The consequences of the floods resulting from Storm Daniel on 10 and 11 September pose an urgent and unprecedented humanitarian emergency in communities in the East of Libya. The disaster, moreover, overlays Libya’s complex conflict environment, which will be shaped by this emergency and the response. Failing to acknowledge this when providing international assistance risks exacerbating tensions, contributing to structural drivers of conflict and overlooking potential opportunities to contribute to sustainable peace.
This note provides a brief overview of conflict sensitivity considerations relating to the international response to Libya Storm Daniel which can be identified at this early stage of the response. It is intended to inform planners and implementers and identifies both issues to be considered as part of a conflict sensitive response and recommendations for potential ways to mitigate these.
The note can be viewed and downloaded in English on the link below:
In this blog post we explore the pressing need for increased conflict sensitivity skills amongst those delivering aid in Northern Mozambique.
The ongoing armed conflict in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique, is creating challenges to the effective delivery of humanitarian aid by the international community. A lack of conflict sensitive approaches by some international agencies has led to unintended consequences and hindered the delivery of aid to those who need it most.
Conflict sensitivity is an approach which helps those working in conflict-affected contexts minimise the negative impacts of their actions and work towards peace. In this blog post we explore the pressing need for increased conflict sensitivity skills amongst those delivering aid in Northern Mozambique. This includes having a solid understanding of the root causes of the conflict, learning from local expertise, and adapting actions based on this understanding.
The challenges of delivering international aid in Northern Mozambique
One of the critical issues that has emerged, and is now widely recognised in Northern Mozambique, is the unequal distribution of aid between internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities. While addressing the immediate needs of IDPs is crucial, neglecting the host communities has created feelings of resentment and worsened existing tensions. It is essential for aid organisations to recognise and respond to these grievances, adopting an inclusive approach which supports everyone who is affected. Conflict sensitivity guidance can help international aid agencies understand and address such disparities and existing lines of tension, ensuring they foster social cohesion rather than undermine it.
Another widely mentioned challenge is the recent influx of international organisations working in Northern Mozambique, which brings the risk of duplicating efforts and inadequate coordination. Without good coordination, efforts may inadvertently overlap, resulting in inefficient resource allocation and missed opportunities to address the critical needs of people. Such circumstances can not only lead to inefficacy but can also fuel grievances against international agencies or ignite tensions among the communities they serve. It is important for organisations providing international aid to have a space for reflection and to come together to build a common understanding of how they can contribute to peace.
How conflict sensitivity can help international aid agencies navigate these challenges
Aid agencies working in Northern Mozambique must prioritise conflict sensitivity expertise when delivering assistance. Having a clear picture of the conflict landscape, recognising the grievances arising from aid disparities, acknowledging and addressing corruption challenges, and promoting inclusivity and local participation are essential steps towards ensuring effective and sustainable aid delivery.
International organisations have a responsibility to invest in conflict sensitivity training and expertise, which will help them to navigate complex conflict dynamics, build meaningful relationships with local communities, and deliver aid that addresses the diverse needs of people affected by conflict. Building these skills include recruiting staff who have an excellent understanding of the communities agencies want to work with, and ensuring these staff can inform and influence context analysis and project design and adaptation.
We are working to strengthen conflict sensitivity skills amongst national and international humanitarian and development organisations in Northern Mozambique. We do this by helping agencies conduct and make sense of conflict analysis, to identify and prioritise conflict sensitivity risk and design mitigation strategies, and to design, adapt and monitor projects based on this knowledge.
This blog was written by Lorenzo Giuliani, Project Officer for the East and Southern Africa team. Learn more about why we are working in Northern Mozambique on this page, and how we are working there on this page.
Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region has been experiencing conflict since 2017. Militants aligned to Islamic extremist groups have killed thousands and displaced more than a million people. Whilst some of these militants came from neighbouring countries, Mozambicans also joined in significant numbers, motivated by their socio and economic marginalisation as inhabitants one of Mozambique’s poorest regions. Recent discoveries of natural resource wealth in Cabo Delgado are perceived to have benefitted only the richest elites, further exacerbating local grievances.
Against this backdrop, local and international humanitarian and development agencies have been continuing to deliver much-needed support to communities across Cabo Delgado. This support has included supplying food aid, building shelter for displaced people and supporting healthcare and education. However, delivering humanitarian and development work in conflict is a complex endeavour, fraught with the risk of exacerbating tensions by helping one group over the other, or having materials and supplies diverted by armed groups or powerful elites.
We work with organisations delivering humanitarian and development projects in conflict situations, supporting them to minimise the potential for their projects to do harm, and to take advantage of opportunities to deliver their work in a way that actively reduces tensions.
We have been supporting WeWorld to strengthen its conflict sensitivity since 2021, including developing a global Conflict Sensitivity Toolkit. Our work with WeWorld’s team in Cabo Delgado has included developing an understanding of conflict dynamics and conflict sensitivity risks in the communities with which WeWorld is working. We also support WeWorld’s project team to prioritise, mitigate and monitor these risks using our Conflict Sensitive interactions matrix.
Three key takeaways from our conflict sensitivity work in Mozambique
Local staff embedded in communities were invaluable in helping WeWorld understand the context and how to manage risks.
WeWorld had recruited local mobilisers who lived locally to the communities with which they worked and who were tasked with getting to know the people with which they were working, visiting communities daily and spending time speaking to project participants and local leaders.
The knowledge and relationships that local mobilisers brought was essential in helping Mozambican and international staff based in the regional headquarters of Pemba understand how the project may be received in the communities, what potential risks and pitfalls would be and how to mitigate these. Providing local mobilisers with the space to give their perspective and be part of redesigning activities to mitigate risks was a valuable part of reflection and planning sessions.
Having the space for teams to critically reflect on their work is an essential part of being conflict sensitive.
Conflict sensitivity is often approached in a very technical way, with a focus on using various tools to produce outputs (analyses, matrices etc). These tools are valuable to stimulate thinking, but it was in joint reflection sessions where the real work of deepening our conflict analysis and developing ideas for how exactly activities should be implemented or adapted happened.
It is hard to capture all the nuance of these discussions in an analysis report or a matrix, but the process itself is essential to bring a team together around understanding and implementing a project in a conflict sensitive way. In a humanitarian context like northern Mozambique, space for organisations to reflect and regroup is not a given, it needs to be created and external facilitators can be useful in that respect.
Conflict sensitivity requires a whole-of-system approach.
Our work with WeWorld in Mozambique to date has focused on the conflict sensitivity of a specific project in Cabo Delgado, working with that project team. However, there are barriers to being conflict sensitive that a project team alone cannot remove. This can include how projects are designed in the first place, whether there is organisational appetite for making the difficult decisions to adapt or completely transform approaches, the flexibility of donors and how committed they are to being conflict sensitive.
Conflict sensitivity is something that all levels and departments of an organisation need to understand, including procurement and communications teams. It is also critical that donors operating in conflict contexts understand conflict sensitivity and that this is reflected in how they design, select and monitor projects.
Next steps: expanding our conflict sensitivity work to new regions
Our work with WeWorld will continue, expanding to cover WeWorld teams in Kenya and Tanzania under an EU-funded project that aims to strengthen youth participation in peacebuilding in the Swahili Coast region. PCi continues to call for and support greater attention to conflict sensitivity amongst agencies working in Northern Mozambique.
Assaults on KFor peacekeepers in north Kosovo in late May, which were followed by a grenade attack on the police station in north Mitrovica and other explosions late last month, constitute the most serious violence in the area since 2011. That episode set in motion a diplomatic process culminating in the 2013 Brussels agreement, a landmark of recent European diplomacy. The situation in Kosovo however remains volatile and, without compromise on key issues, there is a very real prospect of repeated clashes.
Tensions have been brewing for a year and a half, particularly following Pristina’s decision to deploy heavily armed ‘special operations units’ to the north. Accumulated grievances over various issues, including illegal land expropriations and vehicle licence plates, led Serbs to withdraw last autumn from Kosovo institutions in the north—including the police, judiciary and local government.
This has constituted the biggest setback to integration in over a decade. Despite considerable diplomatic pressure, Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, has resisted calls to establish the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities signalled in 2013, widely viewed as a prerequisite for further progress.
The long-term cause of peace is being severely affected by such episodes, which are breeding mistrust and antagonism. For the sake of normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia—a process which should have been reinforced by the roadmap and implementation annex agreed between the two under European Union facilitation in February—civil society must urgently consider how it can contribute to de-escalating tensions and pursue confidence-building measures that can rebuild trust.
In such times of crisis, civil society has a key role in confronting rumours and disinformation, which can further destabilise and inflame the situation. Without pushback against—or clarification of—certain claims, they are left to fester and poison the public space, as ‘social media’ amplify the flurry of speculation, reducing the scope for constructive dialogue. Such responses need to be timely and co-ordinated to limit the damage caused.
An effective mechanism is also needed to document in an objective and trusted manner the human-rights violations reported, especially in north Kosovo and south Serbia—where respectively Serb and ethnic-Albanian minorities predominate—plus remedial measures to address the complaints. Claims and counterclaims are otherwise presented without a process to verify the incident in question.
Such a mechanism can only enjoy the trust of all citizens if it reflects the broad spectrum of communities in Kosovo and Serbia, ensuring that documented cases are communicated beyond those directly affected. In doing so, it can provide a basis for joint advocacy targeting domestic institutions and the international community, raising awareness about otherwise neglected issues.
It is imperative too that civil society helps foster and sustain a culture of dialogue within and between communities in Kosovo and Serbia. Misunderstandings and misconceptions about specific events, acts or issues only serve to fuel grievances, particularly within communities that feel their voice is ignored or distorted. By offering broader perspectives on local sentiments, civil society can help catalyse the formulation of coherent responses.
Not merely governments
Sustainable solutions can only be reached through a dialogue that involves all elements of society, not merely the respective governments. Already various organisations from Kosovo and Serbia regularly propose constructive ideas on how to transcend the current cycle of crises. Their efforts are vital to demonstrate that a different future is possible.
The stances such actors take, however, are often deeply unpopular within their own communities, where they can face threats and intimidation for, in particular, criticising their own political leaderships. There is therefore a need for civil society in Kosovo and Serbia to publicly stand in solidarity with those willing to voice their ideas for a better tomorrow. Furthermore, such proposals are rarely heard by other communities because of how information stays in silos. Civic actors need to build networks of communication which help amplify messages within and between communities, to ensure that these are heard by as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
Civil society can also help move beyond crisis-management. Article six of the agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia supports the deepening of ‘future cooperation’ in a range of fields, including the economy, religion, environmental protection and missing persons. Civil society can rise above nationalistic discourses and engage in potentially contentious conversations, particularly where status-related issues are concerned.
This article, in particular, will come to define the extent to which relations between Serbia and Kosovo flourish in the future. Articulating where such co-operation should be developed is not a task for political elites alone. The article encourages a plurality of actors to come forward with their visions for enhancing mutually beneficial ties.
The role of civil society needs to be underpinned by an EU commitment to upholding universal norms—not just rhetorically, but in its approach to transforming conflict in the western Balkans. Civil-society calls for a more meaningful role in the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia have however been frowned upon, not only by the two parties but by the EU itself. Their collective preference is for the process to remain closed and largely elite-driven—a preference reinforced by the war in Ukraine, which has only served to embolden narrow approaches justified by Realpolitik.
The EU should provide tangible support to civil-society organisations committed to improving relations between the respective communities by pursuing approaches that emphasise dialogue and collaboration. Rapidly accessible funding mechanisms, underpinned by a clear commitment to peacebuilding, can allow civil society to pursue confidence-building initiatives at short notice, reacting to quickly evolving situations on the ground. Relationships forged in moments of crisis tend to endure during more peaceful times, those bonds of solidarity contributing to trust and mutual understanding.
Civil society must also take the initiative in outlining its own contribution to normalisation—a process that goes well beyond the political dimensions of the dispute. There are areas where dialogue has unforeseen or intended consequences, or where blindspots mean specific problems go unresolved, which civil society can help ameliorate.
Furthermore, ensuring implementation proceeds as intended requires active civil-society monitoring and engagement. Where there is a loss of confidence in those leading the dialogue, including in the facilitator itself, civil society can help through complementary processes that transform relations within and between communities.
Relationships and connections
Ultimately, a grand vision for the future of relations between Kosovo and Serbia will only come from a broad-based movement of civil society representing various constituencies, including those minorities often ignored in such debates. It requires leaving aside the present frictions and thinking more broadly about the relationships and connections they want to see flourish in the coming years and decades.
The current situation threatens fundamentally to undermine the recent agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia. Failure to act now could see relations deteriorate further and the process of integration unravel to the extent that all the gains from the 2013 agreement, whose tenth anniversary has just passed, are lost. Civil society has a vital role to play—but it needs too to reflect seriously and creatively on how best it can serve the wider public.
Serein Sharda, grant officer for Peaceful Change initiative in Libya, writes about her experience of working on the No Stability Without Peace initiative.
Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi) works to promote social cohesion and peace in Libya, since it began operating in the country in 2013. My name is Serein Sharda, and I have been working as a Grant officer with PCi since 2021. My work as a peacebuilder is different every day; some days I help people write, develop, and propose initiatives and some days my role requires brainstorming with grant recipients on how resolve conflict and improve the quality of life in their area. I am always providing people with skills, support, and advice. One of the recent grants I was responsible for is called No Stability Without Peace.
How It Started
In September 2022, nine of the forty-two Social Peace Partnerships (SPP) which run across Libya met together for the first time. These SPPs were chosen because they now run independently and are sustainable in delivering peace in their area after years of training and development with PCi’s support. This gave them an opportunity to connect, network, and learn from each other’s experiences. Working together also gives the SPPs the ability to have influence on a national level.
At the meeting, four SPPs in the western region: Sooq Al-Jomma, Tripoli center, Sabratha and Bani Walid, agreed to hold dialog sessions in each municipality about national reconciliation and what is needed to achieve peace and social cohesion in Libya. They also wanted to involve their communities involved in achieving stability and peace.
Social Peace Partnerships bring together a diverse group of local people, with a shared vision of Libya becoming a safe and inclusive country. Members include representatives from the local authority, civil society leaders, elders, community leaders, business owners and anyone who is interested in peacebuilding. PCi builds the skills and capacity of the SPP members through various trainings so they can solve community issues and develop an ongoing response mechanism to community conflict. PCi also helps to build positive relationships between the community and the local authorities.
Preparation leading to the forum
The initiative, funded by PCi, was called No Stability Without Peace to emphasize that peace is the perquisite to all that we wish for in Libya.
The SPPs then implemented dialogue sessions with 20-40 participants in the four municipalities. They discussed what is needed to achieve stability: the role of citizens, and the role of municipalities. The sessions were attended by municipal representatives, influential leaders, and government officials. There was a focus on the importance of spreading peace and tolerance, and opportunities for national reconciliation. I was personally surprised to hear discussions on the current situation and how we each have a role to play in achieving peace.
Next, SPP members from the four municipalities gathered in Tripoli and presented a summary with ten recommendations. The recommendations included: supporting efforts toward national reconciliation, providing opportunities for women and youth to engage in politics and assume leadership positions, support for civil society organisations, and supporting young business owners.
To spread awareness of the importance of national reconciliation and social cohesion, we initiated an online campaign through Facebook sharing updates on the No Stability Without Peace initiative. I was astonished at the feedback we received. Many people wanted to volunteer and be part of the peacebuilding campaign.
On 12th of March 2023, the initiative’s closing forum was in Tripoli. We were pleased to see many persons of influence join the forum. Participants included Ibrahim Al-Madni, national reconciliation Advisor in the Presidential Council. Osama Al-Ahmar, Head of the peacebuilding and reconciliation pillar in the Presidential Council. Saliba Charles the Maltese ambassador. Patrick Merienne Head of Peace and Security at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and number of mayors, municipal; members and activists from the four municipalities.
There was an official speech from the presidential council thanking the team for their efforts and looking forward to working together on the recommendations. There were also artistic presentations on peace and reconciliation by people from all over Libya and a short video showing the alternative of peace, which is war. I could tell from the facial expressions of the participants, that regardless of what might divide them, they all agree they do not want to return to war.
The presentation of the ten recommendations on promoting peace and social cohesion was followed by a dialog session with the Presidential Council members and others to discuss mechanisms to implement them. I was pleased that both Al Jazeera Mubasher and Libya Al Ahrar TV covered the forum.
Although the results of the initiative were encouraging, efforts from other Libyan stake holders are needed to continue building stability and peace. I am honoured and pleased to be a part of this work
PCi’s second Media Award shines a light on positive stories of multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia.
Peaceful Change initiative celebrated the winners of the second ‘Media Award for stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia’ in a ceremony which took place simultaneously in Pristina and Belgrade on 16th March 2023.
Nowadays, the news is almost always associated with the negative sides of life, particularly these past years of pandemic, and now war in Europe. Through this award, Peaceful Change initiative aims to promote and reward media content from Kosovo and Serbia which emphasise the positive, particularly when it comes to depicting the reality of multi-ethnic co-existence of communities. Ultimately, the goal is to contribute to the narrowing of the present divisive narratives in the media in Kosovo and Serbia and encourage the production of more stories centred around the real experience of communities.
The first prize in the Albanian language written category was awarded to Serbeze Haxhiaj, investigative journalist and news editorfor her piece in Balkans Insight. She commented: ‘for me, honestly, it’s not about individual accomplishment or an individual award. It’s about what I’ve got to do and how I can contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in my Kosovo and help to lay down the heavy burden of the painful past’.
Journalist and writer Ilir Gashi is the recipient of the first prize in the Serbian language written category for his piece in Kosovo 2.0. He added: “all of us who work in these scorched fields of no-man’s land, between the long lines of deeply dug tranches, also have the privilege of witnessing life as it grows out of cracks, everywhere.”
Dr Ismet Hajdari, journalist and member of the Albanian language jury, said: ‘the importance of this project consists in encouraging journalists to deal with topics that are rarely written and reported on. Taboo topics must not exist. The media has an obligation to illuminate all issues that are considered to be of interest to Kosovo society.’
When speaking about this year’s entries, Serbian language jury member Milivoje Mihajlović said: ‘the greatest quality is maybe the fact that these stories are so different from mainstream reporting and that from each and every one of the stories you can see the huge desire people have for living a normal, humane life’.
Participants of the Media Award, Pristina
Media Award, Pristina
Media Award, Belgrade Media Centre
Winners, Media Award, Belgrade Media Centre
Media Award prize certificate
Interview transcription: For this article, I received a prize from Peaceful Change initiative. That is an initiative which for several years been implementing a programme in Kosovo and in Serbia. It is a programme which serves to assist a better integration of the Albanian minority in Serbia and the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Within their programme, there is also an award for reporting which brings people together, rather than putting a distance between the nations which is, unfortunately, the dominant discourse both in Kosovo and in Serbia.
This award was organised by Peaceful Change initiative as part of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (ALVED) project, support by the United Kingdom Government Fund for Conflict, Stability and Security (CSSF).
A delegation of civil society from Kosovo and Serbia had the opportunity to meet key interlocutors from various EU institutions in Brussels.
A delegation of civil society from Kosovo and Serbia had the opportunity to meet key interlocutors from various EU institutions in Brussels. Members of the Kosovo-Serbia Rapid Response Mechanism presented ideas about the role civil society can play given the current tensions on the ground and hopes for a comprehensive agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.
The delegation met with the respective rapporteurs for Kosovo and Serbia, Ms. Viola von Cramon-Taubadel and Mr. Vladimír Bilčík, plus the team of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák. They also met with officials from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Of note, several interlocutors spoke of a sense of momentum that apparently exists within member states regarding the EU enlargement process. This comes as something of a surprise given the profound feeling in the Western Balkans that accession is stalled. Regular perception surveys show growing ambivalence towards the EU path, particularly in Serbia, reenforcing the need for a more strategic approach to communications to reassert not only the European perspective, but to reiterate that the EU remains the region’s largest donor and trading partner.
The participants – whilst acknowledging the need for confidentiality during negotiations – raised concerns about the lack of transparency regarding both the structure and content of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. They proposed to engage with their respective governments to request that more information be placed into the public domain. Furthermore, concerns were raised about the dilution of reporting on Chapter 35, covering the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, particularly the intermediate benchmarks.
The participants also reiterated that civil society should be seen a resource and an ally both in the dialogue and in broader reform processes. With the relations in specific communities, civil society offers early warning capabilities that can help identify specific grievances and help reduce the scope for misunderstandings by relaying perspectives around an issue from local actors.
The civil society organisations reaffirmed their commitment to complementing and amplifying messages that are grounded in the need for compromise, confronting their own governments where needed to challenge specific narratives about some aspect of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. This was deemed increasingly imperative due to recent tensions in north Kosovo, including the deployment of Special Operations Units and the resignation of Kosovo Serbs from Kosovo institutions, and discussions regarding a comprehensive agreement between Serbia and Kosovo.
The Kosovo-Serbia Rapid Response Mechanism will continue to meet on a quarterly basis to formulate joint approaches to the problems affecting communities in Serbia and Kosovo. In addition, they will meet on an ad hoc basis as when required to, for instance, voice their concerns about a particular instance of divisive rhetoric or an event that threatens to harm the very environment in which dialogue is taking place.