Managing Exits from Armed Conflict

  • UN Photo/Patricia Esteve

    Project Status:
    UNU-CPR RESEARCHERS: Dr Siobhan O’Neil, Kato Van Broeckhoven, Cristal Downing, Sherif Mabrouk

    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, building off of the Cradled by Conflict project, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, with generous support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and IrishAid – along with the United Nations Department of Peace Operations (DPO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – have partnered to enhance 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.

    * Funding for the first phase of the MEAC project was generously provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Funding for one of the community surveys in Nigeria in December 2020-January 2021 benefited from research support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), awarded through Innovation for Poverty Action’s Peace & Recovery Program.

  • Findings Reports

    The Managing Exits from Armed Conflict (MEAC) findings report series seeks to put evidence about conflict transitions and related programming into the hands of policymakers and practitioners in real-time. The reports detail findings from MEAC studies in Nigeria and Colombia. The reports contain short overviews of findings (or emerging findings) across a wide range of thematic areas (e.g., climate-driven recruitment into armed groups) and include analyses on their political or practical implications for the UN, Member States, and local partners.

    Findings Report 1

    This report is based on data collected from November 2020 – February 2021 as part of an ongoing survey of community leaders in Borno State, Nigeria. It focuses on emerging findings on the impact of climate change on recruitment into the insurgency in the North East. The report will be updated as more survey data is collected, not only from community leaders, but also from community members and even former associates of Boko Haram and other armed groups. This report provides an overview of climate-conflict links in Nigeria, followed by emerging, related findings from the MEAC community leaders survey, and ends with the examination of a few key policy and programmatic implications of these findings.

    Findings Report 2

    • Forthcoming.

    Findings Report 3

    This report is based on data collected from December 2020 to January 2021, as part of a phone survey with a randomized sample of 3,117 community members* from the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC), Jere, and Konduga areas in Borno State, Nigeria. The report presents the results of three specific questions on gender-related dynamics. This data was gathered to help understand the context in which girls and women are recruited into armed groups, particularly the gender norms and gender expectations in the region. Insights into the roles of women and girls in society in North East Nigeria provide an important lens through which to view gender differences in conflict experiences, including within armed groups and armed forces, and reintegration trajectories after involvement. Divorced from this purpose, however, these data points are likely of interest to a range of practitioners – and policymakers – working in Borno State. Although there are only a few survey results outlined in this report, UNU-CPR is producing this overview as part of a standalone brief in order to get it into the hands of UN and NGO partners working in the region to address urgent humanitarian crises. The report ends with an examination of key policy and programmatic implications of these findings.

    Policy Memos

    Focusing specifically on data related to conflict exits, UNU-CPR undertook a review of existing data management guidelines, policies, and practices intended to inform MEAC’s own data management procedures. This policy memo builds on bilateral consultations, workshop findings, and a review of existing data management and protection guidance. The memo starts by exploring the current state of management and integration of conflict exit-related data across the UN as well as challenges, opportunities, and benefits to enhancing data integration in this space. From there, the memo identifies MEAC’s data management and integration needs and potential ways forward for the project. It concludes with considering ways to further data integration beyond MEAC in order to build the international community’s capacity to effectively support conflict exits going forward.