Chapter 5 - Intervening in conflict-affected areas

Chapter 5 - Intervening in conflict-affected areas


Peace and security architecture: coherence, coordination, sequencing and funding mechanisms

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Coherence, coordination, sequencing and funding mechanisms

Coherence and coordination

Conflict prevention, post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding interventions involve a wide range of internal and external actors, including governments, civil society, the private sector and international and regional agencies. They also entail a broad range of activities that span security, political, economic, social, humanitarian, human rights and justice dimensions. There is broad consensus that inconsistent policies and fragmented programming increases the risk of duplication and inefficient spending; reduces capacity for delivery; and results in a lower quality of service, difficulty in meeting goals, and ultimately weak outcomes on the ground.

The pursuit of coherence helps to manage interdependencies and allows for the development of an overarching strategic framework. There are four elements of coherence (see De Coning 2007: 6):

  • Agency coherence: consistency among the policies and actions of an individual agency
  • Whole-of-government coherence: consistency among the policies and actions of different government agencies of a country
  • External coherence (harmonisation): consistency among the policies pursued by various external actors in a given country context
  • Internal/external coherence (alignment): consistency between the policies of the internal and external actors in a given country context.

Coordination is the means through which coherence is pursued. Through coordination tools, such as action plans, common needs assessments and productive division of labour, the various actors involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding can connect to the overall strategic framework. Coherence has been difficult to achieve, however, in part because of resistant organisational behaviour. Governments should give greater attention to organisational dynamics in seeking to promote all four elements of coherence.

In addition to targeted interventions in conflict prevention, post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding, changes to other policy areas also need to be coordinated as they can impact (often negatively) on conflict dynamics. These include efforts to combat trafficking of drugs, arms and people; changes in international demand for illicit or illegal goods; and deportations of convicted felons from developed countries to developing countries.

De Coning, C., 2007, ‘Coherence and Coordination in United Nations Peacebuilding and Integrated Missions’ NUPI Report, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Oslo
How important are coherence and coordination in United Nations peacebuilding missions? This study argues that pursuing coherence helps to manage the interdependencies that bind the peacebuilding system together. Coordination is the means through which individual peacebuilding agents can ensure that they are connected to the overall strategic framework. Unless peacebuilding agents, including the Norwegian Government, generate a clearly articulated overall peacebuilding strategy and operationalise the principle of local ownership, peacebuilding systems will continue to suffer from poor rates of sustainability and success.

Lotze, W., De Carvalho, G. B., and Kasumba, Y., 2008, 'Peacebuilding Coordination in African Countries: Transitioning from Conflict Case Studies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and South Sudan', African Journal on Conflict Resolution, Occasional Paper Series, vol. 3, no. 1
How can the coordination of African peacebuilding initiatives be improved? This paper includes case studies from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Liberia. There is much scope for coordination to be improved, particularly among local, internal actors who do not own their national peacebuilding frameworks. Peacebuilding coordination is currently too donor driven.

Kent, R, 2007, ‘The Governance of Global Security and Development: Convergence, Divergence and Coherence’, Conflict, Security & Development, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 125 – 165
How can we explain the lack of coherence within international conflict-handling mechanisms? This article examines the gaps in the international community’s conflict-handling mechanisms from the perspective of coherence and organisational behaviour. It finds that organisational behaviour is one explanation for a lack of coherence and the various disconnects within international conflict-handling mechanisms. Ultimately, solutions to the organisational problems that inhibit coherence in international peace-building efforts will depend on political will.

Rintakoski, K. and Autti, M., eds., 2008, ‘Comprehensive Approach: Trends, Challenges and Possibilities for Cooperation in Crisis Prevention and Management’, Seminar Publication, Ministry of Defence - Finland, Helsinki
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OECD-DAC, 2009, 'Armed Violence Reduction: Enabling Development', Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC), Paris
Integrated, comprehensive and inclusive armed violence reduction (AVR) programmes are an emerging and growing area of development practice. This paper, published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, discusses the components of a multi-level AVR approach. Adopting integrated AVR programmes requires understanding of the multi-faceted, multi-level nature of armed violence, application of rigorous diagnostics of local situations and incorporation of local ownership at all levels of programme design and implementation.

For discussion and resources on the UN coherence and coordination, see ‘United Nations’ in the international peace and security architecture section of this guide.

For further resources on coherence and coordination, see whole of government approaches in the GSDRC’s fragile states guide.


One of most debated issues with respect to post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding is how to prioritise and sequence the range of necessary interventions. There is consensus among academics, policy makers and practitioners that in post-conflict situations, the immediate need for security is paramount. Without security, all other interventions are likely to fail. Beyond this, the consensus seems to dissipate. Some advocate that governance and economic stabilisation should take precedence over service delivery and large-scale infrastructure. Others stress that service delivery should be prominent early on to address pressing needs and to provide a ‘peace dividend’. Others argue infrastructure projects should begin early in the process both as a base for development and to provide necessary employment. 

Sequencing is contextual and should be tailored to the specific needs and requirements of each country. Job creation and income-generation will be more important in some contexts than others. In divided post-conflict societies, repairing fractured social relations is also often an immediate priority. Regardless of how activities are sequenced, it is important to recognise that interventions cannot be rushed. In order to succeed in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, donors may need to remain engaged for a large number of years. 

Timilsina, A., 2006, ‘Getting the Policies Right: The Prioritisation and Sequencing of Policies in Post-Conflict Countries’, Chapter 9 - ‘Conclusions, Implications and Recommendations’, RAND dissertation, Pardee RAND Graduate School, Santa Monica
How should policies be prioritised in post-conflict countries and how should they be sequenced? This chapter uses case studies from post-conflict countries to identify a framework to help policymakers better navigate the complexities and challenges of prioritisation and sequencing. It argues that in the early stages of post-conflict security should be prioritised, along with humanitarian and relief efforts; governance and democratisation; economic stabilisation and reforms; and large-scale infrastructure and long-term development. Sequencing should be non-linear, context-dependent and specific to the needs and requirements of each country.

Chand, S. and Coffman, R., 2008, 'How Soon Can Donors Exit From Post-Conflict States?', Working Paper no. 141, Centre for Global Development, Washington, DC
When can donors successfully exit from post-conflict states? The answer, according to this analysis, is in decades. In Liberia, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, the best case scenario for successful exit ranges from 15 to 27 years. Successful exit entails the creation of sufficient fiscal space to fund the recurrent budget from internally generated revenues. Extended donor presence provides space for the creation and maturation of institutions capable of preventing the state from rolling back into failure.

Suhrke, A., Buckmaster, J., 2006, 'Aid, Growth and Peace: A Comparative Analysis', Conflict, Security and Development, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 337 – 363
What factors shape the sequencing of post-war aid? What effect do aid patterns have on the long- and short-term stability of peace? This article maps patterns of post-war aid in order to identify patterns of sequencing and magnitude. It finds that contrary to other studies and conventional wisdom, post-war aid is not always front-loaded immediately after peace and then rapidly phased out. Instead, post-war aid has followed a variety of patterns, influenced by the political contexts of donation and implementation.


Financing in post-conflict situations impacts the choice of interventions, the power and responsibility of different groups, and the balance of meeting short-term needs with long-term development. Financing shortfalls can be difficult to estimate as they are rarely based on needs assessments.

There are also debates concerning the sequencing of financing. Some scholars and practitioners argue that aid should be concentrated in earlier phases when the demands for multiple recovery programmes are greatest as well as the need to quickly provide jobs and protection to ‘at risk’ groups.They also assert that investment in capacity building is required upfront. Others argue that the absence of absorptive capacity in the immediate post-conflict period means that aid should peak a few years after a crisis in order to be used effectively.

Trust funds are a form of financing that allows aid to be collected upfront but dispersed gradually. Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MDTFs) have been adopted in recent years in order to improve donor coordination. They are established ideally in close connection with a comprehensive needs assessment, with extensive involvement of donors, aid agencies and local authorities. This allows for a shared understanding of the pressing needs and methods of addressing them. It is also advocated that MDTFs are linked to recipient country budgets so that a balance can be struck between immediate post-conflict priorities and long-term institutional development.

It is also important that local organisations and NGOs are not by-passed in recovery and peacebuilding programming and financing; they are often the only ones capable of implementing activities on the ground.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2010,'Transition Financing: Building a Better Response', OECD, Paris
Aid modalities have been working poorly in post-conflict or 'transition' situation and must be more effective, rapid and flexible. Aid architecture should respond to the long-term, non-linear nature of transition rather than be compartmentalised into humanitarian and development modalities with their corresponding constraints. Pooled funding such as MDTFs have been shown to be useful tools especially when they are based on proper needs assessments. Sometimes they have been slow to operate and inadequately responsive to needs. This has occasionally led to a proliferation of other instruments without sufficient clarity and co-ordination between them. A funding 'mix' may best release funds responsively and handle the inherent trade-offs between quick delivery and capacity building.

Schiavo-Campo, S., 2003, 'Financing and Aid Arrangements in Post-Conflict Situations', World Bank, Washington, DC
What does the the international experience with post-conflict reconstruction tell us about financing modalities and aid arrangements in post-conflict situations? Are there a series of recommendations that emerge from the experiences of post conflict countries? This paper looks at the experience of aid funds in four post-conflict environments. In a general sense a pre-requisite for post-conflict reconstruction and effective financing, is the establishment and maintenance of peace.

GSDRC, 2007, 'Post-conflict Recovery: Financing and Coordination Instruments', Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
There has been a push in recent years towards greater coordination and pooled financing mechanisms to promote sustainable post-conflict recovery. Donor coordination is facilitated through negotiated strategic frameworks, which articulate a shared vision, action plan and productive division of labour; and through common needs assessments. Pledging conferences, (the more common form of financing recovery in the past)  have been criticised for non-delivery or late delivery of funds and a donor-driven agenda. Pooled funds can correct for these shortcomings and foster greater coordination. They come in the form of Post-Conflict Funds (small grants for flexible, smaller scale interventions), Multi-Donor Trust Funds (for large scale collaborative programmes) and the proposed Strategic Post-Conflict Recovery Facility (a flexible fund that would bridge the gap after emergency relief tapers). These un-earmarked funds would also allow financing to be channelled through the local government.

Cutillo, A., 2006, ‘International Assistance to Countries Emerging from Conflict. A Review of Fifteen Years of Interventions and the Future of Peacebuilding’, Policy Paper, International Peace Academy, New York
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Case Studies

IDA, 2007, ‘Bosnia and Herzegovina: From Reconstruction to Development’, International Development Association (IDA) at Work, World Bank, Washington, DC
This brief stresses that such strong engagement early on was critical since the financial package offered the prospect of reconstruction and return to normalcy, which helped to secure the peace deal. In the first few post-war years, financing was made under simplified procedures due to BiH’s initial weak absorptive and managing capacity. The brief also emphasises that repairing fractured social relations should be an immediate post-war priority. This can be assisted through community development initiatives, such as small infrastructure projects, micro-finance for new local businesses, and grants to NGOs to strengthen civil society and protect vulnerable groups. Longer-term goals include developing a market economy, reforming the public sector and building state capacity so that it can provide a social safety net; as well as constructing larger infrastructure, such as a motorway linking BiH to neighbouring European countries.
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IDA, 2007, ‘Sierra Leone: Recovering from Years of Conflict’, International Development Association (IDA) at Work, World Bank, Washington, DC
In 1997, the World Bank administered a multi-donor trust fund for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). The basic security that this DDR programme provided paved the way for reconstruction and economic recovery, critical for a transition to peace. In subsequent years, IDA worked with other donors to support government efforts to rehabilitate schools, clinics, markets and roads; and NGO training and employment programmes – all of which promoted the return of internally displaced persons, refugees and former combatants. In 2003, donors greatly enhanced their coordination of public financial management reforms; they provided multi-donor budget support that underpinned a full poverty reduction strategy, as opposed to funding select reforms. One of the key lessons learned is that significant up-front investment in capacity building of implementing agencies is crucial.
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