• Welcome

    Welcome to the DCA introduction to Conflict Sensitivity & Do No Harm

    Conflict Sensitivity & Do No Harm is presented here as an approach to prevent activities from inadvertently doing harm, to instead maximise opportunities to do some good and where possible contribute to peace.



    • Background

      Do No Harm originates from the Hippocratic Oath (ancient Greece) where medical practitioners pledge not to cause more harm than good. More recently, since the 1990s Do No Harm has been applied by aid actors as an approach to improve the provision of assistance in conflict-prone settings without doing harm. During the early 2000s Conflict Sensitivity surfaced as term to describe a similar process. While some may distinguish minor methodological differences between the two, Do No Harm is today widely considered synonymous with Conflict Sensitivity. Accordingly, both terms are used interchangeably throughout this page. 

      • What is Conflict Sensitivity & Do No Harm?

        Conflict Sensitivity functions to increase effectiveness by informing and guiding the provision of assistance or resources in conflict-prone settings. It does this primarily by identifying opportunities to improve assistance, as well as highlight unintended consequences that may contribute to violence. It uses this information to act to adjust activities to ‘Do No Harm’, 'Do Some Good', and where possible promote peace.

        • Why is conflict sensitivity & DO No Harm Important?

          As described in the DCA International strategy 2019-2022, organisations operate in a complex, fragile and ever-changing world where armed conflicts, violent confrontations, climate related disasters, poverty and extreme inequality continue to cause human suffering. In complex settings, good intentions can sometimes inadvertently make a situation worse.

          Seen through this lens, Conflict Sensitivity is based on the premise that the provision of assistance/resources is not always considered neutral especially when applied to areas affected by violent conflict. Assistance is a form of resource that can be misused to strengthen one side of a conflict or weaken an opposing side. The possibility of substantial harm increases when interventions fail to identify and address the detrimental effects of otherwise well-intended actions.

          • How Can we be more conflict sensitive?

            There are three main steps to Conflict Sensitivity that should be considered. These include the ability to:


            Understand the context


            Understand the two-way interaction between activities/operations and the context


            Act to adjust initiatives to avert harmful outcomes (Do No Harm) and reinforce opportunities to maximise positive impact (Do Some Good) AND WHERE POSSIBLE SUPPORT PEACE.

            Conflict Sensitivity is grounded in analysis that can be used for programme management and strategic planning (e.g. PPM processes and Theories of Change). Conflict Sensitive analysis is only valuable when it is context-specific and includes gender, age and diversity dimensions as well as other relevant social groupings (e.g. cultural, ethnic, religious, communal).

            Since Conflict Sensitivity concerns everything related to the provision of assistance/resources, analysis can provide useful input that informs not just a specific initiative, but wider operations and activities. Accordingly, rather than constrained to a single-action tick-box exercise, Conflict Sensitivity instead thrives as a live process incorporated into all workflows.

            To further integrate Conflict Sensitivity in your work, you may wish to consider:

            • Planning and budgeting Conflict Sensitivity to ensure it is incorporated into core aspects of operations.
            • A dedicated study into local conflict dynamics and how they may impact your activities (and vice-versa).
            • Conflict Sensitivity training/support for staff, partners and other relevant stakeholders.

            Should you require additional technical assistance on Conflict Sensitivity, support is available in the following areas:

            • inclusion of Conflict Sensitivity in proposals
            • provision of Conflict Sensitivity training to staff, partners and other stakeholders
            • inclusion of Conflict Sensitivity into job descriptions and terms of reference
            • support with Conflict Sensitivity-related consultancies
            • quality assurance of Conflict Sensitive assessments and donor reports
            • advice on Conflict Sensitive programme design and implementation
            • guidance and feedback on conflict-prevention & peacebuilding initiatives.



            • Conflict Sensitivity Learning



              Since 2019 a DCA Conflict Sensitivity course has been rolled out to DCA staff and partners in the Country Offices. Content incorporates blended learning, task-based learning, Participatory Learning and Action (PLA), and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) approaches. Conflict sensitivity affects all areas of programming and therefore the training has been designed to appeal to a wide range of learner types, to be inclusive of all staff and partners regardless of educational background.

              • Day 1 - participants are introduced to an unfamiliar conflict using an interactive roleplay scenario. In the second half of the day there is a presentation on Conflict Sensitivity and why we need it.
              • Day 2 - theory is put into practice, applying analytical tools to a fictitious case. 
              • Day 3 - participants apply analytical tools to actual field locations and compile a Conflict Sensitivity Rapid Analysis Report based on actual project areas.

              Please refer to the facilitator's guide (below) for more insight into content and activities.

              • What are the Characteristics of Conflict Sensitivity & Do No Harm?

                Conflict Sensitivity / Do No Harm has evolved over time to include the following characteristics:

                • Conflict Sensitivity and Do No Harm are often used interchangeably.

                • Gender is integral, consequently Conflict Sensitivity/Do No Harm is also referred to as Gender and Conflict Sensitivity.

                • Conflict Sensitivity/Do No Harm is applicable to all conflict-prone settings irrespective of the severity or frequency of violence. This includes contexts experiencing underlying tensions (e.g. latent conflict), cultural violence (e.g. linguistic, cultural), structural violence (e.g. socio-economic, political, legal, apartheid, discrimination) and/or direct violence (e.g. extra judicial killings, use of lethal force, torture).  

                • Conflict Sensitivity/Do No Harm is applicable to all who support initiatives in conflict-prone settings. This includes all aspects of programming and operations spanning human resources, ProLog, legal, finance, fundraising, media/communications, advocacy, projects and other activities.

                • Conflict Sensitivity/Do No Harm is considered international good practice in conflict-prone settings and is often used as an approach by international institutions, International Non-Governmental Organisations, Local Non-Governmental Organisations, Community Based Organisations, Inter-Governmental Organisations, diplomatic missions, state bodies, local authorities, and the private sector.

                • Conflict Sensitivity is applicable to all SDGs in contexts affected by violent conflict according to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Knowledge Platform.

                • DCA Facilitator's Guide to Conflict Sensitivity

                • DCA Conflict Sensitivity Toolkit

                • Sample Conflict Sensitivity Rapid Analysis Template

                • Archive of Previous DCA Conflict Sensitivity Workshops and Trainings

                  • Atelier sur la sensibilité aux conflits - CAR/RCA avril 2019 
                  • DCA Conflict Sensitivity Workshop South Sudan September 2019 here
                  • DCA Atelier sur la sensibilité aux conflits - Mali novembre 2019 here
                  • DCA Atelier sur la sensibilité aux conflits – RDC decembre 2019 here
                  • DCA Lecture Conflict Sensitivity & Peacebuilding: From Theory to Practice - Aarhus University March 2020 here
                  • DCA Lecture on Conflict Sensitivity & Peacebuilding : From Theory to Practice - Copenhagen University September 2020 here
                  • DCA Lecture on Conflict Sensitivity & Peacebuilding : From Theory to Practice - Copenhagen University November 2021 
                  • DCA Atelier sur la sensibilité aux conflits - Mali octobre 2021
                  • DCA Introduction to Conflict Sensitivity - March 2022
                  • Atelier sur la sensibilité aux conflits  CAR/RCA 2022
                  • DCA HQ Introduction to Conflict Sensitivity Mini Workshop - Denmark January 2023 here

                  • Community of Practice online Forum

                  • Additional Material

                    Should you want to learn more about conflict sensitivity, please check out the resources below:


                    • DCA FABO site Gender and GBV in CVA – Essential tools for developing gender-sensitive and gender-responsive programmes. See here.
                    • Mary B Anderson ‘Do No Harm - How aid can support Peace or war.’ See link here.
                    • Saferworld. Gender Analysis of Conflict Toolkit. See here.
                    • Saferworld, International Alert et al.  How to Guide to Conflict Sensitivity. See link here
                    • UN System Staff College Conflict Sensitivity Course. See link here.
                    • Fionnuala Ni Aolain et al. The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Conflict. See here
                    • CARE/CDA Monitoring & Evaluating Conflict Sensitivity- methodological challenges & practical solutions. See link here.
                    • Saferworld et al. Conflict Sensitivity Consortium Benchmarking paper. See link here.
                    • Saferworld. Conflict Sensitivity. See link here.
                    • GSDRC. Conflict Sensitivity Topic Guide. See link here.