UN Photo/Patricia Esteve

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, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs – and run in partnership with the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the World Bank, Folke Bernadotte Academy, and the Oslo Governance Centre – has launched a consortium dedicated to enhancing our understanding of conflict transitions.

The Managing Exits from Armed Conflict initiative seeks to enhance our understanding of how and why individuals exit armed conflict and which interventions are effective at encouraging transitions away from the battlefield. The project will produce an agreed framework that sets forth a unified approach for assessing reintegration interventions, a standard vision for what reintegration “success” looks like. The project will then take that assessment framework into multi-year beta testing in several countries. This will include standing up multi-methods data systems to follow individual trajectories away from armed conflict and assess the impact of various interventions in bolstering those transitions.

The MEAC initiative offers tactical and strategic benefits. For practitioners on the ground, it will allow for empirically-driven programme design and real-time tailoring to ensure efficacy. At the strategic level, an improved understanding of exit trajectories and the efficacy of targeted interventions will help support effective policymaking, mandating, and resource allocation. Ultimately, armed with a stronger evidence base on the factors that lead to and facilitate a permanent exit from organized violence, the international community will be better able to interrupt cycles of armed conflict and promote sustainable peace.