Peace and conflict sensitivity has successfully entered the mainstreaming agenda of development donors and agencies and there has been a tremendous institutionalisation and conceptualisation of the topic. In practical terms however, a co-ordinated system for peace and conflict sensitive aid implementation remains a long way off. This article, published in the the journal International Politics and Society, explores the gap between rhetoric and practice and identifies some of the challenges ahead.
Peace and conflict sensitivity in international co-operation involves integrating the peace and conflict dimension into development policies and programmes. Following the Rwandan genocide of 1994, a major debate began amongst development actors about the role of development in conflict affected areas. This largely political debate then shifted to a tool-based discussion and in recent years, a variety of conflict sensitive approaches have been developed, such as ‘Do No Harm’.
The limitations of many ‘Do No Harm’ activities have since become apparent. Without a clear political strategy, donors have been unable to influence conflict situations in a timely and constructive way.
- In Nepal, despite 30 different conflict analysis reports and assessments, donors have been unable to come up with a joint assessment that could lead to a joint response.
- In Sri Lanka, the many private aid organisations specially founded for tsunami aid have no experience in international co-operation, and therefore no idea about peace and conflict sensitivity.
- The opposition party-controlled areas in the north and east of Sri-Lanka are getting far less tsunami aid than the south because agencies there have to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which takes longer. Most professional agencies are aware of this, but do not see any other way of coping with these huge resource allocations.
In order to help improve the practice of peace and conflict sensitivity in international co-operation, policymakers need to:
- politicise the debate around peace/conflict sensitivity. Peace and conflict are political issues and this fosters the need for better co-operation between diplomatic and development actors
- change from a tool-based strategy to a more holistic approach, which aims at systematic peace and conflict sensitive programme management
- ensure more modesty in the debate on assessing the impact of peace-building interventions. It is difficult to assess the impact of a single intervention on the macro peace process in isolation
- invest in a good planning process. Donors should emphasise evaluations of peace programmes and include funds for training courses in participatory planning for peace partner organisations
- establish training partnerships with southern institutions to create ownership and make use of local knowledge. A north-only agency and consultant drive approach should be avoided
- standardise planning and evaluation guidelines. It would make sense for researchers, governmental and non-governmental actors from the north, south and east to develop standard guidelines in the context of an international framework.