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Collective Action on Common Waters: Exploring peace building potential through shared resources

The project will explore the potential of shared waters as a catalyst for peace in the conflict affected areas of Assam in India

Photo of Animesh Prakash
6 20

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

As the North Eastern states of India, bask in the beauty of its great diversity represented by 350 communities in 8 states, it has also led to the fragilities and protracted conflicts. Although major inter-state conflicts are steadily declining, there is an upsurge in ethnic and regional conflict involving various non-state actors, since 2012. Assam had the highest number of Internally Displaced Population (IDPs) in the world after a series of conflict in 2014 . However, amidst all these conflict there is a glitter of hope in the efforts of several citizen groups that have come together to assert the message of peace and communal harmony. However, these efforts are mostly reactive and are fervently pursued only in some post conflict instances. A well-coordinated peace building initiative spread across the continuum is rare. As this region is also severely affected by recurrent floods – common waters bind communities together. This project will explore the potential of shared waters as a catalyst for peace in the conflict affected regions in Assam. There are successful examples of diverse groups coming together for common benefits. It will take following approaches to build peace and prosperity in some of the worst conflict and disaster prone geographies in the North East India: - 1 Orbital approach for conflict resolution: Project will work on the orbits of conflict, on less contentious and engaging issues such as the shared resources to bridge cooperation and coordination. 2 Perpetual engagements with citizen groups: Being orbital in approach will provide scope for a perpetual engagement with local citizen groups not only during but also in post conflict period. 3 Landscape approach focusing on the whole river basin. 4 Augmenting Capacities of local CSOs across regions and ethnic groups on peace building. 5 Promote prosperity through effective use of common resources.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The project targets youth groups, CSOs & women food producers, and livelihood groups. Saralbhanga, a transboundary tributary will be the focus of the project’s geographical outreach. Riparian communities including the marginalized farmers and livelihood groups whose livelihood is dependent on the rivers will be directly benefitted from the project. Shared waters will be used a catalyst to strengthen inter-ethnic and transboundary ties. Project will emphasize on piloting innovative models of water resource sharing particularly by IDPs, women food producers and other livelihood groups to benefit and prosper collectively. The diverse group engagement on common waters will pave the way for institutional strengthening both formal and informal to work on issues contributing to the long-term peace and solidarity. The project although will not directly engage with children, but will integrate components which promotes positive impacts on children through positive youth engagement.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Barring a few CSOs not many agencies are working on peace building in the region. Oxfam was one of the first agencies to work with Conflict affected population in Assam from 2012. (Refer to Attachment -1 for more information). The project focused on IDP’s relief and recovery needs particularly around WASH , EFSVL and Public Health. The current approach is a cautious shift from “Working in Conflict” to “Working on Conflict.” OIN through this project will attempt to augment capacities of local CSOs to directly engage on peacebuilding. OIN and its partners have years of experience of working in conflict, water governance and resilience in Assam. This has allowed OIN to establish a strong community base in these regions. After a series of conflict from 2012 - 15, there is peace in last couple of years and this as an opportune time to strengthen formal/informal structures for peace building in the region.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Oxfam India’s vision is to help create an equal, just and sustainable society by empowering the underprivileged. Oxfam India believes in the ‘Right to Life with Dignity for All’. Oxfam seeks to address the root cause of poverty and inequality through a Rights Based Approach where people are seen as the bearers of civil, political social and economic rights

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

When Saralbhanga, a trans boundary river, between India and Bhutan, created a massive flood fury in July 2017, the Royal Bhutanese Government decided to take some structural measures upstream which would have adversely affected many Indian farmers practicing indigenous irrigation systems known as Jamfwi/Dongo. This brought together many CSO groups, student unions, and women’s forums led by Bhutan India Friendship Association to engage with bilateral Governments to arrive at an amicable solution.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Bridging peace and prosperity - Assam is one of the worst conflict affected states in country. There has been an upsurge in the ethnic and regional conflict involving various non-state actors, since 2012. The last ethnic clash that engulfed Bongaigaon, Chirang, Dhubri and Kokrajhar has reportedly displaced 485, 921 people. Many such historical episodes of ethnic clashes have led to large exodus of people. Nearly 2.6 lakhs people were rendered homeless in the 1996 Bodo – Santhal ethnic clashes, and around 3 lakhs returnees and others were displaced again in the 1998 clashes. Mass exodus, has affected employment, and for many families restarting a fresh life has been difficult. This has impacted both peace and prosperity. Project brings together various youth groups, tribal groups, women groups and civil societies to take collective actions to harness common resources better, for eg, water for irrigation, early warning etc. hence targeting both peace and prosperity under one strategy.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will be jointly implemented by Oxfam India and the North East Research and Social Work Networking (NERSWN) in Assam. Project will strategically engage with youths through student unions such as the Bodo and the Adivasi students unions. Women food producers and livelihood groups will also be directly engaged, particularly from all ethnic groups to promote collective actions to harness common resources in conflict hit districts. Oxfam India, in its other ongoing project, has established a multi-stakeholder's platform including community, Government, private sector all together to promote water stewardship in the Brahmaputra. This strategy has been useful in bringing community's rights on the forefront. Learnings from Oxfam's other works will be useful in its pursuit to promote social cohesiveness in this project as well.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Oxfam and NERSWN draws its biggest strengths from its "Ground Zero Base." Oxfam and NERSWN both are amongst very few agencies working in Conflict. Since 2012 our conflict response programme has helped us to build a strong rapport with all communities. We have ardently worked to create an image of an impartial agency which has helped to work with all communities together.

Geographic Focus

Transboundary river basin of Saralbhanga with focus on Kokrajhar, Chirang and Bongaigaon districts.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project will be stretched over a period of 3 years. Focus in the 1st year will be to build strong foundations in form of youth groups, friendship forums, bilateral groups etc who will act as vanguard for all peace building initiatives. 2nd year focus will be on promoting collective actions for harnessing common resources. This will be aided by technical innovations. 3rd Year will be more sharing and dissemination to ensure that the project impact trickles down to a widespread scale.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

Not Applicable
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Attachments (3)

Usermap final version.pdf

Usermap is based on the IDEO tool, which takes a smooth ride from the problem analysis to solutions, the project intends to take, in the most illustrative manner possible. Illustrations depicts the sequential processes and milestones it expects to achieve through the proposed intervention.

Attachment 2 Saralbhanga Note.docx.pdf

Our idea draws inspiration from this success story, which sees the potential in common waters acting as a catalyst in bringing warring communities together for a common cause. Saralbhaga gives us a hope that amidst worst of the conflicts, ethnic groups shun their personal differences together to solve larger community problems. Common waters has potential to drain differences and bind communities together, which the project intends to explore.

Attachment 1 CONFLICT RESPONSE 8.pdf

The Attachment details Oxfam's work with conflict affected communities in Assam


Join the conversation:

Photo of Santanu Dam

Leading National newspaper "the Telegraph" has picked up the story on its front page. This speaks of the relevance of the issue you want to work on, through this project. This will definitely give scope to different ethnic groups to join hands together for prosperity through sharing of common resources

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