Conflict-Sensitive Programming

Marginalization next to an Abundance of Resources

The heart of Africa with its tropical climate and its dense vegetation had remained unknown to European geographers until the end of the 19th century. Into "darkest Africa" had been the title of one of the early travel descriptions, and even today, the general knowledge about vast areas of Central Africa has remained limited, mostly because of a lack of infrastructure and difficult travel conditions. A poor part of the continent? In fact, many parts of Central Africa harbour enormous wealth in form of mineral resources but few among local people have benefited from them. On the contrary, the competition over resources in these remote areas has brought violence and destruction.

"Do No Harm" in Central Africa:
Preventing the Depletion of Natural Resources

Congo (DRC)

The former Belgian colony which now carries the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed oppression from dictatorial regimes, wide-spread violence and external interference struggling over the profits of its resources. It seems that the abundant wealth has in fact only brought poverty. In spite of the presence of international peacekeepers and the efforts of development and human rights organizations, news from Congo are rarely positive, and women seem to be the most affected victims. Conflict sensitivity thus is a particular challenge in this country.

First workshops on "Do No Harm" were conducted already more than ten years ago for partners of Norwegian Church Aid in the Eastern parts of the country. The cohabitation of the local population in the areas of Goma and Bukavu with the refugees from the Rwandan genocide were the major point of concern at that time.

In cooperation with the American NGO Pact, we have contributed to the social responsibility programme of a gold-mining company operating in the Eastern Province by integrating questions of conflict sensitivity into their activities. During an initial "Do No Harm" workshop in Mongbwalu, tensions among the different ethnic groups in the area were analysed with the perspective of launching joint community development activities. Later, an American staff member working for the programme attended a Training of Trainers and became our first practitioner in Congo.

Two partner agencies of the German Civil Peace Service went through an extended 5-days "Do No Harm" course in Lubumbashi. The two local organizations, the Centre Régional d'Appui et de Formation pour le Développement (CRAFOD) and the Service d'Appui au Développement Régional Intégré (SADRI) represented two regions from opposite sides of Congo, namely Bas-Congo at the mouth of the Congo River and the mineral-rich Katanga in the South. Case studies done by workshop participants looked at political tensions in Bas-Congo and at miners' rights in Katanga, respectively.

As part of the global capacity-building programme of the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform, "Do No Harm" was further promoted among local organizations in the Great Lakes Region, involving among others the Église du Christ au Congo. During a follow-up process to the initial workshop, several local observations were analysed and used as examples in a global practitioners' meeting in Nairobi.

A detailed assessment of the conflict situation in North and South Kivu was conducted for the "Solutions for Peace and Recovery" Programme, implemented by a consortium of MSI, IRC and International Alert. As part of this mission, project staff was trained and ethnic, social and political tensions were analysed in Bukavu, Kabare, Masisi and Walikale. During a follow-up visit several months later, two more workshops for project partners were held in Bukavu and in Goma.

In the meantime, some Congolese have attended further training on "Do No Harm", so that at least three local trainers are currently active, located in Kinshasa, in Goma and in Bukavu. We are very grateful that, as a result of their efforts, the "Do No Harm" brochure has been translated into French and more orientation workshops have been held.


The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 has become a synonym for the abyss of merciless violence against former neighbours. The events of that time had pushed development organizations to reflect about their own responsibilities when working in a context where tensions are building up and how such an eruption of violence could possibly be prevented. Apart from the challenges with relief operations in Somalia, the experience from Rwanda had been the second big trigger for the development of the "Do No Harm" approach. And life continues! After the killing of 800,000 people, after an enormous displacement during which former culprits had now become victims, after all the destruction and suffering, Rwanda has risen out of the ashes. The trauma remains, however, and so the need for conflict sensitivity has not changed.

Like for Congo, the first workshop on "Do No Harm" was conducted by Norwegian Church Aid in Kigali. Participants of this workshop came from Rwanda, Burundi and from Congo and were faced with very similar problems resulting from the social composition of their population, which appears to be very similar across the borders of the three countries. Orientation workshops were also conducted by the School for International Training (SIT) as part of their "Post-Genocide Reconstruction and Peace-Building" programme.

Developments in Rwanda during the last twenty years have surely surprised the world. Alternative ways of justice have been implemented, trying to show ways in which people can still live together in spite of the horrible experience they had gone through. The deep-rooted fragmentation of the population seems to have overcome by simply abolishing the respective terms and replacing old identities with a new national one. As a result, the country has seen considerable economic growth and has attracted the attention of new international partners. One of them is the German Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), implementing a programme addressing decentralization and good governance. Two staff members have attended a Training of Trainers and have conducted several workshops afterwards. In 2018, three more individuals from the same programme have been trained.

All in all, there are now seven "Do No Harm" trainers in the country.

As part of their "Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Project", CARE International has taken up conflict sensitivity in its work in Rwanda. Following the attendance of a Training of Trainers, two staff members have conducted workshops in the rural areas of the country under guidance of an experienced mentor.

A different type of workshop has been tested with the Center for Governance and Human Security Studies in Musanze, where the usual "Do No Harm" analysis was combined with aspects of "systemic conflict analysis" in order to better understand complex interrelations between different driving forces of conflict and the reinforcing loops so difficult to break. This workshop also included sessions on specific gender aspects in conflict situations which might be helpful in effective conflict resolution.


The population structure in Burundi is quite similar to that of Rwanda, and the country has gone through the same historical experiences of domination and marginalization, of violence and displacement, yet on a reduced scale. Contrary to developments in its neighbouring country, however, the situation in Burundi has hardly changed, and so the cycle of violent struggles for political power is still continuing. Relief operations taking care of the victims as well as development organizations trying to promote change need to be aware of the instable relationships among the different population groups.

Together with their colleagues from Congo and Rwanda, Burundians had been among the participants of the first "Do No Harm" workshops organized by Norwegian Church Aid in Kigali and in Nairobi. More recently, the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform has conducted an introductory workshop for several local organizations in Bujumbura. Some of the participants have even contributed to a follow-up process analysing observations made in the field.

In 2014, Burundi got its first "Do No Harm" trainer who successfully graduated from one of our Trainings of Trainers and who was at that time working as a National Programme Coordinator for CARE International. Two more Burundians from the Bible Society of Burundi have recently followed him.


Cameroon is a highly diverse country with completely different ecological zones from tropical rainforests to semi-arid savannah areas and high mountain ranges culminating in Mount Cameroon at more than 4000 metres. The people are as diverse as the landscapes but have lived peacefully together for most of the time, although the country is split between two official languages due to its colonial history. Sadly, this peaceful co-existence has recently been affected from outside when unrest spilt over the borders from neighbouring Nigeria and from the Central African Republic. The religious extremism affecting wide areas in the northern parts of the continent has shown its most ugly face in Northern Nigeria with killings and abductions committed by the Boko Haram group which, according to its name, considers education a sin. The extreme North of Cameroon has fallen victim to attacks from this group, too, making this part of the country a zone of insecurity and bringing infrastructure investment and other development activities to a standstill. More recently, tensions have also been rising in the anglophone parts of the country, where people feel marginalized by the central government and rebel groups have taken up arms in their fight for independence.

As part of their "Programme d'Appui à la Décentralisation et au Développement Local", the German Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) took the initiative to introduce their counterparts from the affected region to conflict-sensitive planning. During a workshop in Yaoundé, participants discussed conflict lines in the Extreme North together with representatives from local NGOs and with religious leaders, trying to promote cooperation among ethnic and religious groups and to find ways to stop the forced recruitment of young people into the Boko Haram movement. A second workshop organized by the same programme addressed the situation in the Eastern Region of Cameroon, where the influx of refugees from the Central African Republic has caused frictions with the indigenous population, partly due to the insensitive response of the international community. The need for "Do No Harm" became obvious.

About 60 church leaders and development staff of the Église Evangélicale Luthérienne de Cameroun attended an introductory workshop on "Do No Harm" in the town of Ngaoundéré. The workshop, which was conducted in English and in French, took place due to the initiative of the Norwegian Mission Society, which is in the process of mainstreaming conflict sensitivity among all their partners in the world. Although most of Cameroon is not affected by wide-spread violent conflict, participants assessed the explanations as an eye-opener for a more sensitive interaction with community groups.

In recent years, two other programmes implemented by the German Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have discovered the "Do No Harm" approach and organized exposure workshops for their staff. These two programmes are working on "Support for Host Populations and Refugees" in the Eastern Region and on "Promotion of Municipal Development" in the Northern Region and in the South-Western Region. In order to start integrating the concept, peace and conflict assessments have been conducted in Garoua and Buea.