In its efforts to disrupt cycles of violence, the United Nations and its partners have long provided and supported a range of interventions to help groups and individuals exit armed conflict. Despite decades of programming, however, there is a significant knowledge gap as to what approaches work effectively and under which conditions.
This dearth of knowledge of what drives individuals to leave armed conflict and transition to civilian life makes it difficult to design effective programming, craft coherent mandates, and effectively allocate resources. This presents a particular challenge in “new” conflict contexts, including those where there is no semblance of a peace process, there is a proliferation of parties to the conflict – including those groups listed as terrorist – and new technology that has lowered the barriers for large-scale violence.
To address this problem, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, with generous support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office – along with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – have partnered to enhancing our understanding of conflict transitions: how and why individuals exit armed conflict and which interventions are effective at encouraging transitions away from the battlefield.
Managing Exits from Armed Conflict (MEAC) – working with UN partners, Member States, and researchers – has already produced a unified, rigorous approach for assessing the impact of interventions that support conflict exits and a standard vision for what reintegration “success” looks like across the UN. Starting in 2020, MEAC will test these assessment tools in multi-year pilot studies in several countries.
The MEAC initiative offers tactical and strategic benefits. At a tactical level, the MEAC pilot studies will gather data that will allow practitioners on the ground to tailor and adjust programming in real-time to improve its efficacy and better help beneficiaries, as well as better meet their donor monitoring and evaluation obligations. At the strategic level, the common evidence base generated by the MEAC pilot studies will assist policymakers in crafting more effective policies and mandates, and efficiently allocating resources.
Ultimately, equipped with a better understanding of conflict exits, the international community will be better able to help interrupt cycles of armed conflict and promote sustainable peace.