Partnerships in conflict: How violent conflict impacts local civil society and how international partners respond
This report aims to contribute to building more equal, effective and enabling partnerships in conflict settings. It is based on research commissioned by Oxfam and conducted with International Alert in three protracted conflict settings: Afghanistan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Kachin state in Myanmar. It examines the impact of violent conflict on civil society and on CSOs and their staff, and calls on international actors to develop a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to partnerships – one that strengthens rather than undermines the role of CSOs in conflict settings.
Violent conflict destroys, disrupts and reshapes relationships across society. Despite many years of working in partnership, international organisations often do not sufficiently understand how violent conflict affects local and national civil society organisations (CSOs) and how their own actions (e.g. decisions about which groups to partner with and the terms of partnership, which geographical areas to work in and what activities to focus on) affect the prospects for sustainable peace, security and development.
International actors increasingly work in violently contested territories and rely on national or local CSOs to reach conflict-affected communities. As support for the localisation agenda and the Charter for Change grows, partnerships in conflict settings will be increasingly common and vital to ensure that life-saving resources reach the people who need them most.
The findings highlight areas of strain and tension but also of opportunity in relationships between international actors and their local civil society partners. They also highlight particular areas within partnerships that need to change if both international actors and their local partners are to maximise their impact.
While the messages in this report may not be new, they demand an urgent response, not least because of their security and ethical dimensions. International and local partners must redouble their efforts to forge strong and mutually reinforcing partnerships that put localisation into practice and meet the needs of vulnerable communities living in the grip of protracted violent conflicts.