Assessing the Impact of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments (PCIAs): A North-South Participatory Research Project
York University, Toronto, May 22-24, 2013
In the interest of furthering Global South-North experience-sharing on the significance, power and both conflictual and peaceable effect of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments (PCIA), the ‘Assessing the Impact’ initiative hosted a conference in Toronto, Canada, on 22-24 May 2013.
The conference was an opportunity for a cohort of eight scholar-practitioners from the Global South, as well as colleagues from the North, to share innovative papers at the cusp of PCIA discourse and practice. Building on, and then moving beyond the academic conference format, this gathering also leveraged workshop and dialogue methodologies for meaningful and critical experience-sharing. This conference also built on experience already shared virtually, found at:
The outcomes of the conference are summarized in its final report
A brief and prelimary outline of the 2.5-day process was as follows:
May 22, 5-7 pm – Introductions; Theoretical Overview; Panel Presentations and Discussion (1 Session, 2 Panelists); Open Conversation
May 23, 9 am - 5 pm – Panel Presentations and Discussion (2 Sessions, 4 Panelists); Small Group Dialogue and Reporting; World Cafe
May 24, 9 am - 4 pm – Panel Presentations and Discussion (1 Session, 2 Panelists); Facilitated Process for Insights and Recommendations
The relationship between development, conflict and peacebuilding merits continued examination. Development initiatives of all sorts must be scrutinised to assess their impacts and effects on the relationships of socio-political actors. Yet, approaches and practices of assessment must themselves also receive critical scrutiny (Galama and van Tongeren, 2002).
Almost 15 years ago, IDRC’s Peacebuilding and Reconstruction (PBR) program published a working paper by Professor Kenneth Bush (1998), credited with coining the ‘Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA)’ as practice and tool. PCIA is rooted epistemologically to provide an analysis of local relationships and conflicts, intent on preventing the emergence of conflict factors and the escalation of violence stemming from ill-advised development practices. Further, PCIA has been situated to provide guidance, such that development interventions support peaceable relations and relationship-building within societal context.
PBR and several partners went on to establish a flagship program on PCIA, followed by a major project funded by CIDA to develop a compendium of tools, piloted in several locations (Bush, 2003). PCIA has been ‘in development’ over 15 years now. Also, the related notion of ‘Conflict Sensitivity’ has been aired regularly, recognising that development practices need to be responsive to contextualised relations between societal actors. In practice, PCIA remains an embattled practice, often relying on the advocacy of potentially affected actors for its implementation. This hardly suggests a widespread usage in recognition of a necessarily critical approach to the development/peace nexus (Uvin, 2002).
Once adopted, PCIA cannot be assumed to ensure a more harmonious relation between development and peace. Evidence suggests that advice proffered through PCIAs is sometimes shaped or ignored by multilateral organisations, or intentionally sidelined by powerful state actors. Nonetheless, PCIA has contributed to shaping development initiatives to reflect strategic and programmatic concerns for relational equity within specific socio-political contexts.
There are important lessons to be learned from evaluating the tool itself, and the uptake and implementation of PCIA with specific concern for development in violent conflict and post-conflict environments the world over (Paffenholz and Reychler, 2007). The current initiative locates such evaluation in critical and reflexive North-South participatory research and dialogue among theorist-practitioners engaged in PCIA-related work. Often supported by specialists in the North, there is a continued need to assess the significance, value and use of PCIA. Amplifying the political voice of actors from the Global South in dialogue with Northern actors, ‘Assessing the Impact’ builds upon a tradition intent on promoting global cooperation anchored in peaceable and equitable development practice.
Papers produced through the ‘Assessing the Impact’ initiative will be disseminated through a peer-reviewed special issue of a well-respect academic journal in the field. The ‘Assessing the Impact’ initiative has secured a partnership with the IDRC-funded Journal of Peacebuilding and Development (JPD). A series of shorter communications products reflecting the learning from the papers and the conference will be disseminated over the Peacebuild and IRIS websites and mailing lists, and further discussion will be invited through the strategic use of online media.
The JPD, housed at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego, has built an impressive global readership of academics and practitioners at the nexus of the fields of peacebuilding and development. Broad yet targeted journal distribution of JPD, in print and electronic form, is ensured through an arrangement with Francis & Taylor.
Ongoing Discussion Group
In order to continue the stimulating discussions around Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA) from the PCIA Conference, Peacebuild has set up a LinkedIn group. You are all cordially invited to join us at PEACE BUILDING AND CONFLICT IMPACT ASSESSMENT (PCIA).