Do No Harm and the Convergence of Relief, Development & Conflict Resolution: Examining How Conflict Sensitivity and Peace-building Contribute to Peace in Haiti




Moore, Matthew Aaron

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Much has been said about the negative effects of international aid and for good reason, especially in high conflict contexts. Yet this need not be- aid, when done with a conflict sensitive mindset has great potential to be a force for peace. The hypothesis of this thesis is that proper relief and development work (often together referred to as “aid” or “assistance”) has potential to create peace in two ways. First, conflict sensitive practice helps to mitigate conflict in relief and development programs. Second, relief and development help satisfy the underlying causes driving conflict, thus removing one source of fuel from the conflict and contributing to peace. The frameworks for practical implementation of conflict sensitivity (i.e. “Do No Harm”) are introduced in the first half of this paper. The second section will demonstrate the interconnectivity of peace-building and conflict sensitivity, and will examine how relief and development programs can contribute to peace in their contexts. The third section will examine the specific case of relief and development in the fragile state of Haiti. It will seek to understand the causes of conflict and then investigate whether the programs of one large international non-governmental organization (NGO), World Vision, helps to satisfy the unmet needs. In doing so, this paper seek to support the hypothesis’ second tenant- that World Vision’s work helps to build peace. This report draws information from a variety of sources including books and publications by humanitarian organizations and consortiums, as well as interviews with practitioners, policy makers, and authors. The Hypothesis and the Literature Review The international community has traditionally approached conflict resolution, disaster relief, and community development through independently funded, planed, and implemented programs to meet each category of need in some degree of isolation. Yet all three are intricately linked, and should be planned and implemented as such. This theory examined in Do No Harm and the Convergence of Relief, Development, and Conflict Resolution can be divided into two primary components: the negative and the positive. That is, the two issues form two sides of a coin: 1. Doing No Harm by precluding the potential negative effects of assistance programs, and 2. Enable relief and development programs to contribute to peace in their contexts. It is the hypothesis of this thesis that, when properly implemented, relief and development programs do not have to substantially increase conflict within their contexts, but rather have great capacity to contribute to peace within their area of operations. This thesis will examine the work of World Vision within the context of Haiti to test this theory. Haiti Haiti is a proud country with a rich and colorful history and culture. But this contrasts with the crushing poverty, pervasive conflict, and earth shattering disaster that now dominate Port Au Prince, Haiti. Over 3,000 NGOs are working in Haiti to help end poverty and create new opportunities (International Peace Academy, 2002, p.6). But due to a combination of poverty, poor governance, and physical violence, Haiti’s situation is more dire now than it was before international assistance began in large scale decades ago. In 2010 Haiti was showing signs of progress and hope; but the cataclysmic devastation from the January 12, earthquake brought those hopes crashing down again (Moore M. A., 2008-2011). Port Au Prince exemplifies an extremely complex, multifaceted context. The research suggests that the cause of conflict is a confluence of political oppression (structural violence) and perpetuating massive poverty and lack of opportunity, which leads to personal violence (i.e. crime...). This paper suggests that the solutions lie in a comprehensive solution that relies heavily on relief and development NGOs. Haiti needs security and holistic development to continue, along with political will to build good governance and make societal changes. Addressing these foundational needs will reduce some of the primary causes of the high level of conflict in Haiti, and should help build peace. Findings: There are several findings: The first is that it is nearly impossible to definitively attribute increased peace or decreased conflict to a specific cause. Second the research seems to support, but fails to conclusively prove the two points about relief and development’s potential to build peace in two ways: that conflict sensitivity practice helps to mitigate conflict in relief and development programs, and that relief and development help to satisfy the underlying causes driving conflict. This analysis suggests that the best practice, especially in fragile contexts, is for all relief and development programs to operate with conflict sensitivity, which will help mitigate potentially negative side effects of assistance programs. Finally, the research also indicates that there is significant synergy between conflict resolution, and relief and development. This paper will explain the problem statement and then provide a brief research methodology. The next section will be the high level explanation of theory about conflict sensitivity and peace-building. The paper then moves into a brief demonstration of some conflict analysis and resolution tools available in the relief and development fields. Finally, the paper looks at the context of Haiti as an example, and takes a look at a couple of examples of programs implemented by World Vision in Haiti which apply the principles of conflict sensitivity and peace-building examined.



Haiti, Peacebuilding, Conflict sensitivity, Development, Relief, International