Participatory action research: A method to repair fractured social relations - Lessons from a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This report summarises a project implemented by International Alert in the North Kivu province of DRC, aiming to develop community capacity in conflict management and peacebuilding. The project, carried out between February 2013 and June 2015, sought to strengthen community reconciliation and to improve local governance using participatory action research (PAR) and community dialogue.

This report summarises this process and presents lessons that are of relevance for local and international peacebuilders, as well as for the design of the so-called ‘democratic dialogue’ pillar within the framework of the International Security and Stabilization Support Strategy for eastern DRC. It also seeks to mobilise the support of political and administrative actors in North Kivu province, in order to ensure that the results of the project take root and deliver lasting benefits to the local communities.

It should be noted that the conflicts examined using the PAR process are multidimensional in nature, divide the whole community or even several communities and extend beyond the borders of the villages concerned. The conflicts were linked to myriad issues including power, governance, natural resource management, land and identity. The PAR process highlighted the need to tackle all of a conflict’s various dimensions, rather than dealing with one facet in isolation.

Finally, it is crucial to involve women in group discussions, at all stages of the research and dialogue processes. Conflict resolution is often perceived as an exclusively male domain. It is nevertheless encouraging to note that women are actively involved in peace committees, a measure of the importance they attach to this particular community forum.