This article was originally published in the International NGO Training and Research Centre's (INTRAC) newsletter, ONTRAC, issue 59, available here. Integrating a conflict-sensitive approach into the operations and projects of institutions and organisations – including governments, humanitarian and development organisations – often results in more sustainable and stable interventions.
International institutions play an important role in supporting governments and communities in conflict-affected countries, but their performance and impact are uneven.
We work with them to strengthen their contribution to peace and development locally.
International institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Union play an important role in supporting governments and communities in the most fragile and conflict-affected countries, but their performance and impact are uneven.
We work with them to strengthen their contribution to peace and development locally. We research the role they play in peace and conflict around the world. We advise them on how to reform their policies and practices for working in fragile and conflict-affected countries. We also provide them with context analysis, technical expertise and training on conflict-sensitivity, to ensure their strategies and projects take into account local peace and conflict dynamics.
Our work is important because it helps international institutions to increase the impact of their work and avoid inadvertently aggravating local conflict tensions.
International institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Union direct billions of dollars in aid and investment to fragile and conflict-affected countries every year. However, in 2011 the World Development Report found that not one low-income, fragile and conflict-affected country had achieved a single Millennium Development Goal. Peacebuilding and development are challenging in fragile and conflict-affected countries, but better results are possible.
The World Development Report findings stimulated renewed pressure on international institutions to revise their policies and practices for working in fragile and conflict-affected countries. These reforms need to ensure that international aid and investment make more of a difference to the lives of ordinary people living in these countries.
International institutions often have trouble navigating the challenging and deeply political terrain of delivering aid in fragile and conflict-affected countries. They have a tendency to engage primarily with central governments and exclude other local and national political representatives and voices. They can also over-simplify complex situations and take an inflexible approach to their operations in fast-changing environments. This means that billions of dollars of international aid and investment not only risk going to waste, but also exacerbating local conflict tensions and violence.
In order to increase the positive impact they have in fragile and conflict-affected countries, international institutions need to adopt a more conflict-sensitive approach to their work. This means changing institutional policies and systems, but also working with staff to work differently in fragile and conflict-affected countries. When financing and delivering new projects, for example, deepening their understanding of local peace and development needs and taking into account the complex socio-economic and political power relations that shape these.