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Issue paper: Exploring peace within the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus (HDPN)

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Executive summary

1. Crises require humanitarian, development and peace responses

Crises, whether they manifest as conflicts, disasters or socio-economic shocks often cannot be solved by one set of actions alone. Humanitarian, development and peace actions all have a role to play in many of these crises: humanitarian response to save lives and protect people, development assistance to address multi-dimensional structural challenges, and peace action to ensure that countries can sustain peace, i.e. prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict. That is why in conflict-affected and protracted crisis contexts, ensuring coherence, complementarity, and collaboration across the humanitarian-development-peace Nexus is so important in order to realize rights, reduce needs, vulnerabilities and risks, and address drivers and underlying causes of conflict over the long-term. A sequential approach has shown not to be an adequate solution, and synchronous humanitarian, development and peace actions are generally considered more effective.

In the context of collective outcomes, the IASC has recently used the following to describe the link with the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus (HDPN): "Humanitarian assistance, development cooperation and peacebuilding are not serial processes: they are all needed at the same time in order to reduce needs, risk and vulnerability. Collaboration can be achieved by working towards collective outcomes, over multiple years, based on the comparative advantage of a diverse range of actors. Collective outcomes have emerged as a strategic tool for humanitarians, development and peace actors to agree on a concrete and measurable result that they will jointly achieve in a country with the overall aim of reducing people’s needs, risks and vulnerability. This has also been recognized by OECD DAC members when they put out their recommendations.”

Collective outcomes are one entry point for collaboration and contributions to peace, and others exist. However, collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors must be context-specific and, particularly in situations of acute armed conflict, may not always be possible.

2. A wide range of peace actions are being delivered in crisis situations

Peace is not only about the absence of violence but also about sustaining peaceful societies - these situations are commonly referred to as negative and positive peace, respectively. We can sometimes distinguish between ‘little p’ actions focused on building the capacity for peace within societies, and ‘Big P’ actions that support and sustain political solutions and securitised responses to violent conflict. These actions may take the form of prevention, response or reinforcing peace and may focus on local level drivers and/or the deeper structural causes of conflict over the longer-term. A wide range of actors can be involved, depending on the context. These may include both national and international actors, from civil society to authorities as well as affected communities themselves, to peacekeepers, security sector reform actors, election and human rights advisors and others. Both ‘little p’ and ‘Big P’ approaches are relevant and important, but working through a ‘little p’ approach, in particular at the local level to address key drivers in the short-to-intermediate term, may create more opportunities across the HDPN, and also enables vulnerable populations to be targeted through direct programming.

3. All actions – humanitarian, development and peace – should engage in context and conflict analysis, and conflict-sensitive programming

Sharing context and conflict analyses and integrating conflict sensitivity approaches into programme and project design across humanitarian, development and peace actions can help avoid inadvertently undermining peace by creating perceptions of “winners” and “losers” among beneficiaries of assistance and resources. This can also help ensure a coherent and complementary approach across the Nexus and, where appropriate, have a positive impact on existing or potential conflict dynamics. The overall objective of collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors is to reduce people’s needs, risks and vulnerability by sequencing and layering their interventions in all contexts, each in line with their respective mandates.

4. Collaboration is not contrary to humanitarian principles

The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence ensure that those most in need are assisted, particularly in conflict-affected settings, and that their rights and dignity are respected.3 Development and (positive) peace actions also share the commitment to humanity and follow complementary principles in terms of ‘do no harm’ and by integrating conflict-sensitive approaches. Humanitarian principles must be safeguarded, and humanitarian action primary focus is on addressing humanitarian needs. But humanitarians should also engage in conflict analysis, adopt conflict-sensitive programming, and collaborate with peace actors, where appropriate, to inform approaches which may ultimately contribute to peace outcomes.

Considering the importance of human rights based and people-centred approaches, and the fact that actions across all pillars have effects on each other, humanitarian, development and peace actors should develop the right level of collaboration required in each context. While in many contexts there are opportunities to advance collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors, the scope for collaboration might be limited in acute conflict situations by the need to abide by the principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality, and thus ensure unhindered humanitarian access to people in need. Whatever the context, collaboration must take place in a manner that neither undermines adherence to the humanitarian principles of independence and impartiality nor exposes populations affected or humanitarian workers to greater risks.

5. Implications for humanitarian programming

It is important that humanitarian actions are reflective of their impact on and potential contribution to longer-term actions to reduce humanitarian need, and how they link with efforts across the Nexus to forge a sustainable peace. Conflict-sensitivity, localization, context-specificity, rights-based approaches and sustainability, when put into action through targeted and complementary planning and programming across the Nexus, can become the building blocks for sustaining peace. To increase interactions across the HDPN, there are a range of options to consider, including:

  • Shared, joint or ‘joined-up’ context and conflict analyses across the Nexus

  • Outcome-based planning, ideally based on collective outcomes

  • Flexible, responsive and agile programming that can adapt to an evolving context

  • Increasing understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities, activities and capacities and exchange of expertise by humanitarians of the development and peace actors, and vice versa

  • Scaling up capacity for context and conflict analysis, and incorporating conflict-sensitivity into programme design

  • Advocating for financing across humanitarian, development and peace programming, while safeguarding financing to respond to immediate humanitarian needs as they arise

  • Adherence to the ‘do no harm’ principle as well as Accountability to Affected Populations, the centrality of protection , ‘doing more good’ when possible, while responding to the local context and the voices and capacities of local people and communities