Conflict-Sensitive Programming

How can conflict sensitivity be integrated into programming?

The "Do No Harm" approach is supposed to improve programming, and so it would not be enough to analyse the interaction between assistance programmes and conflict situations and call for the development of options in order to avoid negative side-effects. Rather, the tool must be made practical by integrating conflict sensitivity into existing planning approaches. Some of the relevant experience in this regard is presented on this page.

Conflict-Sensitive Programming:
The Integration of "Do No Harm" into Planning Approaches

LCPP's "Mainstreaming Phase"

Delighted about the positive response from the field, the mainstreaming phase of the Local Capacities for Peace Project tried to disseminate the knowledge about "Do No Harm" further. One of the objectives was to integrate the new tool into the planning approaches, partnering strategies and funding procedures of organizations' headquarters. At the same time, more and more people in the field were exposed to the "Do No Harm" approach and invited to use it in practice. CDA and its partner organizations have conducted numerous workshops in all continents, so that there is now a broad knowledge about the interaction between aid and conflict all around the world.

Even more impact should be expected by establishing regional networks of "Do No Harm" practitioners. The first of these networks was "LCPP in the Horn of Africa", where "Do No Harm" trainers and implementers were regularly sharing their experience on national and regional levels, were developing new materials for specific cultural environments, and were trying to influence the realities of development co-operation in direction of a more appropriate style of interventions. It was realized that the exposure to the approach in a workshop was not enough to enable field staff to actually use the concept in their daily activities. Accordingly, "LCPP in the Horn of Africa" started working specifically on the integration of "Do No Harm" into the existing planning, monitoring and evaluation approaches of selected partner organizations. The project closed in December 2006, leaving behind lots of material for interested practitioners.

The end of the project has not stopped the promotion of the "Do No Harm" concept. The network of practitioners and trainers has continued to grow and has reached other areas of the world, too. Today, there exists a wide network of "Do No Harm" trainers, promoting conflict sensitivity within their own organizations and among other actors in their respective areas of operation.

"Do No Harm" and the Logical Framework Approach

Still the most common planning approach among development organizations is the "goal-oriented project planing", also called the Logical Framework Approach. This approach starts from the analysis of a particular problem, defines causes and effects of a core problem and develops a logical sequence of activities, results and objectives on the basis of this analysis. It also presents indicators to measure achievements and risks that might negatively affect the project outcome. Usually, all this information is put together in the famous "Logframe Matrix" that most donor organizations request as part of funding proposals. While the approach has certain shortcomings, it has proved successful in many cases provided that the various steps of the process are being followed. (In practice, the matrix is often developed in desk work, which would make it a futile exercise.)

From the perspective of "Do No Harm", however, the concept has one serious weakness: The Logical Framework Approach looks at conflict only in the form of a risk affecting successful project implementation. It leaves out all the effects that the project itself might have on the context of conflict. When integrating conflict sensitivity into the process of "logframe planning", some additional questions need to be added. The first is the analysis of relationships among different groups, which could easily be done as part of the usual "context and stakeholder analysis". Based on this improved understanding of the context, the definition of project results and objectives and the planning of activities must always be seen with a critical eye on the potential effects on the relationships analysed, so that harmful consequences can be avoided.

Eventually, participants of planning workshops might even define additional indicators to measure the positive contributions towards peaceful co-existence.

"Do No Harm" and Participatory Community Development

The various steps of the "Do No Harm" approach call for an active involvement of the population living in a particular project area. Who else could possibly provide detailed information about existing tensions, about Dividers and Connectors and about the perceptions of local people if not the people themselves? Accordingly, we recommend to include local people in the analysis of the "Context of Conflict" as far as possible. Sometimes this can be a delicate task, particularly in situations where tensions are high and where individual people might not be able to stand eye-to-eye with their foes. In such cases, additional inputs may be necessary in order to create an "enabling environment" for conflict analysis and project planning.

Many organizations also want to conduct their planning processes in a participatory way. Within our network, several trainers have championed "Participatory Integrated Community Development" and tried to integrate the issue of conflict sensitivity into that process. Results have been encouraging but have also challenged the facilitation skills of the respective trainers. Why? Partcipatory community development processes tend to work on very local levels, meaning that very often activities will be planned by one particular group only who should be encouraged to take steps for an improvement of the local situation and to generate resources even from among themselves. If not handled carefully, such a process tends to disregard the needs of others in the same environment and to propose actions that would face resistance by those.