The African Union/United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) focuses on the protection of civilians—especially vulnerable groups such as internally displaced persons who remain unable to return to their traditional homes due to conflict. The Mission and its UN Volunteers respond to the changing peacekeeping environment by placing increased focus on peacebuilding activities that preserve gains achieved. This is a complex mandate that adapts to evolving circumstances in hope of making a sustainable transition towards peace in Darfur.
UN Volunteers serve throughout UNAMID’s operations covering the vast Darfur region (approximately equivalent to the size of France). The environment is characterized by harsh conditions with extremely high temperatures, driving sand storms, and limited or non-existent local support mechanisms. Despite these challenges, UNAIMD successfully established a network of facilities and infrastructure in Darfur, including in remote deep-field locations, to support and achieve the mission’s Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding mandate.
UN Volunteers have been present in significant numbers since the start of the mission in 2008 and played critical roles, both in technical support and substantive capacities, in establishing the mission infrastructure and in carrying out field-based activities in areas such as Engineering, Information Technology, Human/Civil Affairs, and Child Protection. By nature of their assignments, UN Volunteers typically work closely with Sudanese colleagues and communities with the goal of empowering local populations.
As Stuart Moran, UNV Program Manager in Darfur, states:
Each day, I am proud to witness up-close the service of national and international UN Volunteers in UNAMID as they bring to bear a powerful combination of technical expertise coupled with a high degree of dedication and commitment to help the mission achieve its mandate.
As the iconic blue-helmeted UN Peacekeepers patrol the area in white UN vehicles with UN and African Union flags flapping in the wind, it is evident how UN Volunteers, through their dedicated service across a broad range of mission activities, play a critical role in enabling such patrols to take place. Without the support of UN Volunteers and their UNAMID colleagues, the people of Darfur would not receive the critical protection afforded by the Mission.
UN Volunteers further distinguish themselves in UNAMID as they carry out their duties within a complex and sensitive political and social context, drawing upon cultural awareness and an inquisitive nature to embrace the local Sudanese culture and interact with local colleagues and communities for an enriching and remarkable experience. In UNAMID, this dedication and volunteer spirit is exhibited by both the international UN Volunteers and the Sudanese nationals recruited to the national UN Volunteer programme, who, through their volunteer service in the mission, contribute to peace and development in their own country.
Adil Ishag, national UN Volunteer Human Rights Officer, comments:
I experience a great sense of personal fulfillment as I visit remote areas and meet, sometimes in open fields under the shade of a tree, rural women, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable groups and help them understand their rights and recourse as citizens of Sudan. Counseling and supporting these vulnerable populations allows me to strengthen knowledge about human rights in Darfur, one case at a time. I am extremely proud to be making these contributions in my own country as a national UN Volunteer.
In addition to supporting their operational and administrative needs, Stuart, along with UNV Support colleagues, places great emphasis on the safety, security, and health of the UN Volunteers in view of the remote and harsh conditions that they endure during their service. “These individuals left their comfort zones and loved ones behind and came to this challenging environment, not as salaried staff members, but as UN Volunteers. We must always make sure that our volunteers know that we care deeply for their welfare and well-being.”