Recently, many forms of violence and conflict are escalating due to multiple, often interrelated causes, such as poverty, insufficient development, inequitable resource distribution, competing political ideologies, and religious tensions. These issues have led to complex and prolonged violence. The importance of peace education in reducing conflict has been widely acknowledged,1 and universities can play a crucial role in conflict resolution and violence reduction, especially in countries like Sudan. By engaging with communities, researching the causes of conflicts, proposing solutions, and promoting harmony between conflicting parties, universities can play a crucial role in preventing and resolving conflict by tackling its underlying causes.

Universities should play an effective role in anticipating events, serving as hubs for activating early warning systems and contributing to conflict resolution strategies. They can establish specialized research centers focused on developing conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies that support equitable, and sustainable development. In Sudan, university personnel, including professors, teachers, and students, are often held in positions of high regard and trust, especially in rural areas. This makes them uniquely and well placed to function as peace ambassadors within their communities, transcending differences in beliefs, origins, or affiliations. This engagement enables them to break down barriers, understand the root causes of conflicts, and identify potential solutions.

As a lecturer at Red Sea University in Eastern Sudan, situated amidst ongoing conflict, I strongly believe in the significant insights derived from our involvement in diverse peace-related activities within communities, employing practical approaches to peacebuilding.  Alongside other national and international collaborations, our ‘Enabling University Peace Education’ (EUPE) project, supported by the European Union (EU) and British Council, has been enormously valuable for the peacebuilding endeavours at our university. It has allowed us to collect field-based data from our communities and produce new research-based knowledge. We have also learned from the experiences of other universities involved in the project in Sudan and other countries, particularly in relation to how to apply peace concepts and context-relevant conflict resolution tools from the peace education courses developed in collaboration with our project partner universities.

Key Peacebuilding Activities and Programs

The peacebuilding role of the Red Sea University has comprised a variety of key activities, including:

  • Conducting surveys and studies to evaluate the 2019 agreement between civil parties and the government in four major cities, in collaboration with the United Nations Mission, (UNTAMS). The study is based on consultations with stakeholders, including their evaluation of the agreements, capabilities and opportunities that contribute to stability, based on the elimination of violence, and more participation in governance.
  • Providing peacebuilding training courses for stakeholders and educational and religious institutions, in partnership with USAID.
  • Providing specialized courses on topics related to peacebuilding, such as the rejection of hate speech and negotiation techniques.
  • Holding and convening official meetings aimed at forming partnerships and initiating peacebuilding activities with civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

Engaging Communities through Peace Studies

At the Red Sea University, the project has also enabled us to engage more directly with local communities in the country. One remarkable aspect of the Red Sea University’s project is its engagement with rural communities. The university has implemented many surveys and studies, through the Center for Peace Studies, among rural communities, reaching even the most remote villages.

Our scholars and students have spent time interacting with and listening to individuals and community groups to gain a deeper understanding of the causal factors behind conflicts, and various ways of making peace. They also learn how to support communities in finding pathways for resolving conflict-related issues.2 One result of our engagement is that we are now well-informed about the early signs of conflict, which has enabled us, in some cases, to intervene at an early stage to mitigate or prevent the conflict from escalating.3

The university has conducted various research-related and community engagement activities that have proven effective in reducing violence. In 2019, when ethnic-related conflicts4 led to the displacement of a large number of people, the university’s Center for Peace Studies played a vital role. The Center organized courses and workshops that explored the roots of conflict and proposed effective solutions. By fostering dialogue and rejecting hate speech, the university’s efforts contributed to peacebuilding.

Supporting Women and Youth in Peacebuilding

Women have actively engaged in all the Red Sea University’s peacebuilding activities within conflict-affected communities. In rural areas especially, women were particularly effective activists in areas that directly affected their lives, such as combatting harmful practices and bolstering educational opportunities.

The project also introduced the Peacemakers Social Networking platform, aimed at young people. This played a crucial role in reducing hate speech. The Peacemakers Social Networking platform is an innovative space designed specifically for undergraduate students at Red Sea University, aiming to cultivate harmony, dialogue, and understanding among this diverse community. Unlike conventional social media platforms, The Platform places great premium on constructive discourse, conflict resolution, and mutual respect, all tailored to the unique needs and challenges faced by undergraduates. Through features such as moderated discussions, conflict resolution tools, and educational resources on conflict resolution techniques, Peacemakers Social Networking empowers Red Sea University students to engage in meaningful interactions aimed at bridging divides and promoting peace within their campus community.

Engaging Local Leaders

Red Sea University has successfully engaged with local community leaders, despite political affiliations and organizational constraints that sometimes limit direct communication with them. By assuring these leaders of the apolitical nature of the project—that we are university professors whose project is focussed on enabling peace, rejecting violence, and reducing conflict—the university managed to collaborate with a wide range of activists in civil society organizations, governmental departments, and educational institutions. We worked with international organizations, such as the British Council and USAID, to foster and enhance the capacity of university staff in peace education.

Implementation Approaches for Engagements at the Community Level

The following four key aspects guided most of our work with communities:

Firstly, we studied and embraced local traditional or cultural conflict resolution methods within our activities. The use of mobile theater was particularly effective in engaging communities in their native languages and spreading understanding at grass-roots level. This method was further enhanced by giving space to community members and leaders to comment on the content of the plays.

Secondly, we designed an approach with the goal of reaching the largest number of local residents possible for our visual and audio events that promote a culture of peace.

Thirdly, we took the opportunity, where possible, to organize cultural exchange events to foster cultural appreciation and acceptance of diversity, such as bringing in folk singing groups from distant areas and diverse cultures into local communities.

Fourthly, we adopted a co-implementation and partnership strategy with local communities in planning and delivering activities for greater impact. For example, we collaborated with religious leaders to present lessons promoting peace and justice among people.

Opportunities for Universities

Higher education institutions have numerous opportunities to advance peacebuilding efforts through their specialist knowledge and collaboration experience. These opportunities include:

  • Access to specialized and experienced personnel in peace and other disciplines, logistical capabilities for planning and implementation of activities, and access to resources such as halls or classrooms.
  • Earned trust and respect within local communities.
  • The potential to involve students and faculty in peacebuilding projects.
  • The presence of specialized centers in Peace, Women, and Community Development.

Challenges Faced by Universities

Although many of Red Sea University’s peacebuilding efforts have been successful, we have nevertheless faced some difficulties and challenges that sometimes constrained our activities. These challenges come from various sources, including: government, security agencies, and educational institutions. Bureaucratic hurdles, administrative complexities, the personal interests of those in powerful positions, and logistical issues have hampered the project’s activities. Sometimes our project objectives were not deemed to be sufficiently aligned to institutional policies. In other cases, there was a lack of understanding of the importance of our peacebuilding work. Nevertheless, the project overcame these challenges by gaining the trust and acceptance of local communities. For this to happen, we had to work hard in countering the local communities’ fear about the interference of educational institutions, their association of peace with negotiation between armed movements and governments (the results of which are often ascribed to members of the movements), and the general lack of a broader understanding of the concept of peace. By We also worked towards ensuring clarity when explaining our projects or activities and investing time in building trust, and we successfully changed the perceptions of numerous local groups. This change in perception was most evident among women and youth, many now actively participate in development projects, embracing the concept of fostering peace within their communities through the formation of small associations engaged in our training courses.

What Can Universities Offer to Build Peace?

Despite these complexities and challenges, we are of the view that universities can make significant contributions to peacebuilding. These contributions entail various roles, including: integrating peacebuilding values and objectives into education policies, mainstreaming peace across social disciplines, and forging partnerships with local communities to bolster peacebuilding endeavors. Moreover, universities can align educational activities with the values and aspirations of local communities, involve diverse stakeholders like civil and religious leaders, women, and youth in collaborative peacebuilding initiatives, and leverage the transformative power of art to promote peace among different ethnicities and groups. Engaging women in peace-related activities, amplifying their voices, facilitating their participation in decision-making processes, and fostering sustainable livelihoods are also vital aspects of local peacebuilding. Additionally, universities can harness the energy of young people through continuous learning and training programs, steering them away from hate speech and violence by integrating them into interactive initiatives aimed at reducing conflict. Finally, universities can also offer opportunities for local community activists, including ethnic and religious leaders, to receive training in peace-related issues, empowering them with knowledge to further strengthens the peacebuilding efforts.

Alongside these approaches, our experience has shown the following aspects to be vital in our peacebuilding roles:

  • Build peace by using our convening power to initiate conversations between conflicting parties, offering training opportunities and equipping them with the tools to understand the political and legal aspects of peace that will enable them to engage and negotiate with the government.
  • Build social peace by fostering the acceptance of religious and ethnic diversity, respecting the beliefs and opinions of others.
  • Build structural peace by training activists and peace actors on economic development and good governance, supporting education activities in schools, and enhancing the capacity of relevant public sector bodies, including the police, to enable them to engage more effectively with communities for peacebuilding.
  • Integrate local conflict resolution mechanisms for effective conflict reduction.

Supporting a Culture of Peace

Our activities at Red Sea University, promote a comprehensive approach encompassing various strategies: engaging with local customs, religions, and traditions to bolster a culture of peace, recognizing them as valuable tools for fostering harmony. We also engage in integrating both traditional and scientific methods of peacebuilding and conflict resolution to ensure compatibility with local beliefs while upholding scientific rigor; promoting peaceful coexistence by encouraging acceptance of cultural diversity and emphasizing the richness and intellectual value of different cultures. The project is able to achieve its goals by collaborating with local communities to embrace religious diversity and cultivate respect for others’ beliefs, fostering an understanding of the principles of peace, equality, and justice inherent in universal religions.

A Step Forward

In conclusion, the Red Sea University’s Enabling University Peace Education project has demonstrated the transformative potential of universities in building peace within local communities in Sudan. In spite of formidable challenges, universities can continue to play a vital role in empowering and fostering peace, promoting reconciliation and acceptance of others, and reducing violence. To promote these efforts, it is essential for government agencies, politicians, and university administrations to recognize the significance of the university’s roles in supporting local communities and advancing peacebuilding initiatives.

Looking forward, our university needs to develop more specialization in peace studies and further training on professional peacebuilding tools. It is essential that we strengthen our academic networks in peace education, as we would welcome contact with other universities interested in this field to share experiences and exchange knowledge, including those involved in post-conflict contexts. A study visit to Rwanda as part of our Enabling University Peace Education project was very valuable as a learning experience, bringing new aspects to our work in Sudan. Only through collaboration and sustained efforts can African universities contribute to the establishment of a lasting culture of peace in local communities.


  1. Milton, S. and Barakat, S. (2016): Higher education as the catalyst of recovery in conflict-affected societies, Journal of Globalisation, Societies and Education (14:3), 403-421
  2. Enabling University Peace Education in Conflict/Post -Conflict Settings. <”
  3. As above
  4. DTM Sudan: Red Sea State Situation Assessment Report 1 <>


This article was supported by ‘Enabling University Peace Education’, a three-year project funded by the EU and British Council with the aim of improving the participation of young people, particularly women, in peacebuilding activities in Sudan and Ethiopia. It is one of a series of articles ‘Telling our story,’ which share the experiences and learning of our partner universities with a focus on one or more of the project’s main thematic areas. Through these articles, we hope to highlight to the wider higher education sector, communities, and policymakers the important role that universities can play in peace education, and to encourage more universities to enable young people in and outside their institutions to participate in peacebuilding.