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Potential and limits of Conflict-Sensitive approaches to Development: The Case of North Kivu
Unformatted Document Text:  Potential and Pitfalls of Conflict-sensitive Approaches to Development in Conflict Zones Reflections on the Case of North Kivu Valeria Izzi, ## email not listed ## and Christof Kurz, ## email not listed ## ISA Annual Convention, New York 15-18 February 2009 Panel: Securitization of Development Wednesday, 17 February 2009 1 Introduction Conflict sensitivity is now recognized as an essential requirement for development 1 programs and projects, particularly in conflict and post-conflict countries. The notion that development interventions have to take into account the impact they might have on conflict dynamics became part of the mainstream development discourse in the late 1990s, as a reaction to the growing realization that external assistance can unintentionally “do harm” and contribute to the escalation or perpetuation of conflict. The concept of conflict sensitivity received recognition at the policy level, and was institutionalized within bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, with the aim of 'mainstreaming' it across all development programming. While development organizations have done a lot of thinking on conflict sensitivity and have adjusted rules, mandates, staff training and program guidelines, it is unclear whether these efforts have had the desired effects on the implementation of development programs on the ground. Are development programs today less likely to ‘do harm’ than they were ten years ago? Are they better able to contribute to the mitigation of conflict or to reconciliation and cooperation between groups? The answers to these questions are not straightforward. There is little empirical evidence and few or no systematic studies that development programs have made a significant difference to conflict dynamics on the ground in conflict zones. At the same time, the problems that have burdened development programs for decades – insufficient local buy-in and participation, unfinished or poorly implemented projects, limited project sustainability, corruption in program implementation – seem to be as prevalent today as in earlier days. Furthermore, development workers seem to get entangled in conflict rather more frequently, violence and targeted attacks being now the most common cause of death among humanitarian and development workers (Rowley et al. 2008). Approximately a decade since the OECD guidelines on Conflict, Peace, and Development Cooperation at the Threshold of the 21st Century (OECD 1997) and Mary Anderson's 'Do No Harm' (Anderson, 1999) first laid out guidelines for conflict-sensitive development, it seems opportune to take stock of the evolution of the notion of conflict-sensitive development with the aim to assessing to which extent it has contributed to ‘doing different things’ or ‘doing things differently’. Unlike other recent contributions (Paffenholz 2005, Barbolet et al, 2005), this paper does not attempt to assess the extent to which the notion of conflict sensitivity has made an imprint on development agencies’ mandates and practices. Instead, it asks whether conflict sensitivity – as defined, conceptualized and ‘mainstreamed’ today by development institutions – can live up to the expectations raised in international donor documents. Based on insights gathered in the process of a four-month participatory conflict-analysis of North Kivu province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in which the authors were involved in 2008, the paper explores the meaning of conflict sensitivity in the specific context of North Kivu. It suggests that even in cases where a deep conflict analysis is undertaken, the obstacles to implementing conflict-sensitive development programs are considerable. These include the deeply political nature of all violent conflict and the need for 1 For the purpose of this paper, we define ‘development interventions’ or ‘programs’ as those externally sponsored activities that ’contribute to human welfare and economic development’, loosely following Riddell (2007).

Authors: Izzi, Valeria. and Kurz, Christof.
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Potential and Pitfalls of Conflict-sensitive Approaches to Development in Conflict Zones 
Reflections on the Case of North Kivu 
 
Valeria Izzi,
## email not listed ##
and 
Christof Kurz,
## email not listed ##
 
ISA Annual Convention, New York 15-18 February 2009 
Panel: Securitization of Development 
 
Wednesday, 17 February 2009 
 
 
1  Introduction  
 
Conflict  sensitivity  is  now  recognized  as  an  essential  requirement  for  development
1
  programs  and  projects, 
particularly in  conflict and post-conflict  countries. The  notion that development  interventions have to take  into 
account the impact they might have on conflict dynamics became part of the mainstream development discourse 
in the late 1990s, as a reaction to the growing realization that external assistance can unintentionally “do harm” 
and  contribute  to  the  escalation  or  perpetuation  of  conflict.  The  concept  of  conflict  sensitivity  received 
recognition at the policy level, and was institutionalized within bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, with the 
aim of 'mainstreaming' it across all development programming.   
 
While  development  organizations  have  done  a  lot  of  thinking  on  conflict  sensitivity  and  have  adjusted  rules, 
mandates, staff training and program guidelines, it is unclear whether these efforts have had the desired effects 
on the implementation of development programs on the ground. Are development programs today less likely to 
‘do  harm’  than  they  were  ten  years  ago?  Are  they  better  able  to  contribute  to  the  mitigation  of  conflict  or  to 
reconciliation and cooperation between groups? The answers to these questions are not straightforward. There 
is little empirical evidence and few or no systematic studies that development programs have made a significant 
difference  to  conflict  dynamics  on  the  ground  in  conflict  zones.  At  the  same  time,  the  problems  that  have 
burdened development programs  for decades – insufficient  local buy-in and participation, unfinished  or poorly 
implemented  projects,  limited  project  sustainability,  corruption  in  program  implementation  –  seem  to  be  as 
prevalent today as in earlier days. Furthermore, development workers seem to get entangled in conflict rather 
more  frequently,  violence  and  targeted  attacks  being  now  the  most  common  cause  of  death  among 
humanitarian and development workers (Rowley et al. 2008).    
 
Approximately  a  decade  since  the  OECD  guidelines  on  Conflict,  Peace,  and  Development  Cooperation  at  the 
Threshold of the 21st Century (OECD 1997) and Mary Anderson's 'Do No Harm' (Anderson, 1999) first laid out 
guidelines for conflict-sensitive development, it seems opportune to take stock of the evolution of the notion of 
conflict-sensitive  development  with  the  aim  to  assessing  to  which  extent  it  has  contributed  to  ‘doing  different 
things’ or ‘doing things differently’. Unlike other recent contributions (Paffenholz 2005, Barbolet et al, 2005), this 
paper does not attempt to assess the extent to which the notion of conflict sensitivity has made an imprint on 
development  agencies’  mandates  and  practices.  Instead,  it  asks  whether 
conflict  sensitivity
  –  as  defined, 
conceptualized and ‘mainstreamed’ today by development institutions – can live up to the expectations raised in 
international donor documents.  
 
Based on insights gathered in the process of a four-month participatory conflict-analysis of North Kivu province 
in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in which the authors were involved in 2008, the paper 
explores the meaning of conflict sensitivity in the specific context of North Kivu. It suggests that even in cases 
where  a  deep  conflict  analysis  is  undertaken,  the  obstacles  to  implementing  conflict-sensitive  development 
programs  are  considerable.  These  include  the  deeply  political  nature  of  all  violent  conflict  and  the  need  for 
                                                 
1
 
For the purpose of this paper, we define ‘development interventions’ or ‘programs’ as those externally sponsored 
activities that ’contribute to human welfare and economic development’, loosely following Riddell (2007).
  


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