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Recognising the Unintended Consequences of Interventions


Drawing from analysis of field operations, many writers identify aid as 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 programme, or where conflict actors achieve status through controlling access and thus having to be negotiated with);


- 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, with some challenges remaining for humanitarian actors. 


Read the consortium Benchmarking Paper to find out more.