Water and conflict: Making water delivery conflict-sensitive in Uganda
Promoting development is a complex process involving many different players and often new resources, which impact on the lives of beneficiaries both in predictable and unpredictable ways. These can inadvertently contribute to divisions or fuel violence - particularly in environments already affected by conflict.Conflict-sensitive approaches to development aim to maximise the potential positive impact of development and minimise the potential for fuelling conflict.
This report documents how two development projects in Uganda became more conflictsensitive, and as a result, brought many benefits to the recipient communities. It highlights the experience and lessons learned from promoting conflict-sensitive development in two water projects (Kasese district,Western Uganda and Arua district in the West Nile region), and seeks to contribute to a broader understanding of how these approaches can be used by development actors.
The process involved two district-based civil society organisations accompanying localgovernment authorities in the installation of two different types of water provision - a gravity flow scheme and a water borehole - as well as broader work on promoting conflict sensitivity with civil society and in civil society/district policy dialogue.
Taking a conflict-sensitive approach to the gravity flow scheme in Kasese district resulted in a revision of initial plans for the scheme after the local NGO partner (REDROC), the District Water Office (DWO) and the beneficiary communities worked together to identify existing divisions and how the water scheme could help reduce these. Likewise in Arua, this approach helped to solve issues relating to land ownership and the borehole location by working through the issues with the local NGO partner (YODEO), the communities and the DWO. It also supported beneficiaries of the borehole to proactively address potential conflict issues, including how best to ensure peaceful borehole operation and maintenance.
Undertaking these projects in a conflict-sensitive way clearly brought many benefits. Beneficiaries greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss issues dividing them and to agree on ways in which the water projects could most benefit everybody. District officials felt that the quality of beneficiary participation was much increased and that a conflict-sensitive approach helped them identify and solve problems proactively. The relationship between beneficiaries and those responsible for services became more consultative and transparent and increased the number of feedback mechanisms.
While neither of these communities appear to be at immediate risk of larger-scale violent conflict, the process clearly helped strengthen their ownership of the water projects and their ability to influence decision-making affecting them. They were also better able to identify particular individuals or structures that could address any conflicts that may arise. In this way, it strengthened their ability to manage conflicts non-violently while maximising the effectiveness of the water interventions which were intended to benefit them.
Furthermore, the broader work undertaken in each district to introduce conflict-sensitive approaches to a range of civil society organisations has resulted in several of them successfully starting to integrate conflict sensitivity into their work. Both district local governments have also taken a number of important steps to ensure that conflict-sensitive development is taken forward in water and other district planning processes and projects.
The lessons learned from this project clearly indicate a need for more practical work on implementing conflict-sensitive approaches within different sectors, and developing a more sophisticated understanding of how best to adapt conflict-sensitive development to different levels and types of conflict. Saferworld and partners hope that this report will support broader sharing of experiences on these issues.
The project work was undertaken by Saferworld and three civil society partners in Uganda: the Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE); the Rwenzori Development and Research Centre (REDROC) and the Youth Development Organisation (YODEO).