Conflict-Sensitive Programming

How can causes of violence be addressed directly?

The "Do No Harm" approach is not directed toward urging aid agencies to change or add to their mandates and become, also, peace agencies. Rather, it focusses on how aid agencies - both those that provide emergency assistance and those that are involved in supporting development - can do what they know best (relief and development) and, at the same time, ensure that their aid does nothing to worsen conflicts and helps local people find options and alternatives to conflict.

Working on Conflict:
The Experience of the "Reflecting on Peace Practice Project"

Beyond "Do No Harm"

For many organizations working in conflict situations, this has not been enough. Feeling touched by the realities of war in the immediate environment of their projects, field workers and desk officers alike have felt the urge to address the causes of conflict directly. Accordingly, several organizations have asked themselves the question whether they should not only work in conflict (i.e. assisting the victims), but also work on conflict in order to stop the underlying factors that may perpetuate the disaster.

The Reflecting on Peace Practice Project (RPPP), begun in 1999, has involved agencies whose programmes attempt to prevent or to mitigate violent conflict. Its purpose has been to analyse experience at the individual programme level across a broad range of agencies and contexts. Its goal has been to improve the effectiveness of international efforts to help in "other people's conflicts". RPPP has developed some valuable tools for looking at the effectiveness of conflict mitigation programmes, which are laid out in a brochure entitled "Confronting War - A Critical Guide for Peace Practitioners". The process of disseminating and testing these findings is still ongoing.

The RPPP manual can be downloaded from this website (see "Material / Documents").
go to: Material / Documents

Strategies for Peace-Building

The Reflecting on Peace Practice Project discovered that the varied peace activities could be compared through the use of a relatively simple tool, the RPP Matrix. The RPP Matrix is a four-cell matrix that permits analysis of programme strategies in several dimensions, by looking at the different approaches of peace work, who is being engaged and what type of change is being sought. RPP found that all activities are based essentially on one of two approaches related to who needs to be engaged for peace.

RPP also found that all programmes work for two basic kinds of change: the individual / personal change and / or socio-political change.

Accordingly, there are now two "columns" showing the two basic programming approaches in terms of who to engage and two "rows" showing the two levels of change promoted. When these rows and columns are combined, it results in a four-cell matrix.

RPPP MatrixRPP found that work that stays within any one quadrant of the matrix is not enough to build momentum for significant change. Any individual programme aiming to contribute to peace will have more impact if its effects transfer to other quadrants of the matrix. The arrows in the figure above reflect the findings about the importance of transferring impact among the quadrants. Wherever an organization's particular project is located on this matrix (in terms of work targets and levels), it needs to plan mechanisms for transferring project effects or extending efforts into other quadrants. Who else needs to be affected, at what level, in order to produce significant change?

Criteria for Effectiveness

From analysis of the cases and practitioner reflection on their own experiences, the RPP process identified five intermediate criteria of effectiveness that can support progress towards "Peace Writ Large". These can be used to assess, across a broad range of contexts and programming approaches, whether a programme is making a meaningful contribution to "Peace Writ Large." They can be used during programme implementation to reflect on effectiveness and guide mid-course changes, and as a basis for evaluation after the programme has been completed.

To assess the significance of a particular change in a given context, four additional, interconnected elements must be considered:


Insider-Outsider Relations

Many agencies work for peace through partnerships between insiders and outsiders. Each side brings perspectives, networks, assets, and leverage with particular constituencies that the other does not have. Peace practitioners believe that the key to insider-outsider partnerships is focusing intentionally on the relationship - and negotiating explicit partnership arrangements. Peace work begins with forming right relationships with allies and counterparts and then extending these outward to the people all groups aim to help.

RPP's evidence shows that good insider-outsider partnerships promote effectiveness. While good partnerships do not always produce big impacts on the broader peace, they are necessary, if not sufficient. Bad partnerships put peace work at risk. In practice there are no pure insiders or outsiders, but rather degrees of "insiderness" and "outsiderness." Often the relationship can be defined in relative terms - someone is more or less of an insider / outsider than someone else. Particularly those in the relatively outsider role must develop an awareness of how they are perceived.

Local groups undertake most peace efforts with little or no outsider support. However, a partnership of insiders and outsiders working together for peace can produce opportunities for increased effectiveness, if the partnership is well-designed and managed, because conflicts often have both domestic and international dimensions. Partnerships provide another element of linkage - addressing the interlocking elements of conflict and ensuring that solutions on one level are not undermined at other levels.

Insiders and outsiders bring different and distinct qualities to peace partnerships. In broad terms, insiders provide depth of knowledge about the context and connections to the communities affected, their culture, attitudes, and world-view. Outsiders provide breadth of knowledge and connections to external constituencies, ideas, and models.