This paper examines the critical linkages between peace/conflict and development through peace and conflict impact assessments (PCIA) of development projects in conflict zones. It argues that peacebuilding should not be regarded as a specific activity but as an impact. It notes a need to avoid “ghettoising” peacebuilding as a type of project separate from “conventional” development. Rather, all development activities (especially those in environments of potential conflict) should be assessed in terms of their peace and conflict impact.
This study seeks to develop an argument and framework for the systematic consideration of the positive and negative impacts of development projects in conflict-prone regions. It is premised on a central, underpinning assumption: any development project set in a conflict-prone region will inevitably have an impact on the peace and conflict environment — positive or negative, direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. The operational implication of this is that not all development projects require peace and conflict impact assessments, only those in areas ‘at risk.’
This working paper is part of a study commissioned by the Evaluation Unit of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). It draws upon interviews and experiences collected on field trips to IDRC-supported projects in Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique. It also builds upon earlier research by the Policy Branch of the Canadian International Development Agency.
- The peace and conflict impact assessment of development projects differs from ‘evaluation’ in the conventional sense because its scope extends far beyond the stated outputs, outcomes, goals and objectives of conventional development projects or programmes. Rather, it attempts to discern a project’s impact on the peace and conflict environment — an area it may not have been designed explicitly to affect. Thus, it is quite possible that a project may fail according to limited developmental criteria (e.g., irrigation targets, health care delivery, literacy levels) but succeed according to broader peacebuilding criteria.
- Ideally, all development actors involved in decision-making in conflict-prone regions would use a PCIA — although different types of actors might rely on it in different ways. International donors might rely on it to guide project selection, funding decisions, and monitoring, whereas implementing or operational agencies might well use it to design projects and to guide operational decisions. Communities within violence prone regions may also use the PCIA as a means of assessing the utility, relevance and efficacy of outside-sponsored development initiatives. Thus, it may serve to enable them to engage more effectively with formal development actors in the peacebuilding process by providing a common framework for dialogue and cooperation.
- The primary point of reference in determining impact is the lived experience of those in conflict zones. Peacebuilding means nothing if it is not reflected in positive changes in the lived experience of those in, or returning to, conflict zones.
- Before a project proposal is assessed with an eye to its potential positive or negative peacebuilding impacts, it is necessary to undertake a preliminary review of the conditions within which the prospective project will be set. The following issues should be considered when making a preliminary review of the potential peace and conflict environment impact on a project: location; timing; political context; and other salient factors affecting the impact of the conflict on the project (institutions, leadership, culture, economic infrastructure, etc.).
- Once these broad kinds of questions have been addressed, then a more specific set of questions may be developed. These questions are divided into three categories: 1) those that focus on environmental and contextual factors; 2) those that focus on project capacity; and 3) those that consider the degree of fit between the project and existing conditions.
- If the PCIA is to be user-driven and relevant, then “users” should choose their own indicators — whether they are evaluators for multilateral organisations, local partners, or the communities within which projects are undertaken.