • Promote private investment in Gum Arabic production.
  • Enhanced community role in resources management.
Federal Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in coordination with technical ministries and the donor community.
10. The SDGs and 2030 Agenda
  • Society based on national consensus, peaceful co- existence, social justice and global and regional partnership.
  • Achieve sustainable development and continual improvement in people’s livelihoods.
  • Combat desertification and land.
  • State reform programme.
  • Risk-informed approach to development.
  • Integrated approach to achieving 2030 agenda.
  • Sustainable forest resource management.
  • National agricultural investment plan.
A national mechanism to supervise the implementation of SDGs; the National Population Council is the focal point for this mechanism.

* The Forestry outlook paper for Sudan was carried out as part of a process to prepare the forestry outlook study for Africa (FOSA) towards 2020.

As Table 2.6 shows, Sudan has a broad array of policies at its disposal for managing its natural resources. However, some policies are not comprehensive enough, while others have an overly narrow focus. For example, Sudan lacks a comprehensive policy and legislative framework that deals with land use in an integrated way (Atta Elmoula 1985, Abdel Magid, T. D. and Elsiddig 1994). Instead, it has several individual policies covering agriculture, forestry, wildlife and other resources. These do not always share common goals. For instance, the forest policies of 1932 and 1986, aimed at the conservation and improvement of forest resources, were drawn up by forestry professionals without consultation with other parties, and as a result they are not well accepted and are poorly enforced (Elmahi and Abdel Magid 2002).

2.3 Institutional Arrangements

Sudan’s environmental laws are administered and enforced by various government ministries and other statutory bodies such as commissions, as well as by traditional leaders. Civil society also plays a part, especially in raising public awareness of critical issues.

In 1992, the government established the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources as the central agency for coordinating sustainable development efforts. Several ministries with major responsibilities for natural resources management, land use planning and socio-economic development are members of the board of the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources, including the Ministries of (Agriculture and Forests); (Water Resources Irrigation, and Electricity); (Industry and Commerce); (Energy and Mining); Justice; Health; (Culture and Information); General Education; and Higher Education.

In 1995, the government created the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to oversee environmental management. This was later renamed the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Physical Development, and then again, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development. In September 2018 the ministry was abolished in a government cabinet restructuring, and a new National Council for the Environment was created in its place under a state minister. This means there are now two environment councils: the new National Council for the Environment and the older Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources. On the state level, state ministries have been reduced to only five per state, while an umbrella state Ministry of Production and Economic Resources has oversight over Agriculture, Industry, Mining and Investment.

Another government body with environmental responsibilities is the Sudanese Standards and Meteorology Organization, which was set up in 1993. Over the years this organization has issued many national environmental standards in the areas of air and water quality, food, building materials and fertilizers.

A list of national institutions responsible for various aspects of natural resources and environmental management is shown in Table 2.7, while Table 2.8 shows the history of environmental institutions in Sudan.

Table 2.7: Federal-level natural resources management institutions*

No. Name
1 National Council for the Environment formed after the dissolution of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development
2 Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources
3 Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity
4 Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forests

  • Forests National Corporation
5 Ministry of Science and Technology

  • Forest Research Corporation
  • Wildlife Research Corporation
  • Agricultural Research Corporation
  • Food Research Corporation
  • Range Management Administration
6 Federal Ministry of Oil and Gas
7 Federal Ministry of Minerals

  • Geological Research Corporation
  • Sudan Company for the Development of Minerals Resources
8 Environment Educational and Research Institutes

Source: Institute of Environmental Studies 2016

* On 30 April 2020 The Transitional Supreme Council endorsed amendments to the Environmental Protection Act of 2001, establishing a new Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources.

Table 2.8: History of Environmental Institutions in Sudan

Date Event Affiliated Institutions

Directorates / Councils / Departments

Pre – 1991 No formal environmental institution The Environmental Committee within the National Council for Research with minimal tasks such as celebrating environment day
1991 The formation of the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR) Under the President of the Republic of Sudan
1996 -2001 Formation of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism 1. National Council for Physical Development

2. General Directorate for Federal Lands

3. Survey Department

4. National Population Council

5. HCENR (As a separate entity)

2001-2010 Formation of the Ministry of Environment and Physical Development (MEPD)
  1. HCENR (2003)
  2. National Committee for Geographic Names
  3. General Directorate for Federal Lands
  4. Higher Council for Physical Development (Under the Minister)
2010- 2015 Formation of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Physical Development (MEFPD)
  1. HCENR (2003)
  2. National Committee for Geographic Names
  3. General Directorate for Federal Lands
  4. Higher Council for Physical Development (Under the Minister)
  5. National Forest Corporation
  6. General Directorate for the Environment (For the 1st time)
2015-2018 Formation of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development (MENRPD) Disconnected units:

  1. National Forest Corporation
  2. Survey Department (The formation of Sudan Survey Authority)


  1. Sudan Meteorological Authority
  2. HCENR (2003)
  3. National Committee for Geographic Names
  4. General Directorate for Federal Lands
  5. Higher Council for Physical Development (Under the Minister)
  6. National Forest Corporation
  7. General Directorate for the Environment (For the 1st time)

8. The Sudan Meteorological Authority (SMA)

2018- 2019 Abolition of the MENRPD

Formation of National Council for the Environment (NCE) (SG State Minister)

  1. HCENR existed as a related unit
  2. National Council for Geographic Names to Ministry of Transport
  3. Higher Council for Physical Development under leadership of Ministry of Transport
2020 Establishment of a new Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources

There are several state-level councils, departments and units within certain federal ministries and councils such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources. The roles and capacities of the state-level environmental institutions differ from state to state (UNEP 2007b).

Land Commissions and Related Institutions

Sudan’s Interim National Constitution of 2005 established a National Land Commission, whose roles include arbitrating between contending parties on land claims, enforcing the law, assessing appropriate land compensation, advising the government on land reform policies and recommending new land reform policies. The Interim National Constitution also created state land commissions for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, while land commissions for Darfur and Eastern Sudan are stipulated in the Darfur Peace Agreement and in the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (Government of Sudan 2005). Table 2.9 shows land-related institutions in Sudan and their responsibilities.

Table 2.9: Land-related institutions in Sudan and their mandates

Institution Mandate
Presidency and state governors
  • Authority of taking land
  • Appointment of Native Administration leaders
  • Allocation of land
  • Establishment of local councils
National Council for Physical Development and Land Disposition
  • General policies for urban planning
  • Drafting of laws and regulations concerning physical planning
  • Training of staff
Forests National Corporation
  • Reservation, protection, conservation and replacement of forests
Mechanized Farming Administration
  • Allocation of land and management of the mechanized sector
National Investment Council
  • Identification of land for agricultural, industrial and other purposes
States Councils of Ministers
  • Final approval of housing plans
Native Administration
  • Application of customary law for land management
National and State Fund for Housing and Rehabilitation
  • Housing security for the poor through rental selling
Physical Planning and Land Disposition committees
  • Approval of locations and purposes of land use
  • Designation of governmental land for institutions, individuals and corporations
Physical Planning Administration
  • Establishment of branch committees
  • Preparation of physical plans for approval
  • Carrying out socio-economic studies for planning and establishment of land rights, on behalf of the state
Land Administration
  • Support to land registration at the judiciary after approval
Ministers of Physical Planning
  • Approval of housing plans
  • Approval of changes in village boundaries
  • Looking into appeals pertaining to land within the power of the Ministry
Department of Surveying
  • Surveying and mapping of lands
  • Preparation of land maps
  • Information centre for land issues
  • The onsite handing over of land to those entitled
Land Registration Offices
  • Keeping land registers of towns
  • Information centre on town and country planning
Locality Legislature
  • Establishment of administrative units
Land Courts
  • Arbitration and conflicts over land
Range and Pastures Department
  • Mapping and demarcation of livestock routes
  • Protection and management of range lands
Land Disposition Committees
  • Allocation of agricultural land
  • Policy making on agricultural land uses
Nomads Commission
  • Policy making for the development of pastoralists
  • Mapping and demarcation of pastoral routes
  • Advocacy for and defending of pastoral rights
State Security Committee
  • Reporting on land and resource-related conflicts
Nomads Development Council
  • Opening of livestock routes and provision of services
Locality Security Committees
  • Resolution of conflicts over land
Locality Executive body
  • Issuing of certificates that confirm that land is free of conflicting interests
  • Approval of temporary locations for services and related uses

Source: Partners in Development Services (2016)

Institutional arrangements for water, rangelands and forests

Key institutions responsible for managing water resources include the Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities and the State Water Corporation, both of which were formed in 2013. Localities have responsibility for the management of water resources at the local level. However, many other organisations play a role, particularly international non-governmental groups, whose humanitarian interventions often involve them in the water sector, and some United Nations agencies such as UNEP and UN-Habitat.

Table 2.10: Institutions responsible for managing water resources, rangelands, pastures and forests in certain states

State Water Rangeland, pastures, forests
South Kordofan
  • Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities
  • Towns Water Corporation
  • Rural Water Corporation
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (Department of Range and Pastures)
  • Forests National Corporation
  • State Department of Forest
  • Localities
  • Native administration and councils
Blue Nile
  • Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities
  • Urban Water Corporation
  • Private water companies operating water stations and catchments in rural areas on contract basis
  • Water, Environment and Sanitation Programme
  • Native Administration
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • Forests National Corporation
  • State Department of Forest
  • Department of Range and Pastures
  • Localities
  • Native administration and councils
North Darfur
  • Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities
  • North Darfur water corporation
  • Localities
  • Native administration
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • Forests National Corporation
  • State Department of Forest
  • Department of Range and Pastures
  • Localities
  • Native administration and councils
South Darfur
  • Ministry of Physical Planning and Public utilities
  • South Darfur Water Authority
  • Water, Environment and Sanitation Localities
  • Popular Committees
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • National Forest Corporation
  • State Department of Forest
  • Department of Range and Pastures
  • Localities
  • Native Administration and councils
West Darfur
  • Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities
  • The National Company for Ground water
  • The National Company for the Manufacture of Water equipment
  • Surface Water Company specialized in dams and water harvesting.
  • Water, Environment and Sanitation
  • The three Corporations have their headquarters in El Fasher, the old capital of Darfur.
  • Localities
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • Forests National Corporation
  • Localities
  • Pastoralist Commission
  • State department of forest
  • Department of Range and Pastures
  • Ministry of Animal Resources
East Darfur
  • Ministry of Physical planning and public utilities
  • State water corporation
  • Water, Environment and Sanitation Programme
  • Localities
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • National Forest Corporation
  • State department of forest
  • Department of range and pastures
  • Localities
  • Native Administration and councils
Central Darfur
  • Ministry of Physical planning and public utilities
  • Central Darfur state water corporation
  • Water, Environment and Sanitation Programme
  • Localities
  • Native Administration
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forests
  • National Forest Corporation
  • State Department of Forest
  • Department of Range and Pastures
  • Localities
  • Native Administration

Source: Partners in Development Services 2016

Rangelands and forests are managed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and its technical departments. However, some states have a separate Ministry for Animal Resources, Range and Pastures. Furthermore, the administration staff responsible for rangelands and forests can be found at both the federal and state levels. This has led to confusion and a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities.

Sudan’s localities, which according to the Interim National Constitution are the third layer of governance after national and state levels, are the main legitimate institution responsible for all aspects of rural development, including management of natural resources. Unfortunately, none of the localities is equipped to carry out this role. This lack of institutional capacity is a pressing and crucial issue that needs to be rigorously addressed at all levels of governance. Experience from Sudan and elsewhere shows that without effective local institutions, peace-building and natural resource management are unlikely to succeed.

All Sudan’s institutions are hampered by a lack of skills and resources, particularly when it comes to designing, implementing and monitoring new programmes. There is also a pervasive lack of information, with progress and annual reports difficult to access. The roles of the various institutions are not clear-cut and often overlap, and communication and coordination can be poor. Planning processes tend to take a top-down approach, rather than encouraging participation at all levels. The strengths and weaknesses of various institutions are shown in Table 2.11.

Table 2.11: Strengths and weaknesses of institutions responsible for natural resources management

Institution Strengths Weaknesses
Native Administration – Custodian of customary norms with capacity to address reconciliation issues

– Native chiefs active in Peace Councils in Blue Nile

– Strong native administration prevented large-scale conflicts between nomads and farmers in south Kordofan

– Many members of native administrations are still living in rural areas, particularly Omdas and Sheikhs, or in IDP camps with their tribes and villagers, hence they have strong ties with people

– Traditional leaders have an uncontested legitimacy based on custom and inheritance in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur

– In rural areas, native administrations are head of rural courts

– Power and authority eroded due to government policy and conflict in Darfur

– Displaced native chiefs lost control over land allocation and management in their original territory

– Emergence of new leadership and power patterns are challenging customary authority

– Generational conflict due to rise of new social forces that have not been incorporated into the customary structure

– Lack of transportation for some native chiefs reduces their ability to respond to contain conflicts

Ministry of Agriculture and Forests – Established institution with clear powers and mandate

– Moderately trained staff

– Officials cannot access much agricultural and pasture lands in most states due to banditry and rebel groups

– Lack of funds, transport, and resources

– Lack of capacity building and training programmes

– Unable to provide extension services (supplying scientific research and new knowledge to farmers)

– Unable to protect forest and appoint forest rangers

  • Unable to create reserved pasture and to rehabilitate degraded pastures
Forests National Corporation – Well established, particularly in North Darfur and East Darfur

– Moderately trained staff

– Lost control of forest resources in some areas due to insecurity and lack of rangers

– Lack of funding

– IDP camps have become havens for illegal firewood and charcoal traders

– Biodiversity Act deprived it of its legal sources of revenue

Water Corporation – Well established institution in all states

– Well trained technical staff

– Lack of equipment and vehicles

– Lack of access to rural areas due to insecurity

Localities Close to the people
  • Conflict over jurisdiction with other government departments
  • Limited technical capacities
  • Very limited human resources
  • Lack of logistics and work facilities
Ministry of Physical Planning and Public Utilities – Well established

– Effective conflict resolution institution

– A conflict of jurisdiction with other government departments and state governments has weakened the ministry’s state-level representation in local governments

Source: Partners in Development Services 2016

Conflict Management Structures

In much of Sudan, people are completely dependent on natural resources for their survival. Droughts, floods and other vagaries of nature have an immediate impact on their lives. It is little surprise, then, that much conflict in Sudan relates to access to, control of or use of natural resources.

Sometimes, conflicts arise from the misinterpretation of the country’s statutory and traditional laws. For example, under traditional policies nomads have no recognizable rights to land, but they can access water and other resources through their relationship with farmers. In bad years, nomads would be accommodated under an eat-and-go system which permitted them to utilize farmland for three consecutive years before moving on (Partners for Sustainable Development 2016). However, all policies and strategies developed since independence have been working towards the marginalisation of pastoralists. They have led to the expansion of agriculture at the expense of rangeland and livestock routes, and led to conflicts between farmers and pastoralists.

Conflict has been most aggressive in Darfur, where around 26 major tribal wars have broken out over the past two decades (Partners for Sustainable Development 2016). It has been less intense in Blue Nile, where a strong native administration has contained disagreements between farmers and pastoralists and where different ethnic groups co-existing in integrated communities have helped maintain stability. This is also the case in South Kordofan: although a civil war has been raging there since 2011, tribal groups have long been inter-marrying and tensions over resources have not led to ethnic polarization. In both these states, the traditional mechanism of conflict resolution is still operational and effective.

Table 2.12: Conflict management structures in selected states

State Conflict management
South Kordofan
  • Tribal chiefs
  • Local government executive officers
  • Five-person committees
  • Good deeds committees
Blue Nile
  • Native Administration
  • Peace Conflict Management Committees
  • Peace Council
  • Local Courts
  • Ajaweed system (peace mediators)
North Darfur Native Administration
South Darfur
  • Ajaweed (peace mediators)
  • Nomads Development Commission
  • Wise Men Committee
  • Nomadic Forum for Peace and Social Coexistence
  • Local Peace Committees
  • Agricultural Season Support Committees (local government committees)
  • Grazing routes Higher Committee (membership include police, judiciary, chiefs)
West Darfur Native Administration
East Darfur Native Administration
Central Darfur Native Administration of the Rizeigat, Maalia and Birgid paramount chiefs

Source: Partners in Development Services 2016

Capacity of environmental institutions

The Native Administration in Sudan plays an important role in environmental management. The system was first established in the early decades of the 20th century and institutionalized during the 1920s and 1930s (El-Battahani and Gadkarim 2017). Native administrations had jurisdiction over communal lands and were responsible for the management and conservation of natural resources, including the reporting and resolution of conflicts and disputes. Following the dissolution of the Native Administration System between 1971 and 1986, their powers have been significantly weakened, with most of their duties taken up by modern governance structures.

Government institutions responsible for environmental management suffer from instability, underfunding, a lack of staffing and training, poor coordination, overlapping roles, and the loss of skilled personnel to the brain drain, among other problems. The country’s civil society organizations experience some of these issues too. They have difficulty establishing strong functioning networks or alliances with government and other civil society organizations, though many of Sudan’s civil society organizations have gained international and regional recognition. Technical deficiencies, lack of funding and restrictive government legislation have meant that most civil society groups are confined to urban areas (UNEP 2009, UNDP 2015).

2.4 Conclusion

Sudan was one of the first African countries to pass legislation to protect the environment. Many of its laws covering the use and conservation of natural resources have been in place since the colonial era. However, its multiple policies, laws, orders and acts are fragmented and overlapping, and the country lacks a comprehensive approach to environmental protection.

This lack of coordinated governance has contributed to serious environmental degradation, including extensive deforestation, a decline in biodiversity and increasing vulnerability to drought and the effects of climate change. Natural resource management is a major issue of concern in Sudan. Population growth in both humans and animals, at a time of rapid transformation to a market economy, has led to unregulated demand for water, wood, minerals, land and other natural wealth and triggered conflicts and environmental degradation that mainly hurt the rural poor. There is increasing recognition that Sudan’s governance regime is too weak and ineffective to stop the damage.

Likewise, although there are several conflict resolution institutions in Sudan, they are mainly too ineffective to deal with the complexities on the ground. In addition, many of them lack full legitimacy since they are widely seen as being political and non-neutral.

On the upside, Sudan’s willingness to embrace the principles of global thinking through the adoption of international agreements is to be applauded. International conventions have had a positive influence on Sudan’s domestic policies, especially those focused on environmental issues, and in a few cases the positive effects have filtered down to the community level. However, the limitations of Sudan’s institutions have meant that many of these agreements have not been fully implemented down to the state or local level.

The time has come for Sudan to go beyond the narrow, piecemeal approach to environmental governance and adopt a more holistic outlook, one that recognizes the close links between governance, peacebuilding, human security and development and places the environment at the centre of all development policies.


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