Do No Harm (Local Capacities for Peace) - Main Users / Purpose

files/images_static/user.jpg Development organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, Private Sector, Others.
files/images_static/thinker.jpg There is a lively debate on the potential impacts of developmental cooperation (DC) in conflict areas. Although DC generally seeks to be neutral or non-partisan with regard to the parties at war, the experiences of aid agencies, in acute conflict situations at the beginning of the 1990s, have shown that the impact of their work is not neutral.

It can aggravate or reduce conflict. Against this background, the question has arisen of how aid can be organised and implemented so that negative side effects on the conflict are avoided or at least minimised?

  • LCP found that all conflicts are characterised by two types of forces. On the one hand, people within conflict areas are divided one from another along the lines of sub-group identities. On the other hand, at the same time, people within conflicts also remain connected to each other across divisional lines. Thus, LCP starts from the assumption that in all civil war situations there are still some things that connect people across conflict lines. The LCP framework is based on a systematic analysis of “connectors” and “dividers” in every conflict setting. Connectors and dividers can be found in institutions and structures, attitudes and actions, values and interests, experiences and symbols that might reinforce or inhibit capacities for peace and reconciliation among the population affected by war. The principle of Do No Harm is to avoid feeding into inter-group tensions, and to strengthen the connections between groups.
  • LCP was able to identify clear and repeated patterns in the interaction between aid and conflict. The various identified mechanisms have served as the basis for the development of an analytical framework that helps to understand conflict dynamics and to assess the impact of aid on conflict.

The most frequent and prominent examples of how aid affects conflict fall
into two categories:

(i) Resource transfers.


Provision of material goods and funds by donor agencies generally bears the risk of triggering or aggravating competition about access to and control over scarce resources. By channelling funds and resources through selected local institutions and organisations, donor agencies are taking sides, favouring specific actors. As most conflicts nowadays are rooted in competition for access to, or control over, scarce resources, it is not surprising that such transfers have a direct impact on a conflict situation and its dynamics. This is even truer when aid - provided in a situation of open warfare - ends up in the hands or under the control of politicians, local warlords, or militias. Such situations are exemplary, demonstrating how aid interacts with conflict and how it might - unintentionally - feed into or exacerbate conflict.

(ii) Implicit ethical messages.


‘Implicit ethical messages’ encompass factors such as the legitimisation of warring parties due to the fact that hostile sides have a say in determining when, where and how aid is provided to whom. Through such measures, they are granted a mantle of legitimacy. Another example is acceptance of the logic of war. If aid organisations decide to safeguard their measures by military or other armed protection, they accept ‘the logic of war’. “Whoever has the better weapons decides who receives aid”.

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