Conflict early warning and early response

Question

Identify examples of early warning systems to monitor fragile states at risk of violence/instability and cases of early/pre-emptive intervention in states at risk of descending into conflict/instability. What does the literature say about what kind of interventions have been/can be made; in what sectors have they been made effectively, and how?

Summary

Lessons emerging from the literature include:

  • Linking warning and response: The biggest challenge for conflict early warning systems is that they have not yet been effectively transformed into a preventive response. Specific response plans must be developed as part of the early warning system.
  • Preventative interventions to reduce the potential for violence should: i) address civil society; ii) address the quality of policy-making decisions; iii) reduce inequality between groups; iv) develop legal standards; v) develop regimes for controlling destructive weaponry; and vi) develop development strategies that reduce poverty.
  • Preventative interventions can be made in a variety of sectors including: the economy, governance, diplomacy, the military, human rights, agriculture, health, education and journalism.
  • Early warning and response interventions are less effective if they fail to address the underlying causes of conflict. Early warning and response should be part of a wider peace infrastructure. Longer-term peacebuilding efforts are important for sustaining the peace, not just managing to avert violence.
  • Using local knowledge is crucial for early warning and response to be successful at the community level.
  • New technology has the potential to allow affected populations to be actively involved in data gathering and conflict prevention, although there are concerns about the digital divide and potential bias.
  • Effective conflict early warning and early response programmes have had: i) accurate, consistent and timely information, from a wide range of sources; ii) the ability to effectively monitor the changing conflict dynamics on multiple different levels; iii) a good understanding of the local context and long-term trends; iv) participation and ownership by a range of actors across the country; v) involvement of local actors with good local knowledge leading to timely, sensitive and adequate responses to incidents, which built trust and confidence among actors involved at different levels; vi) social cohesion at the community level and a will for peace on the part of the people involved; vii) early warning linked to networks and mechanisms ready to design tailor-made response actions; and viii) flexible systems to fulfil ongoing activities and respond to emergency issues.