This blog series describes a core group of ‘good practices’ that Pact implemented in the Horn of Africa. The European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF)-funded Regional Approaches for Sustainable Conflict Management and Integration (RASMI) and Selam Ekisil (SEEK) projects sought to prevent and mitigate the impact of local conflicts in selected areas of the Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia cross-border region through the promotion of peacebuilding, conflict management, and conflict resolution capacities at the community and cross-border levels.
Over the course of three years, implementers advanced programs with objectives to: improve social capital and cohesion among project beneficiaries; strengthen peace and security structures; and influence development actors to be more conflict sensitive. The motivation behind these approaches was to design programs that were more responsive and able to achieve better results. Pact also carefully consulted stakeholders within these practices to verify and refine project teams’ strategies. It is Pact’s hope that other members of the community of practice can apply, leverage and learn from these good practices.
Applied political economy analysis (APEA) is a methodology designed to understand the underlying interests and incentives that contribute to the decisions and behaviors of key actors. These can be rooted in political, social, economic, and personal factors. APEA diverges from other context analyses in its focus on informal institutions and hidden incentives to explain decisions and behaviors. It asks questions such as: Who is the real power holder? Where are resources (formal and informal) located? In Pact’s cross-border, conflict-systems based peacebuilding programming, APEA is a foundational analytical tool that programs carry out during the start-up phase and utilize regularly to inform key project decisions. The findings from RASMI and SEEK project APEAs enabled the projects to tailor interventions based on stakeholder interests and incentives as they related to the unique drivers revealed in conflict system mapping exercises (read more here). Project teams also used insights surfaced by the APEAs to identify potential change agents and to determine the most strategic activity entry points.
APEA in Practice
APEA helps project teams better understand and navigate the formal and informal (or ‘invisible’) systems and structures that affect their ability to achieve change. For example, as the RASMI and SEEK projects began, APEA studies found that women were not involved in creating resource sharing agreements, which are cross-border social contracts that enable communities to allocate and access assets like water and land in collaborative and constructive ways. The APEAs found that the poor success rate of these agreements was due to a lack of inclusivity and buy-in from the women and youth who are often disproportionately affected by conflicts arising from resource sharing disagreements. Without the perspectives of women and youth, the resource sharing agreements are less sustainable because women and youth play an important informal role socializing the information in the agreements and deciding whether to adhere to their compromises. The APEAs helped the project teams understand that there was not simply a lack of opportunities for women’s engagement in peacebuilding or a lack of interest amongst women in contributing to peacebuilding; rather, while women often advanced community-level activities that prevent conflict and build peace in their communities, they were rarely able to meaningfully participate in forums or processes that influence higher-level goals related to conflict prevention or resolution. Formal agreements such as resources sharing agreements therefore missed a critical voice and resulting legitimacy.
Specifically, in the cross-border areas where SEEK and RASMI programs were implementing activities, women regularly engaged in peacebuilding activities by sharing information and messages that advance social cohesion or warn community members of signs of violence, but they are still excluded from formal conflict resolution meetings because cultural norms dictate that male community elders lead those efforts. Relatedly, civil society networks could effectively reach out to women and community members with messages of coexistence and awareness on a range of issues—however, few elevate women’s leadership or decision-making in strategy or policy. Thus, women did not have realistic opportunities to present their perspectives on peacebuilding, nor could they define their challenges and articulate solutions alongside other stakeholders.
In order to be successful, the projects had to ensure that women had avenues to meaningfully contribute, to champion issues they care about, and to engage in activities relating to trust-building and social cohesion. SEEK and RASMI implementers applied these insights as they began to engage community members and search for opportunities to leverage community-level structures that could amplify peacebuilding messaging. Noting that many conflict-resolution fora, meetings and trainings lacked women’s representation, the project teams intentionally partnered with the Women for Change Forum to spread information about women’s leadership and contributions. The projects also decided to engage women as a distinct group of change agents that could advance peacebuilding activities throughout the cross-border communities as opposed to engaging them as stakeholders interspersed throughout various sets of activities. For example, noting their ability to influence youth in the community, the project engaged women to participate in joint trainings, meetings and dialogues where they could explain the importance of shifting community behavior away from cattle raids and toward more constructive activities like the tracking, recovery and return of stolen livestock. Implementing teams believed that designing these specific cohorts would empower women to speak about their specific experiences and concerns.
As a result of these adaptations, the SEEK and RASMI programs have seen sustained results in their second phases of implementation. Groups of women change agents have shared their perspectives with elders and government officials who directly engage in resource sharing negotiations, increasing women’s ability to shape the agreements from the outset. Women on both sides of the border also increasingly work with youth to disseminate the contents of community-level peace initiatives such as resource sharing agreements to hard-to-reach populations like farmers and herders. This increases the likelihood that more community members will honor the agreements. Women who participated in trainings through RASMI and SEEK also trained other women in their communities. For example, key leaders in the Women for Change Forum trained women traders in Rhamu market to collect information that could be leveraged in early warning/early response activities. These 45 trained women traders then became peace monitors who collect early warning information and share with other peace actors to inform future strategies and responses.
The APEA methodology offers insights and recommendations that enable project teams to design interventions that are both relevant and responsive to the needs of different peace and conflict actors. By uncovering who holds power and how resources are allocated, which are often surprising insights thanks to APEA’s focus on informal in addition to formal power dynamics, project teams can tailor interventions to fit the specific community needs. In doing so, project teams can also focus on addressing key actors’ motivations for peace and conflict rather than mitigating only the visible conflict dynamics. SEEK and RASMI implementers drew from the APEA findings to craft interventions that would capitalize on the unique role of women in community-led peacebuilding and would actively address their barriers to participation.
APEA is especially useful in projects where conflict environments are fluid because it reveals key stakeholders, drivers and motivations that can be tracked over time and used to inform project decisions. Globally, Pact has used the methodology to design projects that meaningfully engage key stakeholders, including in sectors beyond peace building, such as human rights, health, livelihoods, and artisanal and small-scale mining.
For more information about Pact’s APEA methodology, visit this resource.
– Gedion Juma is a Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at Pact based in Nairobi, Kenya.
– Caroline Brazill is a Governance Officer at Pact based in Washington, DC.