How to Build Peace and Manage Conflict? Start Early

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Recent Mercy Corps report in Central African Republic shows benefit of conflict-management programs

Mercy Corps surveyed more than 600 households living in Bangui and Bouar, Central African Republic, about what peace means to them.

Today we are facing an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises and must diligently integrate conflict management and peacebuilding activities into humanitarian response as early as possible.

An assessment of a recent, 15-month effort by the global organization Mercy Corps in the Central African Republic (CAR) reveals that when it comes to conflict management and violence prevention, an early focus on conflict resolution makes a profound difference.

Mercy Corps launched a conflict management program in CAR in January 2014 at the height of violence between a mostly Muslim armed alliance, Séléka, and mostly Christian community defense militias, anti-Balaka. Thousands of men, women and children had been killed, and one million civilians displaced from their homes. Many communities feared the violence would spiral toward a protracted civil war or genocide. Fortunately, that has not happened.

A key aspect of the Mercy Corps program was to improve conflict-management skills among key community leaders, resulting in a shift toward peaceful resolution of individual conflicts.

“In the beginning, only 13 percent of the community members we spoke with reported that conflicts were being resolved peacefully,” says Adrienne Karecki, Mercy Corps Regional Program Director for West and Central Africa. “By the end, it was 82 percent – an increase of 532 percent. Quite frankly, we were stunned by these results.”

By the end-line program assessment in August 2015, 56 percent of those surveyed by Mercy Corps said they trusted the other minority group—a 26 percent increase from the beginning of the assessment. As an example of success, 26 community leaders, representing more than 39,000 people, signed a pact committing to resolving conflict peacefully.

“The resurgence in violence in CAR’s capital last month underscores the need for continued conflict-prevention efforts,” says Karecki. "Today we are facing an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises and must diligently integrate conflict management and peacebuilding activities into humanitarian response as early as possible.”

Data collected in the program evaluation demonstrate that supporting conflict management and peacebuilding activities during crisis can both stem violence and address the underlying drivers of violent conflict, laying a foundation for more swift and sustainable post-conflict recovery.

Read or download the Mercy Corps report on early conflict mitigation in Central African Republic.

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Rachel Hirsch
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