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Livelihoods and Chronic Conflict - Nairobi launch

Time (GMT +00) 00:00 23:59


Dan Maxwell, CARE International

Kate Longley, ODI

Dan Maxwell (CARE International and co-author of the synthesis paper) presented the background issues, describing what is meant by a livelihoods approach, the nature of contemporary political conflict, the ways in which humanitarian agencies seek to provide assistance, and the implications for supporting livelihoods in chronic conflict situations.

Abi Montani (Independent Consultant) presented her paper (co-authored by Nisar Majid), 'Conducive Conditions: Livelihood Interventions in Southern Somalia', focusing on two projects: SC-UK's Agricultural Support Project (ASP) and ICRC's Community Intervention Project (CIP). The presentation highlighted the important role of contextual preconditions necessary for livelihoods approaches, both in terms of the changing nature of the working environment in southern Somalia and the institutional characteristics of the particular organisations.

Kate Longley (Overseas Development Institute) presented a synthesis of findings (co-authored by Dan Maxwell) from the Working Paper Series: livelihoods analysis can usefully be applied to conflict situations, but the livelihoods framework needs to be expanded to incorporate the concept of vulnerability more centrally, to give greater attention to power relations, and to include a temporal dimension; there are a wealth of tools for assessing livelihoods in conflict situations, but the challenge remains in moving from analysis to identifying appropriate interventions.

Livelihoods approaches in chronic conflict situations must incorporate both 'developmental' and 'relief' modes of operation; livelihoods programming in these contexts can be categorised as 'saving lives and livelihoods' (characterised by SC-UK's ASP: a developmental approach with the flexibility to respond to emergency needs) or 'saving lives through livelihoods' (characterised by ICRC's CIP: the provision of relief inputs with the aim of rebuilding productive assets at community level). The latter approach offers a potentially more effective means of saving lives than conventional relief interventions. Livelihoods programming requires that due attention is given to information and assessment and must be based on a sound analysis of need. Strong inter-agency collaboration and coordination may be required to overcome the limitations posed the specific mandates and capacities of individual agencies. Finally, the implementation of livelihoods approaches requires greater flexibility within existing donor funding channels.

A number of participants offered feedback regarding their own practical experiences with the use livelihoods approaches in chronic conflict situations. Whilst some agencies felt that they had developed a reasonably strong level of information relating to vulnerability (both transient and chronic), others were struggling to incorporate an understanding of vulnerability with an understanding of the underlying causes of poverty and conflict. Practical difficulties in monitoring asset depletion were noted, also the problems of working in contexts in which rumour and hearsay are particularly rife. For one agency, the use of livelihoods approaches had proved successful at a local level, but applying such approaches at a more strategic level had proved to be a challenge. Recognising the high level of information and analysis required for livelihoods approaches, one assessment unit had experienced particular difficulties in communicating analytical findings to partner agencies and suggested that closer partnerships would address this communication gap. The use of an asset-based approach has allowed for the identification the particular assets that can be supported in chronic conflict situations - i.e. human assets - emphasising the important role of human capacity-building.

Another participant noted that the internal capacity of an agency can be a limiting factor in developing new approaches since it is often difficult to change 'bad habits'. Whilst coordination between different agencies at field level within particular zones was thought to be fairly good, there remained an organisational challenge of coordinating across sectors and between headquarters and the field.