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Published On: Wed, Aug 14th, 2019

Challenges of conflict sensitivity

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By Mujong Rachel Humwapwa

The devastating genocide of Rwanda in 1994 prompted the need for a new strategy in handling conflict intervention. It led to the increased awareness that aid actors had an unintended negative effect on conflict affected areas. In the humanitarian field, conflict sensitivity was therefore initiated. By mid 2000s however, conflict sensitivity was used extensively in the development field and other agencies and organizations. Its increased importance led to the formation of the conflict sensitivity consortium in 2008 that brought together a broad spectrum of development, humanitarian, multi- mandate and peaceful organizations.
Conflict Sensitivity involves “giving a sound understanding of the two- way interaction between activities and context, acting to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive impacts of interventions on conflict, within an organization given priorities/ objectives (mandate)”. As a concept and a tool it emerged to help aid actors understand the unintended consequence of aid and to act to minimize harm and achieve positive outcomes. Conflict sensitivity not only decreases the potential for violence but also increases the effectiveness of assistance.
For the effectiveness of conflict sensitivity, three tools and approaches were formed.
Do No Harm (DNH); at its core, is the analysis of dividing and connecting issues and actors, which should be done with local partners and regularly updated during project implementation.
Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA); in 1998, Kenneth Bush formulated the PCIA. It is used as a means of anticipating and evaluating the impacts of development projects on structures and processes that strengthen prospects for peaceful coexistence and decreased the likelihood of violence and increase the likelihood that conflict will become violent. Mapping exercise, risk and opportunity assessment and peace and conflict impact assessment include the three steps to conducting PCIA.
Aid for Peace; this model focuses on the peacebuilding needs in a specific context and tailoring planned or existing policy, programme or project objective to those needs. It builds on the PCIA by developing conflict and peace result chains and indicators for impact assessment of a particular intervention on conflict and peace environments.
In order for conflict sensitivity to be of better effect, it should be used more within an organization. That is it should be institutionalized with great commitment and with the right incentives. Without taking an institutional approach, skills will be at best confined to only a small group of experts which would be of risk when they leave. Conflict sensitivity will therefore not be effective unless wider structures, policies and ways of working also support and encourage conflict sensitivity.
Conflict analysis is conducted firstly to determine the context at which conflict operates. Conflict sensitivity is then integrated into all stages of the program cycle which are: the Needs assessment stage, Design stage, Implementation stage, Monitoring stage and Evaluation stage. This is done by linking the conflict analysis with the programming cycle of intervention. After this, the result is used to avoid negative impacts and maximize positive impacts. This could be done by redesigning the intervention accordingly.
Agencies could improve conflict sensitivity by numerous organizational areas such as: institutional commitment, policies and strategies, human resources, learning and knowledge management, integration into the programme cycle and external relations.
In the case of emergency response, applying conflict sensitivity could be challenging due to the complexity of the context in which emergencies may occur and also due to the speed organizations need to react with. However conflict sensitivity can be applied to emergency situations through the following stages: preparedness, assessment, design implementation and evaluation phases.
In conclusion, conflict sensitivity has been faced with some challenges such as: inconsistent application of conflict sensitivity at policy and organizational level; throughout project life cycle and at inter-agency level, insufficient capacity, faulty assumptions, lack of accountability, and political dimensions amongst others.
Ms. Humwapwa, a corps member writes from the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) Abuja.

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