Do No Harm

The first concept that is usually explained in Conflict Sensitivity is ‘Do No Harm’, considered the minimum standard of practice to avoid causing inadvertent harm. Conflict Sensitivity therefore goes beyond ‘Do No Harm’, as it provides actors the necessary framework and tools to:

● Understand the context in which it is operating
● Understand the interaction between the intervention and the context, and
● Act upon that understanding, in order to avoid negative impacts and maximize positive impacts on the conflict.

Developed by humanitarians, ‘Do No Harm’ principles state that aid is not neutral. Aid – and how it is administered – can cause harm or can strengthen capacities for peace in the midst of conflict-affected communities. All aid programmes involve the transfer of resources (food, shelter, water, health care, training, etc.) into a resource-scarce environment. Where people are in conflict, these resources represent power and wealth, and they become an element of the conflict. Some people attempt to control and use aid resources to support their side of the conflict and/or to weaken the other side. If they are successful or if aid staff fails to recognise the impact of their programming decisions, aid can cause harm. However, the transfer of resources and the manner in which staff conduct the programmes can strengthen local capacities for peace, build on connectors that bring communities together, and reduce the divisions and sources of tensions that can lead to destructive conflict.

The ‘Do No Harm’ methodology is widely used among international and increasingly local humanitarian and development organisations. In Germany, for example, a large group of NGOs has committed themselves to mainstreaming ‘Do No Harm’ within their operations. While engaged in the early development of the tool in collaboration with CDA, World Vision has also moved toward a process of mainstreaming the use of the Do No Harm framework since 2001. To this end, workshops, training of trainers, programme assessments and case studies of the use of the above framework have been undertaken worldwide.

To learn more About ‘Do No Harm’, read DO NO HARM: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION FROM CDA.