Conflict Sensitivity Workshop: FCDO engages NENTAD, others in North-East on how to mitigate interventions that can create conflict situations

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By Joy Odor

The United Kingdom Government, through its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), has facilitated a 2-day Conflict-Sensitivity Programming Workshop for its North-East Nigeria Transition to Development Programme (NENTAD) Partners and the wider Protection Working Groups in the North-Eastern Nigeria, the country’s most troubled geo-political zone.

The parley, held recently at the Bolton White Hotel, Abuja, focused on how to preemptively identify and mitigate interventions that can create further conflict situations, directly or indirectly and made available to newsmen in a press statement by the Director
Center for Democracy and Development, Ms Idayat Hassan.

Relying on a recent survey, which highlighted how economic empowerment intervention in some states in the region is fueling marital crisis, the parley established such cases to include how some men in particular states in the region find their empowered women arrogant, repulsive, and more difficult to control, hence their resolve to walk away or marry another.

Another area of concern, which necessitated the capacity building, was the imperativeness for the reevaluation of the adoption and roles of local actors in driving most interventions, as events, according to the organisers, have proven most of the groups to be partisan and sometimes culpable in some of the crisis.

Facilitating the training, Paul Nyulakun, Conflict Adviser at the FCDO, said in his presentation, “this is an unintended consequence that must be envisaged and mitigated subsequently in project planning, designing and implementation.”

Nyulakun recommended the effective usage of DNH (Do No Harms) Technique, Conflict/Crisis Tree (a conflict evaluation process), and RPP (Reflecting on Peace Practices) as Conflict-Sensitivity tools that will internalize sustainable peace in every development project and intervention.

“DNH approach seeks to answer the question ‘How may assistance be provided in ways that rather than feed into and exacerbate conflict, help the local communities disengage from violence and surrounds them and start developing alternative systems that address the underlining causes of conflict.

“This is necessary because interventions have the potential of dual effects i.e either reinforcing capacities for peace and bringing about improving relations or unintentionally promoting division and increasing tensions or capacities for violence.

“Another Conflict Sensitive Approach is the adoption of the RPP tool. RPP looks at how peacebuilding work can be made more effective.

“The process is about reflection and practice. It looks into what we learn from our experiences and how the experience compares with that of other practitioners.

“General lessons learnt from our experiences can then be disseminated. RPP thus is an experience-based learning process that equips peace workers with tools for prevention or mitigation of violent conflicts as well as strategies for peace work and monitoring/evaluation of peace initiatives” he said.

In his goodwill Message, the Team Lead on Humanitarian and North-East Team, for the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Mr. Alex McClean emphasized that the operational context in the North-Eastern region of the country is complex and protracted, hence the necessity to invest in and establish approaches to proactively mitigate the issues.

Mr McClean was worried about the active targeting of NGOs’ field workers by armed groups and believes addressing it was expedient.

He said the reason for developing a conflict sensitivity analysis and approach is needed, can be found in the ISWA statements, which condemn people and communities who cooperate with NGOs or the UN, and threaten punishment to those who do.

According to him, “active targeting of NGO staff and cargo is of course unacceptable, but the fact it is happening demonstrates the relevance of humanitarian actors and their resources in the conflict arena.

The fact that humanitarian actors are only accessing people in need in areas controlled by one party to the conflict and not the others is a major challenge and demonstrates how in this context the principles of neutrality and perhaps impartiality have been heavily compromised.

This alters the perceptions of humanitarians, what we stand for and how we work. It heightens risk and creates constraints,” he added.

With a caveat to restrategise and reach a new commitment and work ethics on how best to make project interventions drive sustainable peace and national cohesion across the region, the participants, who explicitly narrated the complexity of the challenges being faced, also admonished project funders for more understanding and patience.

The participants however sought more understanding and flexibility of the funders and development partners, especially on deadline of project deliveries, factoring the many of the unforeseen conflict sensitivity exigencies.

“For instance, if in your proposal, you intended to enroll the youths of a community in basic education, with a timeline of one year, and in the process, communal clashes or kidnapping situation occurred, as being currently experienced, broke out, it is expected that funders should understand that such would impact on the timeline for the deliverables.

“But in most cases, the funders do not want to understand this. And that is where the integration of the Conflict Sensitivity skills become problematic. The funders definitely need to go beyond schooling us on this but also make certain concessions to drive it smoothly,” one of the participants submitted.

In response to the submission, another facilitator, Senior Consortium Coordinator for Prospine and International Rescue Committee Mr Aloysius Soyei intervened on the role expected for funders in the whole equation, saying funders are ready to make concessions so far they come with “no cost” adjustments.

Soyei also believed conflict analysis of every intervention and ultimate integrations of the eventualities into project designs are imperative, so as to avoid inability to deliver.

According to him, “conflict analysis provides a snap-shot of a highly fluid situation. It is therefore important to combine an in-depth analysis with more dynamics and continuous monitoring to provide up-to-date information from which to measure the interaction between the context and the intervention.
“The process will also look at the relationship between specific actors, causes and profile, in order to gain an understanding of the conflict dimension.

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