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The Law of Protracted Conflict: Bridging the Humanitarian-Development Divide

Contact: Prof. Dr. Heike Krieger (heike.krieger@fu-berlin.de)

Funded by the AHRC-DFG, The Law of Protracted Conflict: Bridging the Humanitarian-Development Divide (‘Endless Conflicts’) is a collaborative project between the University of Glasgow and Freie Universität Berlin. It is at the forefront of pioneering research on protracted conflicts as the first project to approach the humanitarian-development-peace nexus from an international law perspective.

“Humanitarian response, sustainable development, and sustaining peace are three sides of the same triangle.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The last decade has seen a dramatic surge in the intensity and duration of armed conflicts across the globe. The wars of attrition in Syria and Yemen continue to rage, as the decades-long conflicts have worsened in Afghanistan and the DRC. In addition to battlefield fatalities, such protracted armed conflicts lead to long-term and widespread socio-economic consequences. According to the OECD, by 2030, 80% of the world’s poorest populations will be living in conditions of fragility and violence. 

In protracted conflict settings, humanitarian actors are increasingly tasked with roles that were not traditionally expected of the sector, such as the provision of basic services and infrastructure rehabilitation. The blurring of the line between conflict and post-conflict phases, in turn, forces development actors to work in unfamiliar settings of ongoing violence and insecurity. The traditional, dichotomous conceptualisation of humanitarian assistance as confined to the provision of short-term relief during ongoing crises and of development assistance as part of long-term socio-economic programming for the post-conflict phase has created a divide that fails to address the short- and long-term needs of affected communities. Bridging the divide between humanitarian and development assistance is essential for removing the structural challenges to sustained peace.

Overcoming the humanitarian-peace-development divide, however, remains a grand challenge in the absence of a better understanding of the legal drivers, relations, and mechanisms that shape humanitarian, development and peacebuilding initiatives in protracted armed conflicts. The Endless Conflicts project provides a comprehensive analysis of the institutional and substantive legal frameworks within which humanitarian and development assistance are delivered. Its aim is to investigate the extent to which international law enables integrated and accountable humanitarian and development assistance in contexts of protracted armed conflict and towards sustainable peacebuilding. 

The main objectives of the project are to: 

  1. identify the legal challenges and modalities for the integration of development and humanitarian sectors at the institutional and systemic levels; 
  2. examine the interactions between various legal regimes relevant to the socio-economic dimensions of protracted armed conflicts; 
  3. assess the body of accountability standards and mechanisms present in humanitarian and development sectors in order to understand how they can be adjusted to ensure both the effectiveness and the accountability of international action under the conditions of protracted conflict; 
  4. contribute to the international cooperation towards the operationalisation of the humanitarian-development nexus in the pursuit of sustainable peace.