Introduction to the Do No Harm approach

Why conflict-sensitive planning?

The implementation of emergency aid or development projects in situations where there is violent conflict requires special sensitivity to the local context.

Well-intentioned activities aimed at improving food production, health care, access to clean water or the education situation could have undesirable side effects on the relations of the different groups in the respective context and thus lead to an aggravation of already existing tensions.

Even projects that focus on conflict transformation and peacebuilding are not immune to unintentionally fuelling conflicts on the ground.

The “Do No Harm” approach helps to avoid such undesirable side effects in project planning and implementation in conflict situations and instead to make a positive contribution to peace and stability. This does not mean shifting the original focus of the project to working on conflicts, but rather improving the sustainability of emergency aid or development projects in conflicts.The starting point for the development of the approach was the observation that activities of aid organisations in civil wars or violent conflicts did not have a violence-reducing effect in some situations, but rather a violence-escalating effect.

Since the traumatic experiences of emergency aid in Somalia in 1992 and the failure of development aid in Rwanda in 1994, organisations worldwide had been asking themselves the same question: How can aid be provided in conflict situations that does not lead to an escalation of tensions, but instead helps the local population to withdraw from the cycle of violence and to seek alternative methods of coping with the problem? Do No Harm was developed by the US scientist Mary B. Anderson and her team from the American consulting firm Collaborative for Development Action (CDA).

Based on case studies from around the world and the practical experience of many of those affected, the CDA team developed a corresponding concept, which was first presented under the name “LocalCapacities for Peace Project” and is now usually referred to under the more catchy title “Local Capacities for Peace Project”. of the first publication: “Do No Harm. How Aid can Support Peace – or War” (Boulder 1997).

But nowadays, conflict sensitivity is a key requirement for any type of intervention.

Please, watch the following video which presents an introduction about the key principles of the Do No Harm approach.