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Lessons from the Field: Centre Résolution Conflits & Peace Direct's experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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RD del Congo
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DME for Peace
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Created By dmeforpeace - 03/22/2016
Author, Copyright Holder: Jared Wright

Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC) — a local peacebuilding organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — has been working in the field of violence prevention and community building for over 20 years. Renowned for their work on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), CRC emphasizes an all-inclusive approach aimed at social cohesion, rehabilitation, and economic opportunity - key ingredients to sustainable reintegration.

In collaboration with Peace Direct, CRC conducted a series of evaluations between 2011-2014 to better understand the viability of their program model. Spanning across 38 communities in the North Kivu province of the DRC, CRC’s reflective learning evaluation provided an inward-looking approach that highlighted the successes, challenges, and impacts of their work. By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, CRC and their donors become more fluid and adaptable in often unpredictable and ever-changing contexts on the ground.

Learning evaluations, particularly locally-led evaluations, are a critical tool in understanding the true impact of ground level initiatives. Drawing on the perspectives of those affected by the conflict uncovers local idiosyncrasies that are often overlooked or invisible to external actors. This contextual understanding is made possible through inclusionary planning; the involvement and participation of local peacebuilders throughout the entire M&E process, especially the strategic planning phase. Local ownership is essential to the success of the program. CRC’s summary finds that locally-driven planning and execution of the evaluation is necessary to truly understanding the local consequences of peacebuilding efforts. The identification of context-specific indicators (i.e. local determinants of sustainable reintegration and social cohesion) resulted from CRC’s lead role in the evaluation planning process; They, and only they, could identify factors valuable to those living and working in the conflicted region.

The research was quite suggestive to the role of donor organizations and it highlighted the often overlooked impact that donors can have on the operations of their partners. It also emphasized a dual responsibility of both the donor and field partners, underscoring the necessity for donors to stay engaged and consistent in their commitments. Timely communication and funding transfers are two notable examples. Fulfilling promises and upholding a transparent relationship promotes trust and confidence between partners. It also holds both parties accountable. Furthermore, the importance of diversifying support structures in funding, technical support, and advocacy are fundamental to building capacity, which enables organizations to effectively scale their operations to fulfill local needs.

The evaluation demonstrated the importance of community engagement. Local support and relevance is of utmost importance in evaluating the need and sustainability of a current project. It stressed how specialization - or a more narrowly focused theater of operation - ensures a high probability of success and return on investment. Narrowing the scope of a project can benefit durability and resilience. It also shed light on the fact that peacebuilding is not a short-term activity and developing waymarks or midpoint markers is valuable in understanding the trajectory of a project. Acknowledging the signs, learning, and pivoting is fundamental to avoiding outright failure and accruing large costs, both financially and operationally. An iterative and adaptive approach to peacebuilding is a prudent way forward.

Partnerships between international donors and local partners are not without challenges. As the learning summary shows, without sufficient support, donors can impose a burden on local partners. This was evident in the M&E process itself. The capacity needed to fulfill the M&E objectives was underestimated, demanding more time and resources than expected. This resulted in insufficient funding to CRC, which strained the organization’s ability to fulfill their overall organizational goals. The findings also highlighted how poor record keeping and inconsistent data can undermine an evaluation. Clean and accurate quantitative data is essential to a legitimate and successful learning summary. But these challenges underscored meaningful takeaways for future M&E processes in the peacebuilding field.

Peace Direct’s work with CRC emphasized the need for direct and consistent support to partners. Peace Direct has since hired a dedicated M&E professional to more directly engage and support local organizations in fulfilling learning based initiatives. Additionally, technical support and training to local partners in statistical analysis and related functions is essential to producing effective evaluations. A dedicated resource from the donor organization can satisfy this role. All stakeholders - both local NGOs and donors - need to better consider an integrated M&E function which crosses not just single projects but sectors. As always, a truly successful initiative necessitates better cross-sector coordination between multiple stakeholders in the humanitarian, development, and peace fields. In conclusion, it’s necessary to note the importance of expectations. Inconsistencies and shortfalls can be ameliorated by managing what’s expected of each party. Collaborating with local partners in setting mutually agreed upon expectations can add immense value to the operation of a M&E program.

In a field of limited budgets and finite resources, efficiency and productivity are essential to achieving longevity and success. Locally-led learning evaluations are vital to understanding the impact of peacebuilding work, improving efficacy, and providing guidance on how to strategically drive impacts.

Knowledge is power. A community of learning, founded on inclusivity and collaboration, is fundamental to developing a holistic understanding of the world around us. CRC’s summary of their M&E work in DRC underscores the profound role of learning to the betterment of the peacebuilding field.

Jared Wright is an Intern at Peace Direct in Washington D.C., where he focuses on advocacy and locally-led peacebuilding research. He is completing his Masters degree at American University in D.C. studying International Peace and Conflict with a concentration in peacebuilding in divided societies. You can download the learning summary here (link is external) and learn more about the work of Peace Direct at www.peacedirect.org (link is external).