How does development cooperation contribute to peacebuilding? This chapter from the Handbook of Conflict Analysis and Resolution examines connections between conflict, security, peace and development. It summarises: (a) research debates about the causes of armed conflict; (b) discourse in the development community on conflict and peace and (c) the influence of these debates and discourses on development cooperation in conflict-affected contexts. Development policies should be an integral part of the peacebuilding agenda. But transfer from research to policy has largely ignored the complexity of development in conflict situations and the contribution of development to peacebuilding.
From a development perspective, understanding armed conflict is an important part of understanding the context in which efforts to reduce poverty take place. The development practitioner debate has focused on varying themes such as the prevention of armed conflict, reducing the negative effects of aid on conflict (‘Do no harm’), human security, and the role of development in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
The literature indicates that there is not a single developmental variable that causes conflict, but many variables that foster violence when combined in specific contexts. Research debates examine the causes of conflict in relation to issues such as:
- Globalisation and the transformation of societies: The first stage of democratisation, when pressure is exerted on authoritarian governments, is often accompanied by violence.
- Economic growth and income: Economic growth may increase the risk of armed conflict in very poor economies, but decrease this risk in richer economies.
- Poverty and inequality: A simple link between each of these factors and conflict has been questioned as each context involves specific, complex variables.
- Resources: Whether environmental conflict becomes violent depends largely on the government’s environmental policy. The ‘war economy’ debate suggests that war may be seen as an alternative way of generating profit, power and protection.
- Aid: The aid system can inadvertently exacerbate conflict, as it did in Rwanda. Some have gone further to suggest that donors use aid allocation as a political instrument.
The transfer of the above debates into policy has been selective, however. There is little conceptual thinking about the consequences of globalisation and modernisation for peacebuilding; it is assumed that liberal market economies will promote both peace and development, and critical research is largely ignored. Furthermore:
- Using aid as an incentive for peace (‘peace conditionality’), is promoted by donors, but in practice tends to be undermined by lack of donor coherence.
- ‘Do no harm’ and ‘conflict sensitivity’ guidelines are widespread, but do not often lead to the equal and fair distribution of aid.
- The international community has included issues of ‘war economies’ and natural resources into policy documents for dealing with conflict and has introduced diamond certification. However, it is difficult to regulate other resources and government revenues.
Comparative studies show that development and peacebuilding must be integrated (not just linked) at an early stage – for example by including the political context in development policy and practice in conflict-affected fragile states and by addressing the structural causes of conflict. Development policies and resources are a very important dimension in addressing armed conflict – when applied coherently and with an orientation towards peace that goes far beyond ‘Do no harm’. Likewise, peacebuilding must seen by development practitioners as much more than just another policy and operational option.
- Interdisciplinary research and joint quantitative and qualitative approaches are needed. Translating research into policy needs to be better organised.
- Conflict risks becoming just another donor ‘mainstreaming’ topic along with gender and the environment. The peaceful constitution of countries is a highly political matter; peacebuilding needs to be at the forefront of economic and political development agendas.
- Policy development interventions in fragile contexts should be based on solid analysis that is systematically linked with implementation.
- Donors should take the issue of coherent policies seriously. They should stop linking development policies to national agendas or hiding behind mandates of ‘neutrality’. Country ownership of peace and development processes needs to be put into practice.