February 22, 2021 | CSF Team

Designing Conflict Sensitivity into New Programs

In the aid sector, most good ideas are met with a series of questions: Is it in the budget?  Is it in the work plan?  Do we have the time and resources?  If the answer to any of the above is “No,” then even the best, and most conflict sensitive ideas fall by the wayside.

For this reason, the design stage offers a ‘once in a program lifecycle’ opportunity to build in the financial, human, and time resources that can enable teams to stay on top of changes in context and adapt to shifts in a volatile context – the two most critical elements of conflict sensitivity. Embedding the right tools, flexibility, analysis and resources into the programme design, budget, and requirements helps to set the agenda, expectations, and gives implementing agencies both the mandate and the capacity to try to avoid doing unintended harm, and maximise the programme’s potential contributions.

The aim is not to pre-identify all of the possible conflict sensitivity risks and opportunities, but rather to create the systems and mechanisms that will enable ongoing analysis and adaptation.  This is particularly important in a context that is volatile and evolving, and where additional analysis will be needed over the length of the programme.

The recommendations below are intended to guide and inspire donors and implementing agencies designing new programmes with ideas of how they can build greater strengths and commitments to better aid in conflict.

Make sure programmes are resourced appropriately. Conflict sensitivity requires some degree of human, information, time, and financial resources. Providing these within the work plans, budgets, and external resources to programmes

  • Human resources: Will the programme’s team have people with the capacity and mandate to lead or support contextual analysis and help to course-correct if/when they face problematic dilemmas? Can this capacity be required in staffing profiles, if not always as a full-time position, at least as part of someone’s official job description?
  • Make sure partner selection processes consider conflict sensitivity. The partner selection criteria and process represent another opportunity to embed conflict sensitivity into its work. Are prospective partners asked to signal awareness of conflict dynamics? What minimum standards, evidence, or assurances can we include in calls for proposals?
  • Include conflict sensitivity requirements in monitoring/evaluation/learning (MEL) approaches: Include analysis of context/conflict as part of results frameworks, or other MEL approaches. This can include:
  1. Indicators for conflict sensitivity
  2. Inter-organizational learning discussions
  3. End-of-project evaluations that consider conflict sensitivity
  • Create venues for discussion of conflict sensitivity. How can this programme participate in or contribute to learning? Can the programme participate in reflection and collective analysis discussions led by the CSF at the national or regional levels, and with different technical sectors?
  • Downstream Partner involvement and capacity. Can new programmes consider building in training and capacity support for downstream partners, particularly NNGOs, and chances for them to feed into programme design and strategy, at the beginning and throughout the programme’s lifespan.
  • Integrate conflict sensitivity into risk management. Can we include conflict sensitivity issues in risk matrices and mitigation/management strategies? This allows us to consider how our programmes might unintentionally contribute to conflict, and develop strategies to monitor and manage these risks.

Want more advice and ideas?  Check out our Knowledge Hub and Sign up for CSF mailings to receive notifications of upcoming trainings, new analysis, and invitations to events that help build the aid sector’s understanding of the complex, evolving context in Sudan and its capacity to do the most good, and the least harm.

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