Photo credit: Emmanuel O Productions
Photo credit: Emmanuel O Productions

Saferworld's annual review 2020–21

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

In our 2020–21 annual review, covering the last year of our 2017–2021 strategy, you can find how we have been working to build peace, always putting people and partners at the heart of our efforts.

Download our annual review



Paul Murphy
Executive Director


At the best of times work to prevent conflict and cultivate conditions for peace is complex, challenging and, for communities facing insecurity and threat, often a terrifying ordeal. Following another 12 months of COVID uncertainty and constraint, that task became even harder. For us at Saferworld, and for our many partners, it was also a challenging year. But what equally stood out was the manner in which our resilience and capacity to adjust triumphed. I am inspired by how much was achieved by my colleagues and the people we work alongside – of which this annual review provides just a brief insight.

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A message from...


Stephanie Blair
Chair of the Board


2020–21 was a year of contradictions, yet our staff and partners demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19. Saferworld teams adapted admirably to the task of working from home, running events online and ensuring lines of communication were open and accessible. Often finding themselves at the forefront of COVID response, partners found innovative ways to deliver support to their communities.

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South and South East Asia highlights

Central Asia

East Africa

Agents of change in Sudan

In Sudan, decades of instability led to a revolution in 2019 that saw Sudanese people and civil society peacefully reclaim their voice. Now the country is at a turning point. As the transitional government builds a path for the future, citizens of all ages and backgrounds across the country are working to improve their lives and create peace in their communities.

In 2020, Saferworld concluded a series of projects supporting Sudanese civil society and communities to promote peace, tolerance and inclusion. Through training and small grants, the initiatives aimed to support small organisations to mobilise communities and increase the participation of women and young people in peacebuilding projects.

Before providing the grants, Saferworld worked with civil society groups to identify major issues of conflict and injustice in their areas. Grants ranged from US$3,000 to $49,000 for projects lasting from three to six months. After the grants were given, Saferworld supported and mentored partners and groups on how to use the grants to implement their own microgrant projects for communities, and organised events to share and exchange learnings. By the end of 2020, over 200 citizen-led projects with different priorities had begun.

We take a look at two examples of how the grants have made a difference to communities:

Opportunities for people with disabilities

“My name is Ahmed, I am 23 years old and I live in a rented house with a family of six; me and my five sisters. Myself, and three of my sisters were born with hearing disabilities, which is considered a genetic issue from my grandmother. My sister has a hearing disability and she is very smart and successful in her academic career. She wanted to be a doctor as she has loved medicine since her childhood and that was her big dream. Unfortunately, she couldn’t achieve it as there was no college that could admit people with disabilities and offer special teaching for them. Young people aren’t getting jobs that match their qualifications.”

Like Ahmed, people with disabilities, including those with hearing impairments, often face exclusion and increased difficulties in day-to-day life in parts of Sudan. To address this, a non-profit project founded by young people in 2018 proposed to use its grant to help young people to use art, media and role play to speak about their experiences, promote peace and co-existence, and to raise awareness of challenges they face in their community.

“I feel very happy with the offer, as I started feeling that my life has changed to the positive, I’ve even made a plan to marry soon. I feel delighted because now I can contribute to the family’s expenses. Because I feel the change, I started inspiring the people who have my same disability to not give up"

Our partner invited youth groups to apply for micro-grants, and over three months received 196 proposals. One successful applicant, a collective of 35 young people with hearing impairments, were keen to produce a short film on the challenges they face in daily life. They highlighted a lack of formal employment for young people with disabilities, despite their graduate status or qualifications, and other social challenges like limited marriage opportunities. After the film was produced, they organised a screening event and invited various community members, including employers and company representatives, government officials and other influencers. After seeing the film and learning about the difficulties people with disabilities face in finding employment, a leading pharmaceutical company provided jobs to four young people with hearing impairments, including Ahmed.

“I feel very happy with the offer, as I started feeling that my life has changed to the positive, I’ve even made a plan to marry soon. I feel delighted because now I can contribute to the family’s expenses. Because I feel the change, I started inspiring the people who have my same disability to not give up,” he explains.

At the same event, popular Sudanese personalities made a pledge to include sign language in all of their work, making their content accessible to audiences with hearing impairments. It is hoped that the use of sign language by influential figures will bring more attention to the needs of people with disabilities.

Resolving cross-border ethnic conflicts

In the Nuba Mountains region in South Kordofan, historic tensions between nomadic pastoralist Arab communities and Nuba farming communities in Habila County have led to violence over ruined farm land and the use of common resources, such as water for cattle. During the most recent round of fighting, four people were killed and a mosque was destroyed by fire.

“We nomadic Arab communities have been indoctrinated by government propaganda to incite violence with the Nuba tribes in the Nuba Mountain region. We have been given more rights to live, when a Nuba person is killed, we are not held accountable,” explains Sara, a representative of various tribes of Arab ethnicity.

Hassan, a Nuba traditional chief notes, “[b]eing a chief for many years in my community, I have a long history with the Arab nomadic tribes. I have attended 13 peacebuilding meetings with 13 agreements [in more than ten years], none were implemented by the Arab nomadic communities. This made us not trust the Arab nomadic communities.”

One development organisation used its grant from the project to provide training and support to a youth association, which led a reconciliation process between the Daarnaalea and Wauncho communities. Between September and October 2020, the youth organisation hosted a series of meetings that brought together the communities to peacefully discuss their grievances and come up with an action plan to resolve the conflict. Despite initial tensions, both parties felt a sense of ownership of the mediation process and felt comfortable cooperating with each other.

As a result of the meetings, the Daarnaalea communities paid compensation to the Wauncho tribe for deaths relating to the conflict and for the destruction of farms. The two parties also agreed on terms and conditions to allow Arab cattle keepers to peacefully pass through Nuba land during cattle migration. The agreement states that cattle keepers cannot carry guns; they must take care of Wauncho farm land and only use the grazing land when passing through; and Wauncho youth must provide protection for the cattle keepers as they pass through.

Thanks to the agreement, the Daarnaalea have peacefully been able to pass through and use Nuba lands for grazing their cattle, under the guard of young Wauncho people in the community – a significant achievement in the county. The two parties officially signed the agreement on peaceful coexistence in October 2020, and there have been no reported incidents of fighting or killing between them since.

Note: names have been changed.

Middle East

Uniting women peacebuilders in Yemen during COVID-19

In Yemen, COVID-19 has exacerbated one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Yemen is dealing with its sixth year of unrelenting conflict, which has devastated the country’s healthcare system and economy. Yet women peacebuilders and human rights defenders continue working to better their communities. Noura from the National Organisation of Development (NODS) and Sharooq from Improve Your Society Organisation (IYSO) share their experiences as women in Yemen and discuss how a WhatsApp-based peacebuilding course has helped them during the pandemic.

“The situation in Taiz is not stable,” explains Noura, a field coordinator for NODS. “We have periods of peace but it is a fragile peace. This fragile peace and the constant imminent fights in and around the city is making the security of women unstable as well. Road closures and the siege is preventing women from going to work and school, and doing domestic errands like collecting cooking wood and water. The children are suffering and their education is always compromised. Women and children are killed because of the snipers, so they stay at home most of the time which affects their mental health as well.”

“Violence against women has increased significantly [since the conflict began],” adds Sharooq, a training coordinator for IYSO. “The [inequality] gap between women and men has increased, and the security situation is adding an extra barrier for women – the more insecure the situation is, the more restrictions to movement women and girls face.”

Since the escalation of conflict in 2014, women-led organisations and women activists have been at the forefront of working to improve conditions for communities across the country. But peacebuilding activities have taken a backseat to the growing pandemic as communities pause to better understand new concerns related to COVID-19.

COVID-19 in Yemen

Throughout 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 continued to sweep through Yemen, although the true scale of infection is difficult to gauge due to a lack of testing.

Sharooq notes the gendered differences in how people in Taiz have reacted to the virus. “Women who have their own businesses have followed the health advice and official orders strictly. Generally, men were less concerned and kept their shops opened or didn’t observe the lockdown rules and social distancing advice, regardless of the danger of transmitting the disease to their families, mostly to the women who stayed home. When the schools were closed, only the mothers had to sacrifice their jobs to stay home and look after the children.”

Due to limited support and guidance from government authorities, many civil society groups began COVID-19 prevention projects, distributing supplies including masks and sanitising fluid, and providing information about the virus. However, the response has generally not been tailored to the specific needs of women, who have faced further challenges, including increased levels of domestic violence at home as well as extra unpaid care responsibilities.

Supporting civil society remotely

In May this year, Saferworld began a new round of our WhatsApp-based Participatory Peacebuilding course, first introduced in 2016 as a way to unite peace activists during the conflict.

This year, the month-long course was adapted to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that had limited people’s movement and peacebuilding projects in communities. Staff from 13 of our partner organisations in Yemen took part in the training, including Noura and Sharooq.

“It was my first time joining this kind of training ... I was curious, the first thing that I thought about was around the challenges, I thought how can a training be delivered via WhatsApp? Then I thought about the good side, like being with many peacebuilding workers from different areas with different experiences,” Sharooq explains. “The way the modules were designed allowed us to start by understanding the differences between the participants, this was necessary for a fragmented context like Yemen, to then bring us together.”

“The [gender module] exercises helped us to know that our gender expectations and norms in some governorates were different than what we thought. As a woman, I was pleased to see that our brothers in locations that are perceived to be extra-conservative were not what I expected, and women in those locations are having more support than I thought. We learnt a lot about each other,” says Sharooq.

“These kinds of training are convenient in situations where physical distancing is required,” she continues, noting that more women were able to take part who wouldn’t usually be able to attend in person. “Remote training is giving opportunities to women who usually don’t have access to trainings, because of their [rural] location. But with the poor internet, it is still a challenge. Another challenge has to do with women’s daily house chores that prevented some of the female participants from following the course 100 per cent.”

We designed the course for our partners to pass on their learning and to run the course with their own communities – encouraging more women to become activists in their communities and unite more people across conflict lines. When the course ended, Sharooq shared her learning with another organisation working with women, helping them design, plan and budget for COVID-19-related projects, including one to promote women’s economic independence through handicraft skills training. With Sharooq’s guidance, the projects received funding, impacting the lives of more women with lower incomes in Taiz.

For Yemeni women facing restrictions to movement due to the pandemic and ongoing conflict, remote training tools have not only provided learning and skills, but a space for interaction and mutual support to aid their mental health. “[The course] allowed me to share my story,” Noura concludes. As COVID-19 continues to affect communities across the country, such outlets will remain essential in Yemen’s path to recovery and peace.

Global policy and advocacy

Saferworld has 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 effect change at regional and global levels. Switching to online advocacy for a large part of the pandemic has opened up space for more inclusive and representative participation in policy and advocacy communications, as the need for expensive flights and accommodation along with the challenge of securing visas for partners from conflict-affected areas were no longer limiting factors. We have taken advantage of this to promote the participation of women, youth and of our partners, in high-level policy debates and other events.

Read more about our work in global policy and advocacy:

Strengthening Saferworld

Between April 2020 and March 2021, we continued to deliver our ambitious programme of action for the final year of 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 2020–21, taken from our full audited accounts. You can see our full accounts in our Report and accounts. 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.