- Focus areas of our work
- How we work
- Countries we work in
- Examples and results
- The organisation
Fighting poverty calls for a different distribution of resources. ActionAid Denmark supports constructive ways of handling the discord that springs from development. Conflicts should lead to positive change for the poor and marginalised, rather than end in violence and destruction.
When conflicts break out into open violence
Around New Year 2008, Kenya experienced a shocking wave of fierce unrest. In the beginning, the conflict was presented as if it were driven by ethnic hatred. Gradually it became clear that it was largely a reaction to those in power trying to steal the vote after the elections. The conflict was a response to the fact that the political elite would not solve the country’s fundamental problems of poverty and lack of democracy, i.e. the constitution concentrating power in a few hands, the unfair distribution of land and the fact that corruption creates a flow of money from the poor to the rich. The attempt to steal the election became the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading to rioting with politically manipulated ethnic undertones.
In such a situation, a concrete intervention is required to manage the conflict, fostering dialogue and reconciliation. However, it is also necessary to grasp the host of underlying problems fuelling the violence.
Peace Caravan in Kenya
With support from MS’s national fundraising campaign, 25 young people from 15 different tribes took part in a Peace Caravan that travelled for two weeks through the violence-ridden parts of Kenya to promote peace and reconciliation in the wake of the bloody conflict. The caravan was organised by MS’s partner organisation PeaceNet.
"After a long day of speeches, these leaders of three different tribes, each of which during the dispute had brutally killed, raped and burnt down entire communities over water and land, gathered their mattresses to sleep together. This was such a symbolically charged sight that it almost brought tears to the eyes of our PeaceNet organiser."
Sofie Breidal, young MS volunteer in the Peace Caravan
All development entails conflict
Conflict management is not just about healing the wounds after violent hostilities. It is indeed an integral part of all development work. Fighting poverty calls for an alternative distribution of resources and shifting power relations in favour of the poor. Development involves social change, and social change entails conflict. Consequently, all development is linked to some level of conflict.
When MS supports political empowerment of poor people, better access to land, trade justice, measures against corruption and gender discrimination, opposing interests are bound to clash. These intervention areas address the fundamental structural causes of poverty and marginalisation. In many poor countries, tiny elites hang on to power and have no interest in democracy or development.
Consequently, MS’s partner organisations are inevitably drawn into conflict-ridden processes, as they oppose marginalisation of the poor, corruption, unfair land distribution and gender inequality. This is what makes the management of conflict part and parcel of development processes.
How MS supports conflict management
Conflict management is an integral part of all our support for development. In addition, we specifically focus on this issue in three countries, all of which have experienced outright political violence, namely Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nepal.
In conflict management we address two types of political violence: direct political violence and structural political violence.
Direct political violence consists of politically motivated physical attacks against groups and individuals, for instance during elections. We support endeavours to stop the use of political violence as a means of exerting pressure, and to sway the conflicting parties toward peace and reconciliation initiatives. We also assist organisations in monitoring and documenting abuses. Further, we back efforts to foster dialogue and reconciliation after the violence has occurred.
Structural political violence is exercised through structures in society that marginalise people from influence, and keep them in poverty. MS supports development that changes such structures and we strive to manage, as constructively as possible, the conflicts that are bound to follow.
Conflicts vary widely in nature, ranging from peaceful disagreement to open and destructive violence. Conflict management is particularly about preventing opposing interests from evolving into destructive clashes, and to ensure that conflicts remain constructive.
One aspect of conflict management is the systematic use of so-called "Do No Harm" methodology aimed at mapping what divides and unites people and consciously working with methods that unite rather than divide.
Support for organisations and initiatives
In the efforts to manage conflicts, we support organisations that monitor and document political violence and violations of human rights, for example, by means of civil society actors developing and implementing early-warning systems that record political violence at the local level.
We support peace and reconciliation initiatives, both in relation to politically motivated conflicts and to more local disputes over, for example, access to resources.
Alongside the local authorities, we support civil society’s own dialogue-creating activities to facilitate neutral meeting places for parties to the conflict.
Learn moreConflict Management - A Position Paper (pdf)