Adapting to the Virtual Space: Continuation of our Work in Sudan

Huda is a Research Intern at GPG currently based in London office. She joined GPG last year and is working on the Sudan Parliamentary project. In this blog, she discusses what has been done to support the various groups who will have representations in the new parliament in Sudan and how GPG adapted to new strategies to continue the work in the country.

GPG started working in Sudan in June 2016. Our work supported the Parliament of Sudan in improving its oversight and outreach function to connect with citizens and strengthen policy development and service delivery. Some of our achievements in Sudan appear in the latest FCO and Human Rights and Democracy Report.

This year GPG was supposed to support the Transitional Legislative Council  (TLC) to establish itself after the revolution, but the formation of  the TLC has been delayed multiple times due to the current political situation and peace talks. Despite delays in the formation of the TLC, GPG has been able to engage with  key stakeholders in the government ministries (such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs) and senior figures from the post uprising political alliances such as the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC),  focusing on securing the necessary buy-in and trust to lay the foundation for future delivery of support. In a way, the delay of the formation of the TLC offered an opportunity to engage directly with the government, FFC and other important groups in Sudan to prepare for the new parliament, and identify areas of support prior to its establishment.

In March, we were planning to travel to Sudan to continue our assistance to the key groups in the country who are anticipated to have representations in the new democratic TLC. However a day before we travelled, our trip was cancelled due to travel restrictions. Naturally, COVID-19 has forced changes on how we provide support to our stakeholders in Sudan.

But very quickly, GPG adapted to new ways and strategies to carry on our work. Despite the challenges that have manifested due to COVID-19, we have  been able to deliver remotely and provide support towards a successful and promising transitional period. We held a virtual session with a new and important groups in Sudan on ‘the first 100 days’ of parliament. Even though they were hard to reach, we were able to get in contact and build a good relationship with them. During the session, there were discussions on issues including how to establish an effective speakership, the structure and function of committees, how the different blocs will work together, how to build a consensus, and what is an effective parliamentary administration. All the members who participated expressed the important value of the materials that GPG presented and the challenging questions put forward on how to form the TLC, and requested our continued support in the future. The session was a significant achievement as we were not only able to reach these groups but also it shows how we are inclusive and how we are trying to work with everyone in Sudan to help the country in the formation of the TLC.  It was the first session I attended since joining GPG and I was so impressed how successful the session was, given the existing circumstances. The participants were engaging and interested in the work we do and we received requests for specific areas of support.

In addition to that, we held a remote session with the FFC – including the new Sudanese Professional Association secretariat. Working with various groups in Sudan reflects that we support all key groups and parties to help them to shift their country into democracy and stability.

Furthermore,  we were able to continue our work remotely through designing our online ‘Role of an MP’ course. This course consists of guidance papers and videos covering a range of subjects that will cover the key themes of the ‘Role of an MP’ and what to expect when they first join parliament. The modules so far include videos and written materials on building your parliament, fundamentals of representation, institutional skills of a parliamentarian, strengthening  human rights and inclusion, public engagement, and the role of parliament in conflict resolution and consensus building. A few weeks ago, we launched our online course and we enrolled participants form several groups from Sudan to help increase the capacity of the future parliamentarians. Through my work in developing the course, I learnt from my manager Nur Saleh and the contributing experienced Associates about how the mission of being a parliamentarian, which can be overwhelming but is also highly interesting. Being an MP does not necessarily require a previous experience, but what is important is to have the influence and the skills to bring the benefit to your constituents and your country.

As our associate Alistair Burt highlights :

“…when entering that institution for the first time, it is important to know that the job has only just begun, and a whole set of new skills is now required in order to have influence there, and achieve the objects behind the election”

This is why is it is important to keep our work in Sudan going: GPG is helping to increase the capacity of the future MPs and provide them with the key skills that are needed once the parliament is formed. It is anticipated that a good number of future MPs do not have previous experience in parliamentary procedures, which is normal. Thus, our work, including our online course, is designed to suit the needs of the new representatives from various groups who will have allocations in the TLC; and this reflects GPG’s approach in identifying areas of support and then provide assistance according to our stakeholders needs.

Our materials, online delivery and ‘Role of an MP’ course cover the main themes needed for the new parliamentarians to work effectively in the democratic institution and help them to consider the main subjects since day one in the parliament. Although there has been a lot of progress in terms of engagement with a wide range of groups and the kind of support provided to them, I feel that a lot should be done to prepare the new MPs to work efficiently in their new parliament and also much more to be done after they start their new positions in the TLC. Having a democratic institution from the beginning  will lead to stabilizing the political situation in Sudan and achieve the required and the necessary reforms post revolution.  For the time being, we hope the course and the remote delivery will bring a huge benefit to Sudan in the preparation for the establishment of TLC and we are looking forward to visit the country very soon to expand our work and provide further support in the ground.