Early recovery in conflict settings has gained momentum in policy circles, but there are divergent views on what precisely it is, and how it differs from other approaches to promoting peace and recovery, such as peace-building and stabilisation. This paper argues that early recovery has functioned primarily as a way of framing activities, strategies and approaches that take place in humanitarian and transitional contexts, and that its added value is yet to be consistently proven. As early recovery has been used as a catch-all term for a broad range of issues, policy-makers and practitioners need to explicitly define what problem or set of problems they are seeking to address.
This paper explores the evolution of early recovery as an approach, maps early recovery in relation to peace-building, stabilisation and state-building and examines operational issues surrounding early recovery in different contexts experiencing conflict. The paper does not endeavour to establish a definitive ‘take’ on early recovery, which would not necessarily be helpful given the existence of multiple interpretations, but rather seeks to inform discussions among policy-makers and practitioners about the added value of framing activities and approaches in terms of early recovery.