Programming in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries: Programme policy guidelines | Oxfam | Poverty

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There is no single prescriptive approach to working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. The underlying causes of problems and the dynamics of such contexts are too complex and unpredictable for that. There is a great diversity of underlying causes, actors, needs, opportunities, and responses. Staff are faced with immense challenges and work under greater limitations of resources, in relation to the size of the need, than in other programmes. There is nonetheless room to improve the quality and impact of our programming. We can be imaginative, robust, realistic, and at the same time agile and responsive to changing circumstances. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to programme managers and decision makers, with guidance on designing and delivering programmes in countries where conflict and fragility are significant factors in poverty and suffering.
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   Oxfam GB Programme Policy Team April 2011 1 Programming in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Programme Policy Guidelines  There is no single prescriptive approach to working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. The underlying causes of problems and the dynamics of such contexts are too complex and unpredictable for that. There is a great diversity of underlying causes, actors, needs, opportunities, and responses. Staff are faced with immense challenges and work under greater limitations of resources, in relation to the size of the need, than in other programmes. There is nonetheless room to improve the quality and impact of our programming. We can be imaginative, robust, realistic, and at the same time agile and responsive to changing circumstances. There is plenty of scope for sharpening the focus and impact of programmes by: ã   Using robust, detailed, and continual context analysis to enable more accurate, nuanced, and context-specific understanding of how change actually happens; ã   Paying greater attention to how our own organisational characteristics and distinctive competencies can add value to the work of others; ã   Strengthening our understanding of the gendered aspects of fragility and conflict, including the factors that create differences in impacts between women and men and the contexts that create these differences; ã   Paying greater attention to embedding risk analysis, actively managing risk through high standards of analysis, innovation and creativity, and building resilience into all our work; ã   Making sure we work to contribute to positive changes for poor women and men, and do not only support them survive in a difficult context; ã   Using frequent monitoring and evaluation to ensure programmes remain well-focused even within a shifting and unpredictable context. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to   programme managers and decision makers, with guidance on designing and delivering programmes in countries where conflict and fragility are significant factors in poverty and suffering.    2 Contents  Abstract 1 1. Introduction 3 2. ‘Fragility’ and conflict 2.1 The context 2.2 What is different about working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts? 2.3 How change happens in fragile and conflict-affected contexts 2.4 Addressing the underlying causes of fragility and conflict: what is the ‘big problem’ and is it one we can do anything about? 2.5 Oxfam’s role in conflict-affected and fragile contexts 4 4 4 5 6 7 3. Developing programmes in fragile and conflict-affected contexts 3.1 Programme approaches 3.2 Understanding the gender dimensions of fragility 9 9 10 4. Programme policy guidance on programming in fragile and conflict-affected contexts 4.1 Programme design 4.2 Managing programmes 4.3 Programme content 12 12 13 15 5. Summary 17 6. Where to learn more? 17 Box 1: The language of ‘fragile states’ Box 2: The dilemma of the status quo Box 3: Fighting for women’s rights in Yemen Box 4: The Territorial Rights Programme in the Nariño region, Colombia Box 5: A ‘safe age of marriage’ in Yemen Box 6: ‘Peace Vehicles’ in Karamoja, Uganda   3 6 7 9 11 16  3 1 Introduction It is estimated that a third of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable, and marginalised people live in the countries that have the least capacity or will at state level to deliver services and public goods for citizens. These countries are also the most chronically-affected by conflicts and their aftermath. These fragile and conflict-affected states are also amongst the most challenging places for development agencies to work. These guidelines are intended to provide programme managers and decision-makers with guidance on designing and delivering programmes in countries where conflict and fragility are significant factors in poverty and suffering. They provide an overview of Oxfam’s learning, without attempting to be a comprehensive guide. This paper has been developed with significant input from staff in countries and regions with experience of fragile and conflict-affected conditions (including the Action Learning Group on Conflict-Affected Countries and the Fragile States Working Group) and also from the Programme Leadership Team. It is anticipated that these guidelines will be reviewed within two to three years’ time on the basis of increased experience and learning. They should be read in conjunction with the associated learning companion, ‘How to develop programmes in fragile and conflict-affected contexts’, which provides greater detail on the underlying theory and on practical ‘how to’ tools. Specifically, this paper aims to: ã  Enhance the quality of programmes addressing poverty by sharing learning on models of change, programme strategies, and good practice, and through strengthening our ability to deliver appropriate, focused responses to the actual nature of fragility in the countries where we work; ã  Encourage innovative and creative approaches to programming; ã  Support staff in engaging with external debates with a range of government and non-government actors. Box 1: The language of ‘fragile states’   Much discussion to date around the issues addressed in this document has been framed in the language of ‘fragile states’ and has been considered primarily from the perspective of donors and bilateral/multilateral institutions. The term has been used loosely to refer to countries where there is a lack of capacity or a lack of will on the part of the state to address poverty and undertake development. Countries labelled ‘fragile’, ‘weak’, or ‘failed’ not surprisingly take offence at such labelling, and such vocabulary is avoided in this document. To talk about ‘fragile states’ can also be misleading. For example, some of the most challenging environments are ones where the state, or part of the state, is by many definitions strong and may – as, for example, in Uganda or in Israel in relation to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) – be a significant part of the problem.   It is more useful, therefore, to talk in terms of fragility and conflict-affected contexts. A clear distinction is also needed between the state – the organised political community comprising administrative, legal, and other institutions – and government  – the particular group of people that control the state at a given time.    4 2 Fragility and conflict 2.1 The context Fragility and conflict are the focus of lively development and policy debates within and outside Oxfam. DFID, along with other major actors, has recently realigned its policies and directed greater resources to addressing the issues of the ‘bottom billion’, state-building, and conflict, and is addressing the poor progress towards the MDGs in more challenging contexts. 1  It has also increased its emphasis on issues of security and stabilisation.   Fragile and conflict-affected countries are clearly a priority for Oxfam in fulfilling its mandate. In the more fragile contexts, particularly where there is or has been conflict, there is a balancing act to be achieved between a long-term development agenda, reconstruction, and more immediate humanitarian needs. Sometimes the humanitarian needs have become chronic, and in many of these countries the role and capacity of, and space for, civil society are increasingly constrained. Markets and the private sector may function poorly, thereby restricting livelihood options. Though the risks to staff, partners, and the communities with which we work are heightened and tensions between the different elements of programming need active management, positive change can happen quickly and we have the potential to both influence and respond to it. However, these contexts require very different approaches from programmes in more stable operating environments. 2.2 What is different about working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts?    At one level, good-quality programming requires surprisingly similar elements in both conflict-affected and fragile contexts and in more stable ones, including:   ã  Thorough gender and power analyses based on research and local knowledge; ã  Strategies and realistic plans shaped by communities and local partners, as well as our own thinking; ã  A strategic linking of levels using an appropriate mix of campaigning, development, and humanitarian approaches to maximise impact; ã  A good grasp of how change happens and the roles of different actors. From a programming perspective, the key distinction between a fragile or conflict-affected context and a more stable one is that, in fragile and conflict-affected environments, the consequences of doing any less than an excellent job in any of these elements are much more serious. A badly designed and/or poorly delivered programme exposes poor and vulnerable people, as well as the partners and staff of Oxfam, to unacceptable levels of risk; there is high potential for making damaging mistakes, perhaps inadvertently, that actually make the plight of poor people worse. Managing risk and strengthening resilience both need to be deeply embedded in everything we do in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Through a broader lens, another distinction between these contexts is the degree to which the state is legitimate and accountable. Where this is lacking, Oxfam needs to identify ways of supporting the construction of accountability from the bottom up, and to support people with their survival strategies as this happens. The nature of the state and the way that politics is done may be a differentiating feature, but perhaps not so much in its essence as in its degree. Tanzania, for example, often held up as a 1  Whilst it is recognised that many of the poorest live in middle-income countries, the fragile and conflict-affected countries still represent the most challenging contexts in which to address poverty.
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