Understanding and Preventing Social Conflict while Implementing Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction in Afghanistan

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This report presents the main findings of a study conducted by Oxfam and the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC) that seeks to better understand the relationship between community-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects and social conflict prevention at the community level in Afghanistan. The main objective of the study was to understand the ways in which the implementation of community-based DRR projects can prevent, mitigate and manage social conflict. The rationale behind the study is that the -hypothetical- reduced amount of project-related violent social conflict is based on a series of practices of staff teams implementing ARC projects. However, those practices that help to prevent the presence of social conflicts are unknown and ad hoc —based on individual practices—, instead of being based on structured and well-known conflict identification mechanisms. This threatens the sustainability of the projects, since the lack of attendance of specific individuals could prevent future project implementation. Studying these staff practices, their management, and their implications for the projects is therefore a necessary task. This research project was developed within the framework of the project ‘Mitigating Conflicts over Water Resources: Pilot Project (MCW pilot)’, which consists of a theoretical part (knowledge production) and a practical component (the implementation and delivery of produced knowledge). The practical component included the development of a Manual on Conflict Analysis Tools and the training of staff members of partner institutions on the use of those tools. This study comprises a survey to people involved in flood mitigation structures built as part of the DRR projects implemented in the Badakhshan, Bamyan, Jawzjan, Samangan, and Takhar provinces in Afghanistan by four ARC partners: ActionAid, Afghanaid, Concern Worldwide, and Save the Children. In total, close to two hundred people were interviewed, of which forty-three are permanent or long-term staff members of the organisations, and/or directly involved in implementing or managing the projects. The results in this report are based on the answers of these long and permanent people. The remainder of the interviewed respondents represent members of Afghani Community Development Councils (CDCs), members of communities in which projects were implemented, including skilled and unskilled workers, various individuals involved in the projects, and service providers. These last interviews provided contextual information used for the analysis and reporting of the results. The main research findings highlights conflict perceptions amongst interviewees, depict existing practices for social conflict reduction/mitigation, and explain the ways in which conflicts are communicated amongst project staff members. Three main findings are disclosed in this report: Firstly, the research shows that the project staff members clearly perceive the existence of social conflict in places where projects are implemented, but the majority of respondents (people with long-term and permanent involvement in projects implementation) do not consider the need to focus on conflict risk reduction measures before project implementation. This is principally ascribed to low understanding that projects can produce social conflict, although the projects’ ability to prevent or mitigate the impact of social conflict is perceived. The lack of understanding that projects can produce and/or reinforce conflict relies on the idea that because the projects are developed through participatory mechanisms, are needs-based, and create public and common benefits, communities cannot find in them a source of dispute or difference. The responses also show that a considerable number of projects have had to be postponed due to the presence of social conflict. This was the case despite the existence of a set of mechanisms for conflict prevention and reduction during project preparation phases. Secondly, the research uncovers formal and non-formal field practices carried out by staff member, aimed at reducing the risk of social conflict. The study found that the main strategy to reduce the risk of conflict is to ensure the comprehension amongst all community members of common or public benefits that projects produce. This is communicated mainly via local CDCs and elders as community leaders. Field practices aimed at resolving, mitigating or managing the risks or presence of conflict chiefly involve the presence and intervention of figures of power in the form of formal and traditional authorities. Thirdly, the research found that conflicts are communicated mainly orally by staff working on them, at the local/provincial level, and principally to provincial managers, CDC leaders and provincial local authorities. No formal or institutionalised mechanisms are in place for reporting the presence of social conflicts. However, the need for such mechanisms was recognised: all respondents mentioned the importance of communicating the occurrence of social conflict during the implementation of projects. In addition, some staff members keep written records. The main recommendations based on the results are: ? To include a section in formal reports where social conflicts, or the possibility of such conflicts, are described or reported; ? To include conflict analysis tools in future projects to prevent and reduce the risk of social conflicts; ? To train provincial coordinators and project managers on social conflict mitigation and management; and ? To train local authorities at the community and district level on social conflict mitigation and management.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKabul, Afghanistan
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

This study was developed as part of the project ‘Mitigating Conflicts over Water Resources: Pilot Project (MCW pilot)’, funded by Oxfam and Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom and implemented by the Afghanistan Resilience Consortium (ARC).
The report, study and data analysis processes were led by Rodrigo Mena, researcher and consultant of the Disaster and Conflict Research group (VICI project 453-14-013) based at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam. The report was reviewed by Guru Naik and Hayatullah Rasoli, manager and deputy manager of the ARC, respectively, and is supported by Oxfam. The author would like to thank Tamar Chubabria for her work on the analysis of the data and development of this report, and Shirin agha Samim for his valuable comments and inputs.

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