Conflict-Sensitive Programming

Analysing the Conflict Sensitivity of Interventions

When the "Do No Harm" concept was being developed, most relief and development workers were strongly convinced about the good they were doing. It was a painful experience to recognize that, in fact, some of the good was creating a lot of harm, such as destroying local markets, creating dependencies and undermining local initiatives. Or even playing directly into the hands of some of the "evil" forces in a context of conflict. In the meantime, organizations have become sensitized about potential negative side-effects and want to know how conflict-sensitive their operations are.

Assessments and Evaluations:
Understanding the Impact of Programmes on Conflict Settings

Peace and Conflict Assessments

More and more donor agencies demand a context analysis as part of project planning or even a formal "Peace and Conflict Assessment" before the start of infrastructure development projects. The "Do No Harm" concept offers a perfect tool for such tasks, analysing the relationships among groups in the respective area of operation, identifying the critical relationships and disaggregating the factors that connect or that divide the groups in question. Based on this understanding, it is possible to plan interventions in a way that each programming decision is viewed with regard to its potential impact on the local context: Would a certain decision contribute to peaceful co-existence or rather tear people apart? What would be the best option?

A context analysis is a standard procedure for us when we assist in project planning. Occasionally we have also conducted formal "Peace and Conflict Assessments", where we have combined the "Do No Harm" analysis with additional tools.

Monitoring of Activities in Conflict Situations

Not all potential harm can be foreseen at the planning stage of a project. One reason is that the local situation is not always fully understood when arriving in a new environment, another that contexts of conflict are often complex and dynamic, and so changes in the environment may also necessitate adjustments in implementation. Very often, field staff only discovers over time that something may have gone wrong and that there is a need to reflect about potential options.

In our accompaniment processes, we are assisting field staff in the documentation of their observations, so that they can identify the effects of resource transfers that may have alienated certain groups or individuals as well as the implicit ethical messages that may have confirmed certain harmful attitudes. Once this is understood, options may be found to avoid the negative side-effects.

General Evaluations in a Context of Conflict

Almost every relief or development project ends with a formal evaluation, which is supposed to document achievements and to account for resources spent. Despite the shortcomings that such end-of-project evaluations have with regard to predicting the sustainability of activities, they are also a valuable opportunity for learning. This aspect of learning forms the centre of our approaches to evaluations. Rather than serving as a control mechanism, we want to recognize mistakes done together with the staff involved and to use this analysis for developing recommendations towards organizational learning.

There are many experienced consultants in the market engaged in project evaluations. We do not want to compete with those. When a project has been implemented in a situation of violent conflict, however, additional questions need to be asked. Such projects should not only be viewed in terms of their sectoral achievements but also from a conflict sensitivity lense. We know how to assess this dimension of a project and have contributed with our "Do No Harm" skills to several evaluations in countries like Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and Iraq.

Conflict Sensitivity Audits

A big number of relief and development agencies have taken up the "Do No Ham" approach during the last two decades. With a growing emphasis on the issue of conflict sensitivity, some of these organizations have become curious to what extent their work has actually improved. As our experience has shown, not every workshop participant becomes a practitioner, and inspite of organizational policies, guidelines and manuals, changes at field level can not be taken for granted. So, the question has been, "how conflict-sensitive are we?"

We have been privileged to be assigned with such specific evaluations three times, in Sudan, in Somalia and in Guinea Bissau. The results of these evaluations allow us to give firm recommendations on what to focus on when trying to incorporate conflict sensitivity into an organization's programme.