All engagements undertaken in areas at risk of undergoing or emerging from conflict, must be conflict sensitive. This forms part of the essential ‘do no harm’ principles … Conflict-sensitive programming – whether you are working around the conflict, in the conflict or actively on the conflict concerns how to ensure that your intervention does not exacerbate root and/or proximate factors, or ignite pre-existing or new triggers of conflict. Regardless, therefore, of whether you seek to actively reduce levels of conflict or not, you must be sure that you do not increase it.
UN Conflict and Development Analysis

Conflict sensitivity is the cornerstone of understanding how an intervention, and the range of resources it brings with it, can impact an environment. It helps practitioners to think through how to minimise negative impacts of a programme and maximise the opportunities to do good.

Building an in-depth understanding of the context shines light on the different types of and experiences of violence, conflict, exclusion and injustice and helps to prioritise the approach based on the needs on the ground. Coupling this with consultations with government partners, CSOs and communities around perceptions of violence at large, as well as VE, helps refine analysis and supports the development of programming that reflects the contextual realities.

Conflict sensitivity refers to the ability of an organisation to understand the context in which it is operating and the interactions between its interventions and the context; it then requires an ability to act upon this understanding to avoid negative impacts.

United Nations Development Group, Conducting a conflict and development analysis, 2016, p.113,

Framing projects

The sensitive and political nature of PVE programming means that the mere existence of a PVE programme can exacerbate and create tensions within a community. Some programmes attempt to circumvent this by rebranding their programme as something other than PVE, sticking instead to a familiar development label of, for example, livelihoods creation, leadership skills or interfaith dialogue. While this offers a way to manage the risks around perceptions of a programme and stigmatisation of those engaging in the programme, it presents an ethical dilemma around the core principle of transparency. Programmes are presented to beneficiaries as one thing and reported on as PVE, implicitly labelling those engaging in the programme as vulnerable to VE or core to building resilience to PVE. Not only does this raise the question of whether this is appropriate and fair, but it also threatens trust built with communities and makes it more difficult to gather and measure data when the purpose of an intervention has been kept from those from whom information for monitoring impact is required.

Figure 1: Building a conflict sensitive approach

Adapted from International Alert, Supporting conflict-sensitivity: Guidance for International Alert staff, London: International Alert, 2015.