Development projects or programmes undertaken in conflict or post-conflict areas often face problems of exposure to the negative effects of the conflict and thus unintentionally get caught up in the disputes between the conflicting parties. These negative effects may include risks to the project personnel and beneficiaries, as well as the investments and achievements made towards the development objectives. In these contexts, risk management is a process that intends to:
- Identify and monitor the different risks and the anticipated impacts at different levels, making them more transparent and hence recognised and reflected upon by management and staff;
- Identify the necessary adjustments and measures (strategic, personnel and operational) to reduce the risks to an acceptable level through decreasing threats and vulnerabilities;
- Establish appropriate implementation structures for projects, ensuring the continuation of safe development practices which can contribute to the achievement of the envisaged objectives in the long-term.
Staff safety is a prerequisite for all projects working in conflict situations. Therefore, risk management takes into account the close linkage between staff safety, operational orientation and issues of conflict sensitivity; such as the unintended negative impacts, and the way the project and staff are perceived from in- and outside the programme/project.
This ‘conflict sensitivity and risk management strategy’ is intended to guide project staff in recognising, analysing and sensitively responding to the interface between the development interventions and the conflict. It is
crucial, that all development activities are planned and carried out with the highest possible degree of detailed understanding of the causes and basic features of the conflict; the likely impacts of the development work, and its appearance at different levels.
Only when a project is acknowledged and recognised as a neutral actor between conflicting parties, can joint efforts be undertaken to create peace and stability, thus preparing the ground for poverty reduction in the long run. Working with and through the peoples’ priorities; maintaining political impartiality and transparency; as well as working for quick and visible impacts are some of the most important principles of such an intervention.
Risk management and conflict sensitivity should be linked to the local context. This method, therefore, only describes some general procedures and basic components that need to be adapted within each individual project proposed and being undertaken in conflict affected areas. The method stems from different academic, methodological and practical debates on development cooperation in conflict environments that are closely linked: safe and effective development in a conflict; personal security and risk mitigation; the ‘do no harm’ philosophy; conflict transformation, and peace and conflict assessment (see references).
Along with other approaches this method can assist project staff to successfully work in conflict areas and to develop options to;
- Avoid negative impacts exacerbating the conflict (‘do no harm’),
- Strengthen the positive potentials de-escalating and transforming the conflict (‘do some good’),
- Stay actively engaged and target the causes and consequences of conflict (working ‘in’ and ‘on’ conflict).