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Being resilient to conflict in violent places.

Our learning from Burundi, DRC, Myanmar, and South Sudan.

Christian Aid has worked for several years now on uncovering and boosting communities’ resilience to ‘shocks’ like floods, droughts – and violence. We posed the following questions to ourselves:  

  1. How is building the resilience of communities facing violence different from supporting communities facing natural hazards?
  2. How can we build the resilience of communities living in an environment of protracted violent conflict?  
  3. How can we understand our impact on the conflict as well as the conflict’s impact on our work?  

In seeking answers to these, we started to use an Integrated Conflict Prevention and Resilience approach (ICPR) that we’d developed with other agencies. We applied it as part of a multi-year,  Irish Aid funded humanitarian programme in Burundi, DRC, Myanmar, and South Sudan. We developed a research partnership with conflict specialists from Queen’s University Belfast to study the effects of applying this approach. 

ICPR builds on a Resilience approach that focuses on supporting communities to anticipate, organise for, and adapt to  cope with the risks they face. ICPR provides a more sensitive approach anticipating that when violence is one of the risks a community faces, a deeper understanding of the causes and drivers of violent conflict is needed.  

 

Celebrations in Northern Bahr el Ghazal despite intermittent violence that has affected this region of South Sudan

Celebrations in Northern Bahr el Ghazal despite intermittent violence that has affected this region of South Sudan

Main findings and recommendations from year one of the research

Our implementation of ICRP showed us that: 

  1. People’s needs in protracted crisis areas are interconnected – not divided into humanitarian, development, or peace needs. Donors and policymakers should seek to support integrated approaches to build robust resilience.   
  2. Boosting the role of local actors in humanitarian response is an important debate. This will pose specific challenges for local actors in conflict settings as they must keep their staff safe while trying to tackle risks of violence.  
  3. Moving from conflict sensitivity to conflict prevention is a distinct step; it is not viable in all contexts. ‘Building-in’ more conflict prevention techniques with humanitarian partners or linking with other partners who have those skills may increase the scope for using the integrated approach to resilience.   
  4. The empowerment of local partner organisations and communities is a worthwhile and evidenced element of resilience. But, the identification of vulnerabilities and methods to tackle them can give way to frustration when there is lack of funding for follow-up programmes.  
  5. Conflict analysis is more effective when it is multi-level (national and local) and incorporates formal analysis by specialists and informal analysis by local implementers.  
  6. Where people are reluctant to openly discuss violence, investment in ‘alternative’ conflict analysis skills for partners deserves exploration – oral histories or trauma-sensitive interviewing for example  
  7. In some areas, Christian Aid had already worked with partners on improving the inclusiveness of its humanitarian work. Where this had been done, it had a noticeable positive effect on understanding violent conflict. BUT there is still a gap between token representation and meaningful participation.

What happens after this?

We will continue to use and adapt the ICPR approach throughout 2019 to 2021. This will include developing a specific ‘theory of change’ on integration into programmes.  

We will move to a targeted mentoring role for specialists, transferring more ‘conflict skills’ to staff and partners.  

We will work with partners to improve their analysis of violent conflict, and the possibilities and limits for tackling it in humanitarian programmes.  

We will continue to investigate potential for more active conflict prevention that is appropriate to context.  

Finally, we will maintain the relationship among staff, conflict specialists in-country, and the researchers from Queen’s University ahead of a new round of field research in 2020.  

Read the full report