The relationship between political, economic and social development and conflict is complex. Under-development or poverty is a major contributing factor in the emergence of violent conflict because of competition over limited resources. Violent conflict can unravel development efforts because of its destructive impact on human and material infrastructure, and economic and social investment. The Center has been exploring the relationship between development and peacebuilding in the belief that development workers in war-affected areas have to be conflict-sensitive or aware. This means that they need to put conflict at the centre of their thinking, planning and implementation, otherwise the intervention could have a negative impact on the situation.
Equitable development is therefore essential to achieving sustainable peace – and vice versa. However, ensuring that development contributes to long-term peace is not straightforward. Humanitarian aid and development assistance can feed conflict as well as alleviate it, sometimes inadvertently supporting and entrenching the systems and structures that lie at the root causes of civil war, bestowing legitimacy on warring factions or fuelling tensions between communities by the perceived favouring of one community over another. This learning has been instrumental in building an understanding of how the development sector works and of the key conflict/development issues and challenges.