Chapter 4 - Recovering from violent conflict

Chapter 4 - Recovering from violent conflict


Humanitarian aid and early recovery

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The term ‘post-conflict’ is widely used, yet can be difficult to define. The term is also contradictory in nature as conflict is inherent in every society; thus, there can theoretically be no ‘post-conflict’ period. Nonetheless, this term is widely used in practice to refer to the period after large-scale violence has ended. This is often considered to be the phase that begins following a ceasefire or a peace agreement. 

There is consensus, however, that hostilities and conflict dynamics do not end abruptly. There is never a clear transition from war to peace or conflict to post-conflict. Rather, low level or sporadic fighting may continue; violence may persist in other forms, such as violent crime, organised crime and gender-based violence; and peace agreements can be derailed. In addition, compromises made to appease belligerents in order to secure peace agreements may in some cases institutionalise conflict dynamics. Many conflict analysts have critiqued the Dayton Peace Agreement, for example, for institutionalising ‘ethnic cleansing’ with the partition of the country based on ethnic grounds.

Given the complexities of ‘post-conflict’ settings, it is essential that actors seeking to engage in recovery efforts conduct comprehensive assessments. The aim of such assessments is to assist actors to understand the environment in which they will be operating, to determine country priorities and needs, and to plan recovery strategies and activities.

Evaluations of prior international interventions in conflict-affected countries have found that although the international community was effective in ending armed conflict, it was less successful in its post-peace agreement efforts. Weaknesses identified include: insufficient engagement with civil society; failure to prioritise development from the outset; failure to mainstream gender; insufficient attention to the regional dimensions of conflict; the undermining of national structures through the creation of parallel structures; and an excessive preoccupation with security (see UNDP 2006).

Brown, G., Langer, A., Stewart, F., 2008, ‘A Typology of Post-Conflict Environments: An Overview’, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) Oxford University, Oxford 
Which policies to promote sustainable peace-building and socio-economic development are needed in different types of post-conflict environment? This paper offers a typology of post-conflict environments, suggesting that policy choice should be informed by three key variables: the state of economic development; the presence of high-value natural resources; and the existence of sharp horizontal inequalities. Four enabling conditions are also important in determining policy options and effectiveness – the state of security, the commitments of the international community to the country, state capacity and the inclusivity of government.

Keen, D., 2000, ‘War and Peace: What’s the Difference’, International Peacekeeping, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 1-22
What do war and peace have in common, and how can understanding this help in understanding transitions between the two? This article suggests that the conventional model of war as ‘a fight to win’ is often misleading. War may in fact offer a promising environment for the pursuit of aims that are also prominent in peacetime. Peacebuilding interventions therefore need to influence the cost-benefit calculations of conflict parties so that peace becomes the more attractive option.

UNDP, 2006, Evaluation of UNDP Support to Conflict Affected Countries, United Nations Development Programme, New York
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Kievelitz, U. and Schaef, T., 2004, 'Practical Guide to Multilateral Needs Assessments in Post-Conflict Situations', a joint project of the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, and United Nations Development Group, New York
How can post-conflict needs assessments (PCNAs) be enhanced? Generally, PCNAs are jointly carried out by the UN and the World Bank, sometimes in conjunction with other key donor agencies. This guide aims to support current efforts among these agencies to further enhance their engagement in the PCNA by learning from available experience. It draws strongly on material from recent needs assessments in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Liberia.

Humanitarian assistance and transition to development

Debates about linking humanitarian assistance and development emerged in the 1990s and the term ‘relief-development continuum’ was then coined. This approach aimed to identify complementary objectives and strategies in relief and development aid, and to promote the concept that humanitarian assistance could provide a foundation for recovery and the development of sustainable livelihoods. The adoption of the continuum concept also focused attention on the need to bridge the funding and operational gap that typically arose between emergency aid and development programming. The concept of a chronological continuum was subsequently rejected by international aid actors as over simplistic, leaving the problems of the humanitarian-development gap unaddressed. Attempts to fill this gap have re-emerged with the concept of ‘early recovery’ (see early recovery on this page).

New debates about humanitarian assistance have arisen in the post-9/11 context, with growing emphasis on linking humanitarian aid, development and security. Although integrated missions can be beneficial and serve the aims of coherence and coordination (see the section on coherence, coordination, sequencing and funding mechanisms), there are concerns about the securitisation of aid and challenges to the neutrality of humanitarian assistance (see stabilisation and peacekeeping and peace support operations).

Harmer, A. and Macrae, J., 2004, Chapter 1 in Beyond the Continuum: The Changing Role of Aid Policy in Protracted Crises, HPG Report 18, Overseas Development Institute, London
Until recently, assistance to countries in protracted crises was seen only in terms of humanitarian aid. How has this changed? This review argues that there has been a shift in the linking of relief and development. It suggests that policy has moved towards areas of shared responsibility. However, it warns that humanitarian actors must communicate more clearly and fully the distinctiveness of their experience in these environments and work with development actors to explore common ground.

Stoddard, A. and Harmer, A., 2005, ‘Room to Manoeuvre: Challenges of Linking Humanitarian Action and Post Conflict Recovery in the New Security Environment’, Human Development Report Occasional Paper, United Nations Development Programme, New York
What role should humanitarian actors play in conflict and post-conflict situations? Should humanitarian and development actors pursue distinct or shared agendas? This report examines some of the challenges facing humanitarian operations in the new global security environment. Challenges relate to the large number of actors and mandates involved in situations of conflict and protracted crisis - and a lack of clarity over how humanitarian, development and security actors should work alongside each other. This lack of clarity has resulted in a blurring of roles, which has in some cases undermined the concept of neutrality in humanitarian assistance.

Buchanan-Smith, M. and Fabbri, P., 2005, ‘Links between Relief, Rehabilitation and Development in the Tsunami Response: A Review of the Debate’, Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, London
The challenge of linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) has preoccupied aid organisations for over a decade. What does it mean? How can it be done? This paper gives an overview of the literature and informs LRRD-themed evaluations. While much has been written about LRRD, shifts in agency approach and practice do not appear to have matched recommendations.

Early recovery

The Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery (CWGER), led by the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, defines ‘early recovery’ as: “a multidimensional process of recovery that begins in a humanitarian setting. It is guided by development principles that seek to build on humanitarian programmes and catalyze sustainable development opportunities. It aims to generate self sustaining, nationally owned, resilient processes for post crisis recovery. It encompasses the restoration of basic services, livelihoods, shelter, governance, security and rule of law, environment and social dimensions, including the reintegration of displaced populations”. 

Early recovery is a concept that seeks to resolve the strategic, operational, financing and coordination gaps that have existed in the past between relief and development work. Rather than treating relief and development as separate interventions that occur sequentially, early recovery requires that development work is integrated into relief efforts and begins as early as possible (in the case of conflict, often before the peace process is complete). 

There are multiple requirements for establishing the foundations of longer-term recovery at an early stage. These include: early needs assessment, planning and resource mobilisation for recovery that takes into account the different needs, resources and vulnerabilities of women and men; early efforts to develop state capacity, including training of civil servants; the reestablishment of essential services and rebuilding of livelihoods; the integration of emergency shelter, transitional shelter and permanent shelter into one reconstruction process; and the creation of strategic alliances between communities and local authorities ensuring the participation and inclusion of vulnerable, marginalised and discriminated groups.  At all stages of the early recovery process, donors should seek to understand existing local recovery mechanisms and to build upon them.

Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery (CWGER), 2008, ‘Guidance Note on Early Recovery’, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UNDP, Geneva
What is early recovery? How can early recovery activities be best coordinated with humanitarian and development activities in post-crisis situations? This guidance note outlines how to implement early recovery in areas affected by natural disaster or conflict. It argues that early recovery coordination can be an interface between the humanitarian and development communities, bridging the gap between crisis response and longer-term recovery.

Bailey, S. and Pavanello, S., 2009, ‘Untangling Early Recovery’, HPG Briefing Paper, No. 38, Overseas Development Institute, London
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United Nations, 2009, ‘Report of the Secretary-General on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict’, Report, no. A/63/881-S/2009/304, United Nations, General Assembly, Security Council, New York
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Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, 2012, ‘UNDP and Early Recovery’
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Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery (CWGER), 2006, ‘Implementing Early Recovery’, Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)
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Chandran, R., Jones, B. and Smith, N., 2008, ‘Recovering from War: Gaps in Early Action’, A Report by the NYU Centre on International Cooperation for the UK Department for International Development, New York University, New York
How can international support for early recovery following conflict be improved? This report recommends measures to bridge three key gaps in the international response in the early recovery phase: gaps in strategy, financing and capacity. Work across all three areas is needed, and must start with an assessment of national capacity, or ‘the state of the state’. The deeply political nature of post-conflict recovery cannot be overemphasised.

Livelihoods and employment

The restoration of livelihoods is often a key goal of relief efforts.  In conflict situations however, livelihoods cannot be restored simply by restoring assets - a common approach adopted in relief efforts. Rather, as argued in the case of Darfur, systemic issues such as insecurity, land rights, unequal access to resources, and the lack of public infrastructure are closely connected to livelihoods and need to be addressed in early recovery efforts.

Livelihoods and employment are crucial in post-conflict environments for the success of reintegration programmes for demobilised combatants and refugees and internally displaced persons; as well as for conflict-affected populations more generally. Certain sectors, such as the construction sector, have high growth potential in post-conflict environments, as much infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. It is essential, however, that jobs created in these sectors are directed at local populations and not just contracted out to international workers. Livelihood interventions risk having negative impacts on conflict if not conflict sensitive.

Young, H. and Osman, A. M., 2006, ‘Challenges to Peace and Recovery in Darfur. A Situation Analysis of the Ongoing Conflict and its Continuing Impact on Livelihoods’, Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University, Medford Massachusetts
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Collier, P., 2007, ‘Post-Conflict Recovery: How Should Policies be Distinctive?’ Centre for the Study of African Economies, Department of Economics, Oxford University, Oxford
Should post-conflict economic policies be distinctive from other developing country policies? This paper examines available evidence from post-conflict countries to assess the applicability of various economic policies in such settings. It concludes that post-conflict environments are distinctive situations and require different interventions to stimulate economic recovery and, ultimately, long-term peace.

Mallett, R. and Slater, R., 2012, ‘Growth and Livelihoods in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations’. Working Paper 9, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, ODI.
What do we know about the impacts of conflict on growth, economic activity and livelihoods? What is the evidence of the effectiveness of economic and livelihood interventions in conflict-affected situations? This review synthesises the available evidence on livelihoods and growth in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Evidence of the impact of livelihood and economic recovery interventions (livelihood provision, protection and promotion) on peace-building is weak.  Livelihood interventions risk having negative impacts on conflict if not conflict sensitive. States and aid agencies can support livelihoods and promote economic activity through effective programming and creating enabling environments in post-conflict settings.
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For additional discussion and resources on employment and livelihoods, see the socioeconomic recovery section of this guide.


Refugees and internally displaced populations

Refugees and IDPs require not only immediate humanitarian assistance but also interventions to help secure durable solutions, such as livelihoods and employment. Assessments of refugee and IDP needs should be conducted as early as possible in the displacement cycle. The participation of refugees, IDPs and affected populations is essential as a right in itself and also to ensure that interventions are effective in meeting their needs. Effective participatory assessments should provide for separate, structured discussions with women, girls, men and boys of diverse ages and backgrounds in order to understand their specific protection risks, capacities, priorities and solutions.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) - Protection Cluster and Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery, 2007, ‘Protection of Conflict-Induced IDPs: Assessment for Action’, UNHCR, Geneva
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Mailer, M., 2008, ‘From Emergency to Recovery: Rescuing Northern Uganda's Transition, Oxfam Briefing Paper, Oxfam International
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Kälin, W., 2010, ‘Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons’, Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Feb 2010, Human Rights Council, UNHCR
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For additional discussion and resources on refugees and IDPs, see the refugees and IDPs section of this guide.