Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate

27th November – 1st December 2016

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Hosted by the University of Sierra Leone

In Collaboration with the

10th Dealing with Disasters Conference Series

Northumbria University, UK and Sakarya University, Turkey




Most wars fought in the world are now civil conflicts although they attract less global attention compared to international conflicts. Because civil wars are increasingly common in developing countries and go on for years, a report by the World Bank in 2003 argued that civil war is now an important issue for development. War represents an obstacle to development, and conversely, development can prevent war. ‘This double causation gives rise to virtuous and vicious circles. Where development succeeds, countries become progressively safer from violent conflict, making subsequent development easier. Where development fails or is inappropriate, countries are at high risk of becoming caught in a conflict trap in which war wrecks the economy and increases the risk of further war’ (Collier et al, 2003). A parallel rationale has accompanied the world of disaster prevention in general, whereby for the case of poorer countries effective disaster risk reduction has often become synonymous with sustainable development actions, though little cross application has been made to conflict risk reduction.

Civil wars have increases the most in deprived parts of the world because the international community, nation states and private sector has done little to prevent these through sufficiently pro-active development projects. Meanwhile, global instability through locally and internationally driven extremist behaviour threatens the aspirations of conflict and disaster risk reduction. It is recognised that a lack of sustainable development, which is manifest in the form of poverty, has been responsible for exacerbating conflict in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Gulf, the Caucuses, and Southeast Asia. Whilst conflict and violence may have many origins, poverty and conflict are two dependent variables that can cause each other leading to human disasters that become protracted. Where conflict reduction and good governance prevails the effects of environmental disasters can be better reduced. This requires more comprehensive approaches to development, peace and human security. Far from being an ideological dream, there is evidence that strengthened communities offset potential disaster impacts through enhancement of their education, health and wellbeing.

Extensive economic and social costs are associated with civil wars, the active participants in combat only account for a limited part of the overall suffering. Civil war damage manifests concentrically: an inner ring is represented by displacement, the mortality, and poverty inflicted on non-combatants within the country; a second ring of suffering affects neighbouring countries, especially through refugee spill overs; an outer ring of suffering is global. This can cross to other violent threats, such as for example drug or terrorist cartels that are outside the control of recognised governments.

Once a country or region plunges into civil conflict, the risk of more conflict perpetuates weakening national economies and leaving a legacy of atrocities. Whilst economic development may reduce incidence of conflict, development strategies solely based on market access, policy reform, and aid are rarely sufficient to address the problem. It is proposed that sustainable development and disaster reduction can be a means to conflict and violence prevention, enhancing human security whilst enabling routes to preventing decline in the human values of right to life, survivability and wellbeing. Part of this agenda is to consider and address root causes of civil wars including enclosure and access to natural resources.

However, according to Collier et al (2003), two beliefs have served as blinkers to international interventions to end civil conflicts: firstly, that we can safely “let them fight it out among themselves” because it has nothing to do with us, especially after the end of the Cold War, and secondly, that “nothing can be done” because civil war is driven by ancestral ethnic and religious hatreds. Collier et al (2003), and many others, have found ethnicity and religion to be less important factors in causing conflicts, and that economic characteristics of low per capita income and inequality are often greater conflict risk factors. These lead to a breakdown in governance structures, thus creating a vacuum that all too often leads to violence. Other arguments are based on corruption and bad governance at both local and international levels as reason for conflicts and wars in the developing world. The process of conflict once begun can then often become difficult to interpret as a rational reaction since group behavioural factors predominate leading to scarcely understood atrocities. Yet, despite the growing nexus between economic development, conflict dynamics and the potential complications of behaviour, this interrelated area has so far attracted relatively little focus from peace researchers. It is in view of addressing this gap in peace research that the focus of the 26th IPRA General Conference scheduled to take place in Freetown between 27th November -1st December 2016 on the topic: ‘AGENDA FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT: Conflict prevention, post-conflict transformation, and the Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ will be hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the Disaster and Development Network (DDN), Northumbria University in the UK, and Sakarya University in Turkey. It is great that the Disaster and Development Network (DDN) at Northumbria University has offered to collaborate with IPRA by way of merging its 10th Annual Dealing with Disasters Conference (DwD 2016) with this IPRA 2016 General Conference event.

One of the criticisms peace researchers and the media have been facing recently has been their focus on the top-down approach in addressing challenges of sustainable peace in post conflict countries. Limited attempts have been made to explore grass roots bottom-up approaches that reflect the concerns and challenges of those who are trying to cope with and manage those challenges. The proposed conference in Africa, home to the world’s most devastating civil wars that took over 10 million lives in the past three decades, seeks to address this gap.

Moreover, many of the people most exposed and vulnerable to environmental or pandemic disasters in this region and others have also been exposed to violent conflict, and rarely get an opportunity to represent themselves other than through the filter of the media. This conference will therefore also explore interrelationships between disaster, development, conflict and media related perspectives on peace and human security with an explicit aim of advancing research, policy and practice for each. Furthermore, the event takes place in the year following three further major policy orienting events, the outputs of which need to be considered within a conflict risk reduction, disaster and development framework. The conference follows the first year of the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030, launch of Sustainable Development Goals and latest round of Climate Change Negotiations that took place late 2015.

Thomas Pogge (2005), who will address the conference, has called upon the affluent Global North not only to pay for the ‘harm’ their forefathers have inflicted on the Global South through the slave trade and colonialism, but to stop inflicting this harm in the present form of neo-colonialism. This point was underscored by former IPRA Secretary General Katsuya Kodama at the 2012 IPRA conference in Tsu city in Japan when he argued: “a worldwide system had come about which gave special advantages to the developed countries, in ways whereby many developing countries had much of their wealth unfairly exploited and were unable, regardless of how much time might pass, to become ‘developed countries’ or to extricate themselves from poverty.”

The venue of the next IPRA conference, Freetown, Sierra Leone, the second African country to ever host the IPRA conference since the organization was founded in 1964, is very appropriate for such a conference theme, not least because of its recent history of suffering from one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars (1991-2002). This was addressed by one of the more successful hybrid war crimes courts (the Special Court for Sierra Leone), and it was declared in May 2014 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to have moved from a post conflict country to one of development. The 26th IPRA General Conference together with the 10th Dealing with Disasters (DwD) Conference intends to help generate interest amongst peace researchers in the global South and North in the way that exploitation of mineral and forestry resources in Sierra Leone and other African, Latin American and Asian countries has caused extensive damage. This is both to the environment and people, not only threatening post-conflict reconstruction efforts but reinforcing structural problems such as poverty. The progress of scholarly activity and its influence through reflection within practice and policy can potentially contribute significantly to the diffusion of this time-bomb to avert future conflicts. During the conference arrangements will be made for peace researchers to visit some of the historic relics of the civil war in Freetown such as the Peace Museum and the Special Court set up by the UN to try those who committed crimes against humanity.

New and Final Deadline on Monday May 23 2016 (MIDNIGHT–European Time), which must be done through the online submission system .

For online submissions Please Click Here <>


Applying for a Grant? Please click here <>