1st Module – Existing Frameworks: I) Do No Harm

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The Do No Harm framework is a result of a project launched at the beginning of the Nineties by Collaborative for Development Action - and involving a number of international NGOs - focused on learning how aid given in conflict interacts with it. The experience shows that development and relief programs can worsen conflict in two ways:

i) feeding inter-group tensions, strengthening dividers and supporting local capacities for war; ii) weakening inter-group connections and local capacities for peace. Conversely, they can help peace by weakening inter-group tensions and feeding connections.

The Do No Harm approach provides a framework for:

i) identifying dividers, tensions and war capacities and assessing their importance; ii) identifying connectors and local capacities for peace and assessing their importance; iii) analysing the aid agency and its programme and assessing their impact on dividers, tensions, war capacities and connectors and capacities for peace.

The texts Options for Aid in Conflict and Do No Harm Handbook provide a thorough illustration of the framework. The activities for this content have been designed “on” these texts. They provide templates for interactive lectures and structured sharing, where participants are invited to apply the tools of the framework. Additional training resources can be found at [CDA's website].


  • Anderson, Mary. B., Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace – Or War, London: Lynne Rienner, 1999.


  • Anderson, Mary. B. (ed.), [Options for Aid in Conflict: Lessons From Field Experience], Cambridge: CDA Inc., 2000. It is a lessons-learned manual, written by aid workers in conflict areas. areas. “Drawing on field experience, it is meant to help the field staff of international aid agencies to understand their working contexts better and to develop programming approaches that support peace rather than war” [from introduction]. Most of the manual deals with the kind of programming decisions that aid agencies face when working in conflict (targeting aid, staffing, partnering, what aid, how to distribute it, working with local authorities). It includes also sections outlining the basic concepts of the framework (connectors and dividers, resource transfers and implicit ethical messages).
  • CDA Inc., [Do No Harm Handbook], Cambridge: CDA Inc., 2004. This is, as the title says, a handbook. The information included is essential, straight-to-the-point. In contains short lectures and tools that might be very useful in a workshop format.

Activities you can use when working on these contents include

  • Introducing the Do No Harm Framework. Based on a two-page text from the Do No Harm Handbook, the activity provides an essential introduction to the framework and helps participants connecting it to their experiences.
  • Assessing the Impact of Aid on Conflict. There are several ways to use the framework here introduced in a workshop. It can be used with staff working in the same programme or at least in the same agency or context, or with a group of participants from different programmes, agencies and contexts. In the former case the framework can induce in-deep reflection on the programme and its impact on conflict; in the latter it can be used to introduce participants to the framework.
  • Using 'Indications' of Impact from the Do No Harm Framework. The purpose is to understand and apply tools from the Do No Harm framework for assessing the impact of aid on conflict. The same suggestions on how to use this activity in a workshop given for the previous activity (Assessing the Impact of Aid on Conflict) are valid for this activity.
  • WHO Decisions - Targeting Recipients. It explores how decisions about who should receive aid can affect dividers and connectors between groups. The activity invites participants to reflect on how to do better when targeting recipients.
  • WHO Decisions - Staffing. It explores how decisions about staffing of field programmes can impact on conflict and helps participants devise ideas and strategies for hiring and managing local staff in order to reinforce local capacities for peace. Witnesses concerned with dilemmas of hiring local and international staff for programs in conflict are provided, together with questions for participants.
  • WHAT Decisions. Participants explore how decisions about what goods and services to provide can impact on inter-group relations and exacerbate conflict. They are asked to design scenarios that illustrate problems with “what” decisions and to devise ideas and strategies for doing better.
  • HOW Decisions - 4 Principles. It introduces four principles of operation for aid distribution that the Do No Harm experience found consistent through a number of experiences. These principles are then connected with participants’ experiences.
  • WITH WHOM Decisions: Working With Local Authorities. The activity provides a template for analysing issues and challenges related to working with local authorities in conflict settings.
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