Sudanese scholars explore federalism in two-week Forum course

The planning team works on the agenda for a federalism course held in Sudan from June 20 to July 2, 2009. From left: Richard Simeon of the University of Toronto, Shawn Houlihan, the Forum’s Director of Africa Programs, Mohammed Habib of Addis Ababa University, and Vinod Vyasulu, Director of the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies in Bangalore.

Sudanese professors recently learned how federalism is relevant to pressing challenges faced by Sudan, in a two-week training course organized by the Forum of Federations and designed to deepen knowledge of federalism among Sudanese academics

Local and international federalism experts led the intensive training, which was modelled after Forum courses on federalism for Iraqi academics in 2007.

A group of 20 professors from Al-Ahfad University, the University of Juba and the University of Khartoum participated in the training.

When the course wrapped up, participants said they felt better-equipped to enrich education around principles of wealth- and power-sharing. The course is based on the premise that the professors’ enhanced knowledge will lead to an expanded curriculum on federalism in university courses and increase the capacity for course participants to engage in political debates, policy processes and other societal issues relating to federalism in Sudan.

One professor commented that "federalism, if applied in its ideal form, would provide a long-lasting solution to the Sudanese problem.”

"There is a need for the political elites to be informed about its values,” he added.

The course, which ran from June 20 July 2, 2009, was led by Richard Simeon, professor of political science and law at the University of Toronto. The team members included: Muhammad Habib, Addis Ababa University; Nico Steytler, of the Community Law Centre in South Africa; Vinod Vyasulu, of India’s Centre for Budget and Policy Studies; Marie-Joelle Zahar, of the University of Montreal; and Omer Awadalla Ali, of Sudan’s Federalism Research and Consulting Centre.

The topics explored in the two-week course are considered by many to be key in achieving lasting peace as outlined in Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement a 2005 accord that followed a prolonged civil war in southern Sudan. Along with international theory and comparative practices of federalism, Sudan-specific topics and case-studies included:
• an analysis and evaluation of Sudan’s Interim National Constitution
• conflict management in federalist societies
• control and management of critical national resources
• cultural, political and institutional factors at play in building successful federal institutions.

The Forum’s Sudan program aims to strengthen the capacity of Sudanese politicians to implement key federal components of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement while developing a broader understanding, in civil society, about federalism’s role in achieving sustainable peace in Sudan. Activities in the project include training workshops and specialized publications that focus on Sudanese issues. The project is in its second phase and is receiving $3.2 million in funding from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

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