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8 key Messages on Promoting Empowerment and Accountability in Messy Places

November 20, 2019
Please read the synthesis report for the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research programme – it’s written by John Gaventa and Katy Oswald, and is a model for how to communicate a large body of research in an accessible and practitioner-friendly way. (Full disclosure, I’ve contributed four papers to A4EA as part of my Oxfam role, but had nothing

The challenges facing female researchers in conflict settings

June 24, 2019
Irène Bahati is a teaching assistant at the Department of Commercial Sciences at ISP/Bukavu and researcher at the Research Group for Violent Conflict and Human Secutity GEC-SH. This piece is part of the new “Bukavu Series” blog posts by the GIC Network.  Research is often seen as a man’s job, and in a patriarchal society it can be socially difficult for a woman

Who you Gonna Call? Engaging ‘Public Authorities’ for Rapid Crisis Responses

April 4, 2019
I’m doing some interesting work with Tom Kirk at LSE as part of the CPAID research programme, on the way donors/aid agencies understand power (aka ‘public authority’) in fragile/conflict settings. As seems to be the way in academia, Tom does all the work, and I get to add my name to the result – what’s not to like? Here he

Book Review: A Savage Order, by Rachel Kleinfeld

January 16, 2019
Rachel Kleinfeld is speaking in London tomorrow (Thursday 17th January) from 17.30-19.00. Book here In A Savage Order, Rachel Kleinfeld casts an unflinching eye on the many ways in which human beings physically hurt each other at a societal level. Not just war, but the much more ubiquitous everyday violence that springs from political and social breakdown, or organized crime.

How does Localization work on the ground? Podcast with Evans Onyiego and video of his work in Northern Kenya

December 7, 2018
On the margins of the localization discussion I covered yesterday, I grabbed a few minutes to interview Evans Onyiego. Evans runs a local Caritas office in Maralal, in Northern Kenya, where the Church is playing a big role in trying to rebuild trust between ethnic groups and communities whose traditional rivalries have been turbo-charged by the arrival of automatic weapons. He’s

Localization in Aid – why isn’t it happening? What to do about it?

December 6, 2018
Spent two days this week discussing ‘Localization in Conflict Settings’. The subject is littered with aid jargon, but important – how does the humanitarian system ‘transfer power and resources’ to ‘local actors’ rather than outsiders insisting on running the whole thing (badly) themselves? It was organized by Saferworld and Save the Children Sweden to help flesh out a research programme,

Peace has a PR Problem: How would you fix it?

September 21, 2018
Today is the UN International Day of Peace. You probably won’t have heard of it. Harriet Lamb, CEO of International Alert, explains why that matters. Our dictionaries mirror what’s happening in society. And the words we use shape how we see events and how we act. So it’s a sad reflection that dictionaries are full of the words of war: from

Should the UK (or other aid donors) ‘hold its nose’ and support an unjust end to civil wars?

September 5, 2018
Guest post from Anna Chernova, Oxfam’s Senior Humanitarian Policy Adviser There was some jubilation recently in South Sudan and amongst war-weary diasporas when the two leaders of the factions who have been driving the brutal conflict signed the Khartoum Agreement, which commits parties to a permanent ceasefire and lays the foundation for a peace deal currently expected to be signed

Some Exciting Progress on Governance Diaries

September 4, 2018
One of the things I do on this blog is float random ideas for how the aid sector could do things differently. I’m under no illusions that anyone is actually listening. The best I can hope for is usually that a couple of people express mild interest in an idea, before it floats off into the abyss to join all

What restrains extreme violence – Culture or the Law?

August 2, 2018
Ed Cairns on how advocates of international humanitarian law have started getting excited about culture and norms Do we need to get used to war? That’s the frightening question from the 2018 Armed Conflict Survey, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), launched with the blunt message that ‘peace processes are stalling… the number of armed groups is rising,’

What can the Thinking and Working Politically community learn from peace and conflict mediation?

July 24, 2018
Alex Douglas from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue adds some useful insights for adaptive management/TWP from his vantage point in peace building Wily aid practitioners have long understood the importance of adapting their programs to the political environment, and even use their activities to push politics in a progressive direction.  But this magic was spun secretly, hidden behind logframes and

Escaping the Fragility Trap? Why is it so hard to think constructively about fragile states?

July 19, 2018
Just been reading the report of the ‘Commission on Fragility, Growth and Development’. Hosted by LSE and Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government; big name chairs (David Cameron, Donald Kaberuka and the LSE’s Adnan Khan). And I think it’s a bit disappointing. But the reasons for that are actually quite interesting and instructive. First the positives. Above all, the report’s recognition