Recognising the Unintended Consequences of Interventions

Drawing from analysis of field operations, there are many instances where aid is an instrument of war, where it is delivered without sufficient analysis and awareness. Experts identify a whole host of means for this to occur, such as:

  • Relief providing material assistance to the authority controlling the operational area (such as through diversion, taxation, hijacking of assets/infrastructure);
  • Agencies providing strategic protection whereby military aims and logistical requirements of NGOs coincide (such as keeping roads open);
  • Agencies providing legitimacy to the controlling authority (such as where forced relocation was disguised as a feeding program, or where conflict actors achieve status through controlling access and thus having to be negotiated with); and
  • Conflict actors manipulating access/targeting to increase competition or possibly only support their constituency.

The documented experience of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding interventions having negative consequences on conflict has led to growing appreciation of the need for conflict sensitivity. The earliest ‘Do No Harm‘ work grew out of the field of humanitarian aid, but in recent years, conflict sensitivity has been championed by peacebuilding actors. However, there remain a number of challenges from a number of specific actors – primarily based on the need to deliver aid or relief quickly or the time available to properly take-up a conflict-sensitive approach to project implementation.

Read the consortium Benchmarking Paper to find out more.