Reflections on DFID’s Recent Conflict Research Programme Tender

Probably most organisations with links to DFID and to the field of practice of peacebuilding will know of their recent call for a consortium to undertake a four-year(+) and six million pound project to explore two big questions to inform future UK government decision making:

“What works in addressing violent conflict?”, and

“How do complex and persistent violent conflicts evolve?”

It is one of the unintended consequences of DFID’s decision to rely on a commercial tendering process that they have discouraged organisations and individuals from coming together to, build on the thinking that has gone before, creating a true global talent pool. Instead a great deal of time will have been wasted in this highly competitive process.

This is an opportunity for all those applying themselves to DFID’s Big Questions to revisit two milestone pieces of work, each by leading organisation in field of peacebuilding, which sought to address these two questions. The first, by the OECD DAC with substantial forward thinking from the team at CDA, Collaborative Learning Projects in the US, and the second by the very thoughtful Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation

OECD/DAC Guidance on “Evaluating Peacebuilding”

This important, if rather dry, piece of work doesn’t answer DFID’s question of ‘What Works?’ but does give extremely useful guidance on how you might find out whether and how a peacebuilding intervention has (or has not) worked, and why.  I particularly like their useful table ‘B.1.’ (on page) which I see as an important draft typology of ‘domains of change’ relevant to peacebuilding. I would also recommend reading the earlier paper that lead to this guidance from CDA. I think it’s interesting to ask, if this does not adequately answer DFID’s question (and it clearly doesn’t) why not and what does that say about the enquiry?

A synthesised report of their “Violence and Transition” Project

This is a fascinating and important paper which explores the question of what are “the factors that influence the relationship between violence and transition and their significance for processes of democratisation”? Their multi-disciplinary approach was groundbreaking, and they came up with a fascinating framework of “different fault-lines and factors of violence in a trajectory over time”. They identify, what they called, a number of “conceptual lessons” about the relationship between violence and democratic transition.

I think both their methods and their findings are relevant for the consortium that seeks to help DFID explore their on evolution conflicts away from violence.

I’d be interested to hear from others what they think of are key resources which help us all to answer the question of how to be more discerning and more effective in our work to prevent and address:

” the innumerable possible substantive occasions of war.” (Adam Curle)

Good luck to DFID on shortlisting the bidder, and to everyone seeking to be the winning consortium.