Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Saferworld's annual review 2019–20

We believe in a world where everyone can lead peaceful, fulfilling lives, free from fear and insecurity. 

Our 2019–20 annual review shares highlights from some of our work including how we are working to build equal partnerships; bringing power closer to marginalised communities in Nepal; helping young people make their voices heard in Kyrgyzstan; and supporting COVID-19 responses in countries affected by conflict.

Download our annual review

Paul Murphy

Executive Director

The pandemic is making the harsh realities of our world more visible but it’s also highlighting the exceptional work of activists and people committed to change. It is because of our partners’ extraordinary work that we’ve chosen to shine a light on our partnerships throughout this annual review. I hope you also find our partners’ stories inspiring.
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A message from...

Stephanie Blair
Chair of the Board

This report illustrates the difference Saferworld makes – not only in our achievements of the last year where we’ve faced unprecedented challenges, but also in contributing to longer-term peacebuilding. I am so proud of the incredible impact of our remarkable organisation, and I salute the tireless efforts of Saferworld’s devoted staff and partners to transform the future.
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Building equal partnerships 

We believe that people and communities in conflict-affected countries should lead long-term efforts for structural change and lasting peace. Over the last year we worked with over 60 civil society partners in conflict-affected contexts, and with a wider number of national activists, networks and coalitions. Our legitimacy and ability to engage in conflict-affected situations depends upon working in partnership. In the current environment support for partners – political and financial – is more important than ever.  

In February 2020, we published a research report, commissioned by Save the Children Sweden: Turning the tables: Insights from locally led humanitarian partnerships in conflict situations. The report – which presents learning from several successful partnership models for locally led crisis response from Myanmar, Syria and Uganda – demonstrates that locally led responses to crisis are not only necessary, but that they can also be more sensitive to conflict dynamics and more attuned to opportunities for building peace and social cohesion.

“We benefitted a lot from this fund to build and coordinate community incentive groups to implement together, to solve issues and threats in our societies and build a link between the communities and related governments offices.” Noman Abdullah Saif Hakami, Chair of Youth Organization for Development & Democracy, Taiz, Yemen. 

In January 2020, we rolled out Saferworld’s Yemen Civil Society Solidarity Fund. Through this fund, we provided ten Yemeni civil society organisations with small grants of up to USD$45,000 each to run projects that they believe are a priority for their communities; and to strengthen their own organisations. These small grants are designed to support peacebuilding projects, enhance organisational capacities by renovating office spaces and purchasing equipment, and support Yemeni civil society organisations’ running costs towards becoming more financially sustainable. Through the process of grants and providing training and mentoring, Saferworld is supporting locally led initiatives in a way that is most appropriate for them and helps Yemen’s path to peace to be Yemeni-owned.

Working with partners around the world in 2019–20: highlights

"Through project activities, local and sub-national authorities and security and justice actors have begun to see the value of working collaboratively and are seeking the support of communities to carry out the security, justice and governance services."

Saw Albert, Field Director of Saferworld’s partner Karen Human Rights Group, Myanmar.

South and South East Asia highlights

Bringing power closer to marginalised communities in Nepal

For ten years, Saferworld has worked in Nepal alongside communities and organisations such as women’s groups, young people’s groups, and peacebuilding organisations, to improve public participation in governance. Here we meet women’s rights activists who are leading on change in their communities. 

Since Nepal’s decade-long conflict officially ended over ten years ago, the country has so far avoided falling back into violence. However, the rights of people from marginalised ethnic, religious and gender minority groups – including Dalit, Tharu, Madhesi and Muslim communities – continue to be violated. Women in particular face high levels of gender-based violence, exclusionary patriarchal norms, and harmful social practices including child marriage. 

Basundhara Gaire is a women’s rights activist and a member of a Saferworld-supported group that works to address concerns raised by her community in the Mahagadhimai municipality of Bara district in Province 2: “To empower women, first they need to be self-dependent. When they are fully educated, they realise that they can face their problems on their own. To fully empower women, education is a must.” 

“To empower women, first they need to be self-dependent. When they are fully educated, they realise that they can face their problems on their own. To fully empower women, education is a must.” Basundhara Gaire 

Women from Madhesi, Dalit and other poorer communities suffer significant inequality in access to health services and endure higher neonatal and infant mortality rates. Basundhara travels daily to reach Dalit women and women of other minority groups. She provides vital services, such as postnatal care and one-to-one support on financial management and independence. 

“I try to reach each and every family in my village, especially those with pregnant women or young nursing mothers,” explains Basundhara. “I teach the mothers about child nutrition and health, and how they can better take care of themselves and their children. I also inform them about the vaccinations available at public health posts, and I share community health-related information with the local municipal and ward offices.”

Improving access to vital services 

Nila Ram is a Dalit community activist and member of a Saferworld-supported community group. “Dalits are marginalised politically, financially, socially and educationally,” says Nila. “Dalit representatives are seldom invited to any programmes or meetings. They must be allowed to speak up and their voices must be respected. If they are treated equally, I believe it will be easier for local governance to work.” 

For people from marginalised groups, it’s not just having their voices heard that’s important – vital access to services also makes daily life safer. For example, marginalised communities often face life-threatening unsanitary conditions with poor sewage systems, as Mina – a woman who lives in Birgunj’s Chhapkaiya settlement – explains: “There is no drainage system...If there is heavy rain or too much water in the drain, it overflows and floods the street and even enters our home.” Another woman, Fulihari, says: “Other settlements do not have problems like ours. This problem only exists in Dalit settlements.”

Future work for long-term peace in Nepal 

While the introduction of a quota system at the 2017 elections significantly increased the number of elected representatives from marginalised ethnic, religious and gender groups, they still lack power in decision-making. Saferworld’s work moves beyond increasing the number of representatives to meaningful participation. We also support their leadership, so that representatives can challenge existing power dynamics and remain resilient even during crises.  

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, community groups and NGOs are essential in building community resilience and responding to crises. Government responses need the support that civil society can offer in mobilising and informing communities, not only to prevent the escalation of crises, but also to avert longer-term risks to stability and security.

Central Asia highlights

“Because they didn’t know their rights”: Helping young people make their voices heard in Kyrgyzstan

With support and training from Saferworld, youth committees brought young people from different ethnic groups together and advocated for their rights in the Bazar Korgon region – an important initiative in an area that was affected by inter-ethnic violence in 2010. Saferworld spoke to 20-year-old Odina Mamadalieva about her work.

Odina Mamadalieva has wanted to participate in social movements since she was a child, but her parents wouldn’t allow it. “They argued that I’m a girl, and I was little,” she says. Odina has come a long way since then, and is now working for the Bazar Korgon district administrations. She recently participated in a youth camp organised by Saferworld, joining a diverse group of young women and men in Osh to learn more about tolerance and democratic values, as well as to take part in training, simulations and debates.

When the camp participants split into groups to discuss issues relevant to their specific regions, Odina was chosen as the facilitator for Bazar Korgon. After the camp, using the skills gained there and drawing on her contacts from her work in the local government, Odina continued to mobilise young women and men in her district to raise their security concerns. She now feels more confident in voicing her opinions and ideas: “I began to have faith in my local government. Before I thought that if I say something, [the government] will just pretend to listen or won’t listen at all. And I have faith in other young people now. When I went to the camp in Osh for the first time, I didn’t know any of the other members of our group [in Bazar Korgon]. I thought there were no other young people like me at all.”

Odina and her group succeeded in forming an official youth committee in Bazar Korgon and they established a permanent office to work from. They were also able to secure 400,000 Som (around £4,400) in funding from the government to support their initiatives, including sports and cultural events. These activities brought young people together across ethnic and religious lines. For a community that was directly affected by violence in 2010 and where tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups remain high, this was an important step towards long-lasting peace. 

Knowledge is key: understanding rights on labour migration 

As part of the youth committee initiative, Odina researched an important issue facing young people in Bazar Korgon: labour migration. She looked at the dangers facing migrants, and the underlying causes of why so many young people from her community are leaving to work on construction sites in Russia, often without finishing school.

Odina found that in some cases, young migrants – including her classmates – had suffered permanent injuries in workplace accidents or worked long hours in dangerous conditions, only to be cheated out of their pay “because they didn’t know their rights”. She and her group raised this concern with the government, effectively advocating for more support to young people wishing to migrate: “In March [2020], we raised this question at the regional level [in Jalal-Abad province]. We took part in a roundtable, and it included the governor, the deputy head for migration for the region, and specialists and sotspedagogy [social educators] from each district...We learnt that this problem isn’t just in Bazar Korgon district, but in the whole region. As a result of the roundtable, counsellors for migrants were funded…This had existed before but had been removed in budget cuts. It’s important that, before they [migrate], people can receive effective consultation about their rights and responsibilities, about who they can turn to if they find themselves in a difficult situation.”

East Africa highlights

Adapting the global COVID-19 response in countries affected by conflict: South Sudan

Civil society organisations are at the heart of responses to COVID-19 around the world. Here, our partners in South Sudan explain how they are handling the pandemic and how they are continuing to work with communities for peace. “There is a common question being asked around the streets: ‘Is it better to die of hunger or to die of COVID-19?’” says David Achiek, Programme Coordinator for Church and Development (C&D) in the town of Bor, South Sudan. 

Despite the relaxation of preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in South Sudan, many people are still unable to make a living due to fear of contracting the virus. People are having to make a choice between risking infection to put food on the table, or staying at home and going hungry.  

Food prices have risen dramatically, as the closure of borders with neighbouring countries has affected the supply of goods into South Sudan. “We need to support people with food while they’re in their houses,” says David. “We need to support them to work for themselves, like helping them produce their own food while in lockdown.” 

Community outreach  

C&D is one of many civil society organisations in South Sudan playing a critical role in responding
to COVID-19. One initiative it supports is ‘Coronavirus Response Bor’, a community awareness-raising project led by young volunteers. Through door-to-door outreach, radio talk shows and public speaker systems, the group raises awareness of the dangers of COVID-19, its symptoms and how to reduce the risk of infection.  

“COVID-19 is something we have to live with, and we must use all of our efforts together to understand it and make sure the communities we live in also understand it,” explains David. With misinformation about COVID-19 rife in South Sudan, challenging myths is essential to help halt the increase in cases. From public speaker systems to posters, most of the messages about the pandemic from the South Sudanese government and the World Health Organization are passed on to communities in English, rather than in Arabic or local languages – meaning that many people are missing out on vital information. Our partner in Juba, the Organization for Children’s Harmony (TOCH), is filling this critical gap in areas including Kuajok, Warrap State, and Rumbek, Lakes State – by communicating important messages in the languages people actually understand.  

“When we did our radio programme, communities were able to call back and ask questions or give comments,” explains Laker Joyce Patra, Head of Programmes at TOCH. “Many were saying that was the first radio show organised in their local language and were asking us to let these messages reach other communities who do not have access to radios.” 

A double threat  

In countries affected by conflict like South Sudan, people are not only facing COVID-19 but also the threat of violence – both within and between communities. These dual dangers are perpetuating an ongoing cycle of suffering. South Sudanese civil society organisations, such as TOCH and C&D, have years of experience and expertise in responding effectively to crises, but due to measures to restrict movement to slow the spread of COVID-19, they are prevented from accessing areas that are experiencing violent conflicts. “As we fight COVID-19, we also need to support communities to help them live a good life, harmoniously,” says David. 

Conflict also affects access to information. Community and door-to-door outreach becomes much more dangerous for staff, volunteers and community members. “In the event of conflict in an area, it means that the area becomes inaccessible – so information would only be linked to the media which is the radio,” says Laker. “If there is peace, there will be increased access to information on COVID-19.”

Middle East highlights

Global policy and advocacy highlights

We have a track record of challenging policymakers through advocacy and amplifying the voices of those affected by conflict. We work in collaboration with local and national organisations to try and effect change at regional and global levels. Read more below about our work:


Influencing global policy through…

Bringing civil society voices to counter-terrorism advocacy at the UN

Introducing the Security Policy Alternatives Network (SPAN)

Since 9/11, states have invested huge political, financial and military resources to wage a ‘war on terror’ – with catastrophic effects. Over 800,000 people have been directly killed by this ‘war’ – at least 335,000 of them civilians. Add to these figures recent estimates that over 37 million people have been displaced due to the war, and the true costs of the unending war on terror are extraordinary.  

For almost 20 years, security policies framed around a war on terror have been failing the world. To try and change these damaging approaches, we worked with a range of partners to co-create a new network, the Security Policy Alternatives Network (SPAN), with over 50 member organisations representing peacebuilding, development, humanitarian and human rights sectors. The network aims to build political support for less militarised peacebuilding responses.  

Sending a clear message 

“For the past five years, there was the feeling we had in South East Asia that those that are critical of the militarised approaches to security felt that we are alone.  And that we are a lonely dissenting voice. To be in a space – and we don’t have to be in a room – for those issues to be aired out…means a level of security that participants feel in this space.” Marc Batac, a member of SPAN and the Institute for Inclusive Dialogue.

Over the past few years, the counter-terror agenda has grown at the UN. This is a worry for many civil society and peacebuilding organisations, who see the risks to the UN’s ability to promote human rights, build peace, and contribute live-saving humanitarian aid. To begin to address this, Saferworld and SPAN partners helped organise a conference – the first of its kind –to discuss why counter-terrorism at the UN needs to be reformed. Held in June 2020 with hundreds of civil society organisations and over 1,000 people attending (virtually due to COVID-19), the conference sent a clear message that civil society around the world is deeply concerned about the counter-terror agenda and that there is an urgent need for a new approach.

A first step: Malian women’s voices at the UN Security Council  

In October 2019, Assitan Diallo, SPAN partner and president of the NGO AFARD which promotes the rights of women, briefed the UN Security Council’s open debate on Mali. This was a first step towards efforts to expose UN policymakers to the experiences and perspectives of women’s rights organisations working for peace and justice at a national level. 

“The solution to the complex dynamics of the current conflict in Mali will not be found on the battlefield, but must come from dialogue and responding to the concerns of ordinary people.” Assitan Diallo.

The Security Council debate on Mali recognised that the country has endured not only a bloody conflict since 2012 but a decade of violence and instability. Assitan highlighted how women and young people have paid the highest price for war. She raised three key goals: access to justice for survivors of gender-based violence; women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security; and ensuring that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and G5 Sahel are able to respond to the security needs of communities.

Strengthening Saferworld

Between April 2019 and March 2020, we continued to deliver our ambitious programme of action under our organisational strategic plan 2017–21. We grew our core non-programmatic teams, across human resources, safeguarding, auditing, and safety and security. Our new and improved policies and procedures have helped promote a safe, harmonious and healthy working environment.

Read how we are strengthening Saferworld in practice below:

Financial updates

This is a top-line summary of Saferworld’s income and expenditure in 2019–20, taken from our full audited accounts. You can see our full accounts in our Report and accounts here. You can also download them from the Charity Commission website.

Organisations we worked with this year

Click here for a full list of our partners.