What does conflict sensitivity mean for the relationship between humanitarian, development, and peace aid (the nexus)?

As noted above, the international assistance community has struggled to balance effective delivery of humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding assistance in a conflict sensitive manner. This is because the three respective communities can have very different perspectives on how assistance should relate to conflict:

  • Humanitarian actors will strive to follow the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and will advocate that humanitarian space is protected from political manipulation.
  • Development actors will look to adhere to norms on effective aid delivery in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, and will be more interested in the structural changes required for a sustainable impact. This involves de facto collaboration with national counterparts that will necessarily be aligned with one party to the conflict.
  • Peacebuilding actors will strive to influence humanitarian and development work so that it addresses the root causes of conflict or helps provide momentum for peace agreements.

While protection of the humanitarian space is essential for those actors to be seen as neutral and to access in-need groups, as a conflict endures this type of assistance can contribute toward the degradation of national capacity, and hence there is an increasing need for development-type programming. However, if donors shift to development-type programming without adequate protection of the humanitarian space, it can negatively impact critical human needs. As such, there is a need for proactive planning and interaction between these three types of aid organisations to ensure their overall conflict sensitivity; and that their work does not undermine each other.