Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: DRC and Rwanda - International Development Committee Contents

Written evidence from Peace Direct


1.1  Peace Direct practices and promotes an unusual approach to aid delivery in conflict-affected and fragile states. We seek out successful local peacebuilding organisations, and fund them to carry out peacebuilding programmes they define and direct themselves. This gives them power over their own solutions and futures, and has distinct benefits in value-for-money, sustainability and effectiveness.

1.2  We call this approach "locally led peacebuilding" (LLP) and it is the core concept that informs this paper. We believe it has wider lessons for how all types of aid might be delivered in the future.

1.3  This is a fundamental break with the prevailing practice, in which international players decide priorities and utilise their own knowledge and personnel first - an expensive and slow procedure that leaves too little behind afterwards. The statistic that 40% of conflicts restart within 10 years of a formal peace treaty is indicative of the failings of this top-down, outsider-led approach.

1.4  Our goal is to help to bring about a world in which local people lead in the peaceful resolution of their own conflicts. To this end, we advocate that local capacity should be assessed and deployed first, with appropriate external support; and "outsiders" from the international community should be deployed only where local capacity is unavailable. In this scenario, a significant percentage of donor funds should be allocated to locally-led programmes, wherever possible.

1.5  DFID gave us an 18 month core grant in 2009-11, to explore our approach and to pool lessons from all of our peacebuilders at a series of knowledge-sharing conferences. Currently we fund a wide variety of peacebuilding initiatives in Sudan, DRC, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Kashmir, as well as closer to home in east London. Our insights are based on this experience.


The most recent quarterly report of the International Security and Stabilisation Support Strategy (ISSSS) in DRC highlights the failure to operationalise a new tribunal for South Kivu. Despite $8.05 million allocated by 12 of the world's biggest donors, a magistrate has not been found to occupy the new building in Bukavu.

At the same time, Peace Direct's local partner, FOCHI, has created five local courts which are fully operational and supported by the local magistrate in Uvira. FOCHI estimates that this cost only £25,000, of which 60% was provided by the community in voluntary donations. FOCHI further estimates that the cost of maintaining the courts will be met 90% by voluntary donations.

During the same period, the existing operational magistrate dealt with only 8 out of 2,000 cases last year, and charged costs so high as to exclude most people in South Kivu.

This example shows the low cost, high effectiveness and sustainability of enabling local organisations to find their own solutions, which draw on local knowledge and community "buy-in". By comparison, the internationally led option was slow, costly, ineffective and exclusive of the beneficiary community. The FOCHI project was supported by Peace Direct with DFID funding.


2.1  In our experience, DFID pays too little attention to the potential of locally led, grassroots organisations, while over-emphasising the value of building the capacity of national governments.

2.2  Clearly, DFID is not responsible for the continued fighting and suffering in eastern DRC. Nevertheless, DFID shares responsibility for an international approach that has treated DRC as a post-conflict state and failed to address the ongoing local causes of instability and fighting in the east. The national-level approach adopted by DFID and other international donors (including the UN) has ignored many of the local causes of conflict, such as land disputes and localised ethnic conflicts. The failure to address these root causes of violence and instability in DRC means that fighting and a humanitarian catastrophe continue, almost a decade since the signing of the various peace agreements.

2.3  In many conflict-affected states, central government has little reach outside of the main towns, or not into the conflict zone itself. In such scenarios, the main effective agents for peacebuilding are civil society organisations (CSOs), particualrly local peacebuilders (LPBs). By focussing on national government, DFID is neglecting this existing capacity. Its emphasis on national government comes at the expense of building up capacity at different levels of government and within civil society. Presumably, the logic of this is that failed states fail because governments are not capable enough. Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that many failed states fail because the wrong people are in government or the government may lack legitimacy. Failed states are often characterised by oppression, corruption, self-interested politicians and a propensity to incite violence to divide society. Yet these are the people and institutions that DFID often chooses to support. It does not need to be this way. If a small proportion of the expenditure spent on government institutions was passed directly to inexpensive CSOs, DFID could impact effectively at both national and grassroots levels.

2.4  This would work during the primary phases of a conflict, when LPBs are the main indigenous force working to build and maintain peace. It would also work in the secondary, post-conflict phase, when national government may become more engaged and needs to be held to account by the community. In that secondary phase, LPBs that had received proper support could provide the nucleus for an experienced and reliable civil society to develop and flourish, at little further expense.

2.5  This would create a better transition from weak to strong government, as it is in the most vulnerable areas that civil society and social networks fill the gaps of the national government—resolving conflicts, supporting the neediest and providing basic services. When a government is visibly filling those gaps, civil society still needs support to move from "service deliverers" to "service monitors", empowered to hold the government to account.


In Burundi, where ethnic conflict has become a political conflict, local civil society was able to keep peacebuilding on the UN and government agenda, despite resistance from the ruling party. If this had not happened, the government would have persuaded donors to focus on its priorities and not the priorities of local people. Such ability for a government to influence donor spending is dangerous where corruption is rife and politically motivated murders are a daily occurrence in communities.

In Somaliland, as cited in our booklet Ripples Into Waves, a strong government was viewed as a predatory government by citizens. Encouraging the dispersion of power by supporting lower tiers of government and the development of inclusive civil society institutions, means that governments need to have regard to other representative organisations, such as trade unions, media, legal networks, faith organisations and business. This reduces the likelihood that large sections of the population will continue to feel excluded from power or will eventually return to using force to achieve their ends.

2.6  Therefore there needs to be a better way of maintaining and strengthening the existing civil society before, and in parallel with, giving support to the government. Our central recommendation is that in every fragile state, DFID should allocate a proportion of funds specifically for strengthening local civil society. With an initial focus on LPBs, this fund could support civil society through the transition to holding governments to account as the country itself transitions to a more stable state.


3.1  Support to local organisations can fill the gaps until government is ready

We agree with the moves of DFID towards security and justice and its acknowledgement of the importance of local organisations. However, the latter is not always put into practice, with DFID resources still favouring government institutions which remain ineffective. Support to local organisations in parallel to central support could provide a better transition, with governments taking on responsibility from civil society when it is ready, as outlined above.

3.2  Increase support to local organisations

Providing aid to targeted local organisations can create a foundation from which other CSOs can be supported. Creating collaborative local networks and providing grants specifically to local organisations needs to increase.


The support from DFID to the FSC Fund in DRC is welcome, providing regular small grants specifically to local organisations. More of this is needed, but the grants must be released quickly for it to be really useful in creating new ways of working that are suitable to the fast pace and urgency of fragile states.

3.3  Stay connected with civil society

In DRC, the UN and DFID still seem to view local organisations as not their priority, instead seeing it as someone else's responsibility - STAREC in the case of the UN and Christian Aid in the case of DFID's FSC Fund. In the latter case, this may make sense in terms of overcoming DFID's administrative limitations on many small grants but it distances DFID further from local civil society. This could lead to an unnatural focus on national government. DFID needs to ensure that it is connected to local civil society outside the main towns.


Peace Direct is supporting a network of 20 LPBs across the east of DRC. These local peacebuilders come from very rural areas in the heat of the conflict. They have conducted joint conflict analyses, developed strategies for local conflicts and proposed impressive collaborated projects. They provide excellent centres of information and could act as a constant conflict analysis resource at a very low cost: the South Kivu focal point has met 10 times, had 18 exchange visits and spent 6 days analysing the conflict for a total cost of less than $4,000. They have created a platform of local peacebuilders with which the international community can engage. Involvement of DFID in this process would be welcome, an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and expertise and a means for DFID to identify LPBs that it would like to support.

Peace Direct has had discussions with FCO in Pakistan about replicating a similar model there.


4.1  Maintaining support for local peacebuilding

PD recommends that a proportion of funding to fragile states is given specifically to support genuinely locally led initiatives. The amount may be specific to each country, but might comprise for example 10%. This would encourage more agencies to adopt the LLP approach and diversify the projects that DFID would support, as they would be highly context specific. It is recommended that local peacebuilders would be the first priority to build a functioning civil society during conflict. This would prioritise peace as a pre-requisite for development and ensure a country emerges from conflict with a viable civil society that can support the government and hold it accountable.


The CHSF grant issued to Peace Direct was designed specifically for local peacebuilding and enabled a model of working which has been very successful. However, no similar grant has replaced that. We suggest that this kind of work is funded on an ongoing basis; that a proportion of funds in any fragile state is provided to local peacebuilding as standard; and that DFID HQ has a fund which promotes greater awareness of local peacebuilding globally.

4.2  Ensuring appropriate funding arrangements

Funding needs to be planned to meet the conflict needs of an area and the capacities of local organisations.

4.2.1  Often the issuing of grants can be exceptionally slow, to the point it can be useless for some peacebuilding and conflict prevention activities. "Rapid Response Funds" (RRF) can be deployed to allow local organisations to respond immediately to emerging conflicts.


In Sudan, an unrestricted RRF to a local peacebuilding network has successfully supported very localised and cost-effective initiatives. These have not only resolved conflicts before they became violent, but they have strengthened civil society in those areas. Community-based organisations (CBOs) and individuals have access to a maximum of $3,000 per initiative, and are mentored to implement the initiatives themselves, fostering a wider and stronger civil society.

In 2010, 13 significant conflicts were resolved by local CBOs, at a total cost of $35,000, with a further 23 resolved at no cost. The unrestricted nature of the RRF meant that responses to conflict were versatile and appropriate, whilst strengthening very local CBOs by giving them the opportunity to implement solutions developed with the beneficiaries, leading to greater credibility within the communities.

4.2.2  Giving local organisations the ability to manage sub-grants, through relatively small unrestricted grants, would enable greater ownership of projects, strengthen civil society in an organic way, and provide a mechanism that encourages a diversified response.

4.2.3  DFID should ensure that its criteria for funding organisations maintain their rigor without using criteria that are likely to exclude smaller organisations. This may mean at times being prepared to take more risks in funding new partners, but it should allow for greater peacebuilding impact in the long term.

4.3  Identifying local capacity

Better assessment of existing capacities needs to be made from an early stage and civil society should not be seen as a nice "extra", but instead as essential for rehabilitating a fragile state and holding governments to account. Analysing this capacity would enable DFID to better realise who was filling the gaps of government, providing outside expertise only where absolutely necessary. Such assessments are an essential step to identifying how local efforts can be scaled up.


With DFID funding, our information website Insight on Conflict ( has identified over 500 local peacebuilders in 20 different countries. This is an essential first step to understanding what capacity exists and how it can be supported. IoC coverage of a new region costs approximately £2,000 to set up in the first year and £1,500 per year to maintain after that.

4.4  Scaling-up from local to national scale

DFID needs to give the opportunity for local organisations to prove that they are capable of working on a large scale. As the examples in our booklet Ripples into Waves demonstrate, LPBs can have a huge impact. Peace Direct recommends that DFID identifies three pilot areas to work with a network of local peacebuilders, develop joint conflict analyses at a local level and support collaborative but locally-led projects.


Our booklet Ripples Into Waves (appended) shows case studies of four countries where LPBs have made a national impact: Kenya, Somaliland, Mozambique and Guyana. It can be read on the Stabilisation Unit website at


5.1  There is still a big divide between funding structures and local organisations. Channelling funds through international intermediary organisations needs to be accompanied by a structure that keeps DFID connected to local civil society—this can be done though regular shared conflict analyses with local organisations.

5.2  More unrestricted funding needs to be provided to local capacities so that they can make their own decisions. In doing so, it creates an important process that develops communities and civil society together.


6.1  In DRC, there is not a single representative of HMG based in the entire east of the country, the region that continues to suffer from militia fighting and the worst impacts of the war. DFID should appoint a civil society liaison officer to support and engage with the networks and joint conflict analyses described above. It should also assess whether similar gaps exist in other conflict-affected states. A presence in the capital city is not always sufficient.

6.2  DFID's evaluation move from "attribution" to "contribution" is welcome, but more work needs to be done on monitoring and evaluation, to make it more accessible and less dependent on quantification. All agencies struggle with this aspect, and efforts by DFID recently to engage INGOs in developing this together have been welcome and should continue.

May 2011

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Prepared 5 January 2012