New community-informed approaches to humanitarian protection and restraint

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Development Studies
Department Name: Research Department

Abstract

The number of armed conflicts around the world, as well as the number of parties fighting in these conflicts, has risen significantly between 2001 and 2016. We therefore need to better understand the key factors at the community level that promote restraint and de-escalation in violent environments. Former studies show the value of understanding how a culture of restraint is socialised within a community. However, not much is known about the role that communities play in influencing the behaviour of armed groups. Current approaches to humanitarian protection are rooted in formalised legalistic approaches. However, these approaches have limits in contexts where global humanitarian norms are contested or ignored on the ground. A new bottom-up approach to humanitarian protection is needed and this research seeks to identify successful examples of local protection measures and generate methods for communicating these to similar communities experiencing violence and to aid agencies.

This project will work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where human rights abuses are widespread, including extremely high levels of sexual violence. Whilst the resolution of the conflict on a national and regional level is clearly the long-term solution, in the meantime aid agencies, local religious institutions and civil society groups struggle to protect civilians. This research aims to provide new understandings and tools to both communities and aid providers to reinforce protective measures. By identifying where such local measures have worked, and under what circumstances, the research will provide an evidence base for policy and practice.
Our consortium is formed of the Institute of Development Studies; two partner organisations in DRC - the Centre d'etude et de promotion en interventions socio-economiques (CEPRISE) and Institut National des Arts (INA); and Action Aid. We are ideally placed to undertake this research, bringing together deep experience of participatory methods, indigenous knowledge, gender and bottom-up approaches to humanitarianism, with storytelling through drama, music and literature.

Through identifying, locating, documenting and understanding where local protective measures have worked; we aim to help aid agencies and policy makers find appropriate ways to support these efforts and possibly find ways to replicate them. Our objectives are:

1. To generate evidence on whether local, community-based protection measures work, and in what circumstances.
2. To generate evidence on whether local, community-based measures to prevent or reduce sexual violence work and in what circumstances.
3. To generate evidence on differing local and community-based attitudes to victims of sexual violence, and under what circumstances these allow for rehabilitation.
4. To develop innovative local communication methods for transferring knowledge of successful protective measures.
5. To generate programmatic lessons for aid agencies so that they can adapt protection programmes to support local measures.
6. To generate policy lessons for aid agencies such that systemic approaches to protection can incorporate and support local action.

This research aims to have conceptual impact and provide new understandings and tools to both communities and aid providers to reinforce protective measures. By identifying where such local measures have worked, and under what circumstances, the research will provide an evidence base for policy and practice. Further, the research will have impact as it builds networks and connectivity; it will design, with communities, ways of communicating these successes so they can be adapted and replicated in other contexts. The project has a strong intellectual core, but also addresses an important policy and practical question, as the global humanitarian community have struggled to understand community level dynamics and factor them into their programmes.

Planned Impact

The impact of this research is intended to be both academic and highly practical. Academically it will make an important contribution to the emerging literature on restraint, advancing conceptual thinking on the conditions under which local protection measures can be successful. Practically, understanding how to support local negotiated settlements, the conditions under which they occur and providing these lessons in locally accessible format could provide much needed evidence to underpin aid programmes in this area, and to strengthen networks connecting the supply of evidence to demand.

Local communities: Generating research that will be relevant and useful for conflict-affected communities is a fundamental aim of the project. The benefits for the communities with whom we will work include exposure to and experience of new participatory methods to capture local experiences of and responses to conflict; strengthened grassroots capabilities to mobilise local opinions in ways to influence decision-making on resource developments; and new knowledge and tools to support ongoing community-level dialogue on restraining conflict.

Humanitarian practitioners: The research will benefit humanitarian aid workers, providing them with practical insights and workable ideas on the types of community strategies that effectively build strategies of restraint and everyday practices of humanitarian protection. The project's participatory methods will provide a platform to co-produce improvements in humanitarian thinking between the three local communities in each country, the country advisory board and the research consortium.

Global policy: Members of the wider global humanitarian community will benefit from new transdisciplinary networks and collaborations in protection and new methodologies across art/humanities/social sciences to capture bottom up responses to protracted humanitarian crises. Broader lessons will be derived from the research that will benefit other countries and decision makers facing similar multiple humanitarian challenges.

Academic community: Researchers will benefit from new interdisciplinary networks and collaborations across the fields of humanitarian studies, peacebuilding and gender and new methodologies across art/humanities/social sciences to capture bottom-up responses to protracted humanitarian crises.

Dissemination: Supporting the communications is IDS' Knowledge, Impact and Policy (KIP) team. The KIP team leads and supports programme and project knowledge mobilisation, policy analysis and research uptake and communications. They are well versed in using social media for communications and will draw on existing contact databases for communicating key outputs to a broader audience as well as specialist groups. The project will also utilise the involvement of the ActionAid and their local partners, who have experience in community-based protection.

The KIP team are well versed in social media and will draw on established networks for communicating to broad and specialist audiences, e.g. communications staff at partner organisations, and communities of practice.

To broaden reach and ensure sustainability, all outputs will be shared via IDS' open access repository OpenDocs. They will also be distributed and promoted via IDS' website (80,000 unique visits per month), email alerts, newsletters that reach almost 20,000 subscribers, blogs and opinion pieces in media outlets (IDS Blogs receive over 100,000 page views per month).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project is investigating women's protection in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is interested in documenting some of the protective measures which otherwise marginalised or under-studied groups of women put in place to avoid or reduce the risk of violence. In order to do so, we propose to look at protection through three different lenses: the production of discourses, the practices, and the circulation of knowledge on protection through the following research questions:
Q1: In which discourses and narratives are 'local' ethics of protection rooted? With this question, we aim to find out how violence and protection are understood locally and how within a broader hierarchy of values. We will identify the ideological traditions and discourses in which those values are rooted as well as the popular imaginaries that convey. Particular attention will be paid to evolutions and adaptations of these narratives over time and space.
Q2: What strategies do women collectively put in place to mitigate the risk of violence? This axis aims to find what makes women-led protection measures successful, under which conditions they emerge, and the extent to which these actions are carried out as part of an organisational / institutional strategy.
Q3: How do women produce, mobilise and share social knowledge about protection? Lastly, this question will find how knowledge is transferred between people and groups and comes to create collective knowledge. This question investigates how individual experiential knowledge is communicated, to whom and along which channels. In doing so, we will gain a better understanding about how good practices can be shared across communities and how humanitarian actors can support those channels.

So far, the consortium clarified the orientation of the project in clearer details depending on the interests and expertise of each partner. The current phase of the project aims to:
• Identify women's organisations working on protection issues and collect information on the nature of their activities. These include formal community protection structures already in place in the area that provide support to women for the prevention of GBV and protection services; formal, specifically feminine structures that exist alongside community structures and were created to compensate for a lack of protection services for women in the community; informal structures and alternative support networks that emerge spontaneously and independently (e.g. women who organise themselves between them on a daily basis to ensure their protection).
• Identify artists and collectives based around Goma and Bukavu who are active on gender issues, particularly issues relating to the protection of women in communities. This will support the identification of the artists who will participate in the workshops and help us develop the themes and activities of the workshops.
• Organise two stakeholder workshops in Goma and Bukavu to introduce the project to relevant local authorities and engage with women's organisations in both cities.
Exploitation Route Too early to say
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy,Other

URL https://www.ids.ac.uk/projects/new-community-informed-approaches-to-humanitarian-protection-and-restraint/
 
Description We expect this research to have academic as well as practical implications. Academically, it will contribute to a more nuanced and contextualised understanding of the meaning, narratives, and practices of protection in Eastern DRC, and add to broader debates about humanitarian/gender/community protection. The project has a strong intellectual core, but also addresses an important policy and practical question, as the global humanitarian community have struggled to understand community level dynamics and factor them into their programmes. Practically, it will test some of the key assumptions usually made by humanitarian and development practitioners and policy-makers about what is protection, who is in need of protection, how protection is granted/obtained, how current programs create synergies/trade-offs with other protection institutions and strategies, and how knowledge of protection is communicated. In addition, by identifying where such local measures have worked, and under what circumstances, the research will provide an evidence base for policy and practice. Further, the research will have impact as it builds networks and connectivity; it will design, with communities, ways of communicating these successes so they can be adapted and replicated in other contexts.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Blog: 'Comment la zone de la protection humanitaire est-elle définie sur le plan opérationnel? Une rencontre problématique avec la RDC et son autre côté' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blog post titled 'Comment la zone de la protection humanitaire est-elle définie sur le plan opérationnel? Une rencontre problématique avec la RDC et son autre côté' written by Professor Jeremy Allouche and published on the project webpage: https://resiliencecongo.org/.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Creation of a blog site 'RD Congo Resiliences et Resistances' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Launching of the blog site 'RD Congo Resiliences et Resistances' which has now published several blogs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://resiliencecongo.org
 
Description Exchange with Nick Dyer. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Informal exchange with Nick Dyer, UK Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian to introduce and discuss the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Introduction to Ms Emily Maltman, ambassador of the UK in DRC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 8/04/2020
Email sent to the office of her excellency Emily Maltman to present the 2 projects IDS is conducting in the DRC.
This will enable networking with policymakers in Kinshasa but also regional authorities in areas of research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Introduction to key FCDO staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Contact was made with the following persons at FCDO:
Connor Philips - Humanitarian Adviser, FCDO, DRC
Julien Mulliez - Humanitarian Adviser, FCDO, DRC
Hannah Tigerschiold - Conflict Adviser, FCDO, DRC
The team informed them of our project and upcoming presence in the DRC. Further meetings are planned to exchange on areas of interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation at AHRC FCDO Programme External Advisory Board meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jeremy Allouche presented the project at the AHRC FCDO Programme External Advisory Board meeting (20/01/2021). The meeting was an opportunity to engage with researchers and practitioners working on humanitarian and civilian protection, participatory methods, arts-based methods, and resilience. The presentation sparked questions about our approach to restraint, how to identify instances of it and how to measure its impact. We also benefited from exchanges with other project teams using art as a tool to query conflict and resilience at community level. Those are contacts which will be nurtured for further discussions about challenges and findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021