Be Conflict Sensitive in Your Projects, Communities, USAID- S2S Tasks CSOs

Source: Oswald Agwu.

Civil Society Organisations have been charged to be agents of conflict resolution and mitigation in their focal communities, rather than aiding escalation of crises.

The admonition came during a two day Training Workshop organised by the USAID- State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness, State2State Activity for its six project Sub- grantees and other selected CSOs in Ebonyi State.

The training was centred on Conflict Sensitivity and "Do no Harm" Approach to CSOs activities and project implement ions.

The Ebonyi State Team Lead, USAID-State2State, while declaring the Training open on Wednesday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State Capital, stressed the importance of CSOs as vital partners in societal development.

He noted that the job of CSOs as people who directly interface with citizens are important towards the achievement of the goals of USAID -S2S, anchored on improving governance and service delivery.

"A peaceful environment for governance is key to achieving improved service delivery.

" If we get governance right, we get service delivery right, and CSOs are the ones to help us achieve that" Onyia emphasized.

Remarking on the objectives of the training, the Local Government Area Manager of State2State activities in Ebonyi State, Mrs Victoria Ebere Eze, explained that the training was to build the capacity of CSO partners on strategies that can be used to avoid escalating tensions or conflict, adding that it would further enhance participants knowledge on concepts of conflict, conflict context, conflict mitigation as well as gender and social inclusion in conflict management.

Eze stated further that it was also aimed at deepening participants' understanding on " Do no Harm" principles and how to apply it in their social engagements.

She urged the CSOs to always package their activities or programmes in such a way as to help resolve rather than trigger conflicts in society.

Eze explained: "There are ways a CSO can relate to its community partners and it will cause harm to the society.

So, every CSO is expected to be mindful of the kind of activity or programme they implement in an environment.

"As development workers we should show sensitivity in management of conflicts through constructive initiation, planning and implementation of our activities.

"CSOs should not at any point use approaches that may lead to conflict or disintegration of the community where they are working.

"We are hopeful that at the end of the training the trained CSOs will garner potential opportunities to promote positive relations to address drivers of conflict."

Resource persons at the training, including the State2State Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist, Ebonyi State, Ejiro Okotie, and the S2S conflict expert from Adamawa State, Danjuma Mohammed, took participants on diverse topics bordering on conflict context, conflict types, conflict environment, approaches to conflict sensitivity as well as concepts in peace building, violence and social dimensions in conflict management.

Mohammed identified three basic steps to conflict sensitivity to include understanding of conflict context; understanding the interaction between your goal and the conflict context, as well as building flexibility between the goal and conflict context.

He noted that a proper coordination of the steps would help to avoid negative impacts while maximising the positive.

Mohammed added: "Conflict sensitive approaches can be used at all stages of, and throughout a project cycle, starting from its planning stage, where baseline surveys are undertaken, up to the evaluation phase.

"Any action, including service delivery in a conflict prone community or State will inevitably have an impact on the peace and Conflict environment, either positive or negative; directly, indirectly, indirectly or unintentional."

In an interview, some of the participants, including the consultant and project manager of Development and Integrity Intervention Goals Foundation (DIG), Dr. Emmanuel Abah, and the Executive Director of Public Enlightenment Project (PEP), Mrs Lilian Ezenwa described the training as both impacting and apt.

Abah explained that the training has equipped them as USAID-S2S Sub-grantees to understand important keys to the implementation of their programs

"We have seen the necessity in planning for unseen conflicts, so they don't take us unawares when it comes" Abah acknowledged.

Ezenwa also added: "This workshop is very apt, because it came at the right time, especially for us implementing State2State projects in the State.

"Some community members themselves could be very aggressive, because they feel the government has failed them: incomes are low, no market for farmers produce and so on.

"There are also communal conflicts in some of the communities we work.

"So, for us as partners working with these people, we actually need to be sensitive, so that we will not go and escalate the crises, but be able with the skills acquired in this training, to manage and mitigate the conflicts."