As the peacebuilding and conflict resolution fields have grown over the past two decades, one of the trends is the importance of mainstreaming conflict resolution/peacebuilding across various sectors of development programming. While conflict resolution work in and of itself can be extremely valuable and have a significant impact on parties and reducing or preventing conflict, in order to generate long-term sustainable positive change, incorporating conflict resolution skills and processes into other sectors such as health, governance, education, gender, youth programming and more is critical.

Much of the development work in the world takes place in regions experiencing conflict. Effective development work is difficult to implement in situations of violence, or extreme instability. However, doing peacebuilding work as a stand-alone activity is not sufficient to create positive development. While creating greater understanding and dialogue between conflicted parties is an important step, there is a strong need to also generate economic, educational and health opportunities to help ensure that a society's basic needs are met.

In this short guide, I would like to provide some recommendation regarding key resources and steps in creating conflict programing.

FIVE Key Steps in Conflict Mainstreaming

1. First Do No Harm- While Development and Conflict Resolution work has the potential to have a significant positive impact, it is also essential to examine the potential negative impact of activities (see the work of Mary Anderson and the Collaborative Development for Action or International Alert for more on this subject). Anytime resources are introduced into a conflicted area, there is the potential for increased tensions over how these resources are allocated.

2. Ensure Programming is Conducted in a Conflict Sensitive Manner - Similar to the concept of Do No Harm, professionals have a responsibility to ensure that programming is conducted in a conflict sensitive manner. From the initial stages of conceptualizing a project, to hiring staff, acquiring materials, implementation, staff can examine the potential negative and positive impacts of their programming decisions on the conflict context. For example, if a program is taking place in a conflict involving different identity groups, ensuring that the staff hired are diverse in nature can help to mitigate conflict (or perhaps exacerbate depending on the context). For more on conflict sensitivity see International Alert's work on the topic at

3. Ensure that Peacebuilding is Integrated Across Sectoral Programming - In order for peacebuilding to be effective, it is necessary to conduct stand-alone and integrated programming. Stand-alone programming is generally when peacebuilding or conflict work is conducted as a particular discrete activity, such as a dialogue program to build relationships or understanding. However, in conflict settings groups have many needs to be fulfilled such as economic development, improving infrastructure, public health, governance and more. In each sectoral activity, in program design, strong emphasis should be placed on integrating peacebuilding into programming. For example, a public health project designed to prevent HIV, could also integrate peacebuilding into all aspects of the activity. This could be in training staff in conflict skills, bringing together health practitioners from across the conflict divide, ensuring that communities are engaged in programmatic decisions. For more on integrated peacebuilding, see a new book that I am co-editing with Dr. Robert Rubenstein, Building Peace: Practical Reflections from the Field (Kumarian Press, May 2009).

4. Conduct a Conflict Assessment - Conflict and peacebuilding programming needs to be based on local contexts and needs. A cookie cutter approach to implementing programing often is not effective. Thus, before beginning a new program, conducting a conflict assessment of the overall context is critical. Moreover, conducting a Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment to look at the potential impact of a project on the conflict context and vice-versa is essential. Some key resources on this topic include International Alert's Conflict Sensitivity and also the Berghof Center's Handbook series

5. Collaborate - In most peacebuilding and conflict interventions there are many local and international donors and civil society organizations carrying out activities. Often there is significant overlap and competition between intervening organizations. As practitioners we have a responsibility to practice what we preach and ensure that we are aware of other of the work of others at a minimum share information, and ideally work to collaborate on projects to maximize impact. See the work of Dr. Andrea Strimling Yodsampa and Dr. Susan Allen Nan in this area.

More topics are forthcoming. Feel free to add your own recommendations/comments regarding conflict mainstreaming.

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Tags: Conflict Mainstreaming, Development, Guide, Integrated, Peacebuilding


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Comment by Joseph W Carpenter on October 8, 2014 at 1:53am

Great ideas! One thing I would add is the creation of institutions or infrastructure in conflict resolution. As we are planning for the development of a nation, we should also look to develop institutions with trained citizens in conflict resolution. So that the probability of conflict re-emerging is less likely.

What do you all think?

Comment by Ema Miroslava Billings on August 20, 2014 at 10:54am

Aloha Dear Craig,

Thank you very much, I am utilizing segments of this blog post in a manual/training on Conflict Mainstreaming that I am facilitating next week for Gov Leaders in Plateau State Nigeria. Due to our current state of affairs, one can't afford to be lack in the way we do Peace work!

I appreciate the post and have found it very useful!

Also, in response to Jose Tenga, I love your reply and especially your quote: "A major issue in conflict sensitive development, and one that most of our professional colleagues have a hard time grappling with in the field is simple humility - humility of knowing that while our activities may be well funded, coupled with solid education and experience, we do not have all the answers to the questions, nor do we have all the solutions to the problems."Your sentiments are right on target and a wonderful reminder that we all need to practice humility in our work! I am also using your quote ......and am citing both of you of course!

Peace and solidarity on your path toward peace!

Comment by Jose Tenga on January 11, 2012 at 6:37pm

Hey Craig, Thanks for this contribution.

A major issue in conflict sensitive development, and one that most of our professional colleagues have a hard time grappling with in the field is simple humility - humility of knowing that while our activities may be well funded, coupled with solid education and experience, we do not have all the answers to the questions, nor do we have all the solutions to the problems.

When we approach the conflict environment with an attitude of learning, in order to contribute to resolving the situation, we would be on a stronger footing in acheiving our goal. All too often, expartriate colleagues have a tendency to 'Lord' it over local professionals because they are well funded and can access external resources via superior communications and media networks that are not available to local counterparts. Or they come with a chip on their shoulders - mouthing the political positions of their donors or their governments. This gives a fall sense of knowledge and superiority that impacts on the views they express, which can be more harmful than helpful.

I witnessed an exchange between the governor of one of the states in Darfur-Sudan and a colleagure from Europe, that shows how such engagements can be counter-productive. Basically, the lady made comments at a public gathering, that were deemed accusatory by the governor. The lady was summarily 'deported' from the state by security forces, at the expense of her organization. And, needless to add, the organization has a hard time continuing their otherwise very important work in such a desparately poor zone of conflict.

It is important to realize that the rules of daily existence are different in zones of conflict and that we serve at the pleasure of the locals - no matter who we think we are or what our external connections may be, they may not the sufficient to stop the shots when they ring out!

Stay safe, ALL,    

Comment by James Osemene on January 11, 2012 at 4:20am
Am working on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of ex-militants/combatants and will appreciate any information on how to get more relevant materials/articles/journals/ books. Thank you. Also inform me through Thanking you
Comment by James Osemene on January 11, 2012 at 4:17am
Am working on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of ex-militants/combatants and will appreciate any information on how to get more relevant materials/articles/journals/ books. Thank you. Also inform me through Thanking you
Comment by ANDEBO PAX PASCAL on January 11, 2012 at 4:03am

Very impressed by this idea of conflict mainstreaming. The leadership role in causing conflicts cannot be an overstatement. Thanks Matt for that. Solving today's conflicts through economic, political and other programmes is very necessary. I would like to emphasize the need to focus on the educational component, to develop responsive and responsible leaders (at whatever levels) for the future. Conflicts start from the minds (and hearts???) of people and conflict leadership is a key factor in this, how ideas and issues are interpreted by people-I may be wrong too.

Comment by Hope Tichaenzana Chichaya on January 11, 2012 at 2:10am

Pretty good! What comes into my mind is a nexus between peace, security, and development during interventions in conflict situations. I like it!

Comment by Anthony Zwi on January 10, 2012 at 10:55pm

Useful insights - colleagues may be interested in our Health and Peacebuilding Filter developed some years back after field work in Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka and the Solomon Islands.  I'd be happy to share some more recent articles and papers about our work - here is a page with some of the original documents which relate to many of the useful principles elaborated above: .  

Comment by Matt Kramer on January 10, 2012 at 9:30pm

As a professional mediator, I am very glad to see this article. Item #4 regarding the conflict assessment is critically important. Too often well meaning "experts" apply solutions without including the insights, experiences and complex needs of the folks at the receiving end. Restorative justice and other models for conflict resolution require the buy-in and respectful inclusion of the community.  

Another thought on conflict mainstreaming. I may be wrong but I don't believe a nation of people ever instigated a war against another nation; those machinations were the purview of a few leaders and/or their behind the scenes handlers. If the leaders of all nations, political groups, etc., were trained and dedicated to mediation as the process of first resort for early signs of conflict, there would never be a war. 

Comment by Eudine Herbert on May 3, 2011 at 6:28pm
Thank you so much for the guides, I know they will be very help as I work towards building and establishing my mediation and conflict coaching business through networking and other forums.  This is great!!

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