Conflict and Fragility


Jake Lynch – TRANSCEND Media Service

When you give aid in a context of armed conflict, you become part of that context and also therefore part of the conflict. The aphorism is from Do No Harm, by Mary B Anderson, the book-length account of an approach to development and humanitarian fieldwork that attempts to identify and foster local capacities and resources for peace. It’s a welcome antidote to the traditional, ‘we-know-best’ approaches, exemplified in an image you can still occasionally see on television news coverage of complex emergencies: a white aid worker being interviewed in the foreground, as black victims file mutely past in the background.

Today, plenty of professionals who offer aid programmes in countries affected by violent conflict have done a lot of critical thinking about their role and its implications. The ‘Do No Harm’ approach has been disseminated widely, through websites and training courses, as of course has our own, complementary TRANSCEND approach of dialogues leading to a shared sense of diagnosis, prognosis and options for therapy (including peace journalism).

A helpful resource for them is provided in the Australian Development Gateway (ADG), a thoughtful web-tool for assembling and presenting expertise and wisdom from multiple sources, arranged into specialised areas. There is now a new sector called ‘Conflict and Fragility’, and the creative team behind the ADG invited me to respond to questions sent in by their stakeholders:

  • Practical application of OECD ‘Do No Harm’ framework
  • What do you teach in your peace journalism training?
  • How do we measure the impact of development activities on fragile states?
  • What role do women play in peace and state-building?
  • Are different strategies and tactics used between fragile states and developing countries?
  • What measures are used to assess if a country or state is fragile?
  • Dili Declaration on peace and state building
  • Key institutions doing research into conflict and fragility?

You can browse through my answers here:


Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 May 2010.

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