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  • Learning lessons from resilience and peacebuilding programs in the Horn of Africa
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Learning lessons from resilience and peacebuilding programs in the Horn of Africa

Source(s):  Climatelinks

By Christine Chumbler

“Climate change does not drive conflict in a vacuum but contributes to conflict in already fragile contexts and in combination with a number of other critical factors.” This is one of five themes to emerge from a literature review as reported in a new study, which critically assesses how peacebuilding programming can also produce adaptation benefits (and vice versa). This report, “Pathways to Peace: Addressing Conflict and Strengthening Stability in a Changing Climate,” draws on the evaluations of three USAID programs in the Horn of Africa, as well as other programs worldwide, that included peacebuilding and climate change adaptation components to synthesize lessons learned, develop and test a theory of change, and offer recommendations integrating programmatic approaches that consider and address compound climate-fragility risks.

Another theme from the review is that existing governance structures greatly influence the ways in which the compound climate-conflict risks manifest. Therefore, it is especially important to understand the role of governance in planning and regulating development, ensuring access to land, providing infrastructure support to mitigate risks from sudden-onset disasters, and promoting livelihood diversification. 

Also, the inability to address climate change risks can erode the social contract in fragile contexts. As the risks faced by citizens get more complex, the pressure on governments increases and fault lines in weak governance and social bonds become more apparent. Adaptation or resilience-building interventions that include processes to build the social contract and strengthen social cohesion between groups while sustaining bonding within affected groups, and that work across sectors, have the most impact on peacebuilding. Finally, the literature shows gaps in knowledge remain and thus present new research opportunities to improve understanding of, and programming for, compound development challenges.

The findings from the projects in the Horn of Africa and others illustrate some common mechanisms through which drivers of conflict interacted with climate, including: 

  • Reduced livelihood security;
  • Escalation of tensions due to competition over scarce resources;
  • Reinforced patterns of marginalization and exclusion;
  • Increased migratory movements; and
  • Fueling of terrorism and armed groups. 

The report suggests that those working to remove these drivers of conflict could apply the following theory of change, which is taken from the section titled “Lessons and Trends in Peacebuilding Activities in the Horn of Africa:” 

IF sustainable livelihoods are the foundation of human security and needed for successfully coping with and recovering from stresses and shocks, 

THEN building an enabling environment and capacities that support sustainable livelihoods can build resilience and may also mitigate conflict; and 

IF social cohesion and inclusive, legitimate and effective governance are key to coping with shocks and stresses (including violent conflict and climate change), 

THEN strengthening social cohesion within and between groups, as well as developing inclusive, legitimate and effective governance, based on a sustainable livelihoods framework, improves the capacity of communities to manage, adapt to and recover from shocks peacefully and builds resilience against climate, conflict and fragility risks.

The report identified five principles to guide integrated peacebuilding and climate resilience programming using this theory of change. 

  1. Foster social dialogue and cohesion.
  2. Pursue climate change adaptation through multi-sectoral investments. 
  3. Build the capacity of institutions to create an enabling environment for peace and sustainability. 
  4. Make governance inclusive. 
  5. Establish intra- and inter-governmental cooperation. 

This study also proposed two key recommendations for USAID and other donors to more effectively address compound climate-fragility risks in their development programs:

1. Conduct local analyses of the links between climate, conflict, and fragility to identify risks and target interventions operationalized through: 

  • Conflict-sensitive risk assessments that combine locally specific climate, conflict, and fragility data based on participatory and inclusive methodologies and frameworks. 
  • A robust and clear theory of change that explains how a project or program will improve resilience to both conflict- and climate-related shocks and stresses by fostering social cohesion, inclusive governance, and sustainable livelihoods. 
  • An integrated monitoring and evaluation framework that captures results for all the intended and unintended outcomes and impacts—per the project’s theory of change—by using multiple qualitative and quantitative methods.

2. Ensure long-term commitment with a focus on participation and flexibility by: 

  • Adopting a participatory approach to the design and implementation of interventions.
  • Giving adequate consideration to financing and timing to ensure that interventions deliver the right incentives for stability.
  • Applying USAID’s Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) framework to support coordinated programming that can adapt to changing circumstances on the ground and ensure coherence and complementarity between the interventions



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  • Publication date 11 Aug 2020

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