Image by Russell Watkins/DFID
  • Blog
  • 4 June 2019

What people want: building resilience and stability in conflict and crises

DFID’s Matthew Wyatt and Barbara Lecq talk about efforts to make our development, humanitarian and peacebuilding investments coherent


Matthew Wyatt, Barbara Lecq

This guest blog was contributed by Matthew Wyatt, Deputy Director and Head of Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department, and Barbara Lecq, Protracted Crises Adviser, of the UK’s Department for International Development

Over the last 25 years, more than one billion people lifted themselves out of extreme poverty.[1] But this tremendous progress has not benefited all equally. People living in low-income countries, and in countries affected by conflict and fragility, are least likely to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Between 2004 and 2014, 58% of deaths from disasters occurred in the top 30 most fragile states.[2] Today, nine of the ten humanitarian emergencies receiving the most humanitarian assistance worldwide are in extremely fragile countries.[3] By 2030, 80% of the world’s extreme poor are likely to live in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Realities increasingly don’t fit the neat boxes of development, humanitarian, peacebuilding and human rights action, as ICRC President Peter Maurer noted recently. The UN Secretary General has gone a step further by calling on the development, peacebuilding and humanitarian systems to transcend their divisions and work more coherently to address this challenge.[4] The World Humanitarian Summit (together with the initiatives it gave rise to – the Grand Bargain, the New Way of Working) and the Global Compact on Refugees have given further impetus to these efforts. This year, members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) adopted a Recommendation on the humanitarian–development–peace nexus, demonstrating donors’ growing commitment to do things differently. The ‘nexus’ was also explored with other experts in a webinar recently hosted by Development Initiatives.

It makes sense for development and peacebuilding actors to mobilise alongside humanitarian ones in conflict and protracted crises. It is critical to go beyond saving lives and respond to people’s aspirations. When people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were given the choice of how to use aid in crises, they chose to allocate 40% of funds to improve their livelihoods and close to 9% to education – sectors traditionally considered as more developmental.[5] Through the CDA project Time to Listen, people from 20 aid-recipient countries reported that their main expectations from international aid were to strengthen their economic prospects, improve political and security conditions and feel that others cared. Strikingly, people were negative about the cumulative impact of support, preferring pathways to self-sufficiency; they also recognised that over time, aid could introduce or reinforce tensions between groups in societies.

The UK knows it needs to respond to these expectations.[6] Increasingly, we are trying to make our development, humanitarian and peacebuilding investments coherent, and to build resilience and stability. We have committed to spend 50% of our aid budget in fragile and conflict-affected states. And we are focusing our efforts on supporting the building blocks for more stable, peaceful and resilient societies: fair power structures, effective and legitimate institutions, inclusive economic development, formal and informal conflict management systems and, finally, a supportive regional and global environment.

In major refugee hosting countries from Jordan and Lebanon to Ethiopia and Kenya, DFID is investing to support jobs, livelihoods, training and wider economic opportunities that benefit refugees and host communities alike. In such countries as Burma, Nigeria and Somalia, alongside our investments to address urgent humanitarian needs, we are working to make economic development more inclusive, and helping to build more accountable and resilient health and education services, and more effective and legitimate institutions. We also support mediation between conflict actors and peacebuilding.

Across multiple countries, we are helping societies put in place formal and informal conflict resolution mechanisms that can reduce violence and strengthen women’s role in building peace. For example, in Burma and the DRC we are working to increase the capacity of the civil society, women, youth and minority groups to engage in social cohesion projects that strengthen trust and lay the foundations for sustainable peace.

DFID’s support to social protection systems in 23 countries is helping poor and vulnerable people build more productive and resilient livelihoods, and governments to build shock-responsive systems, such as the Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme that can scale up its cash transfers to protect vulnerable people when shocks hit.

But this is only the start of our efforts, and we must do more collectively to help people in conflict and crises lift themselves out of poverty and need. We must focus on three priorities.

  • Getting the financing right to support resilience, prevention and stability is essential for progress. Countries such as Chad and Sudan have received humanitarian financing for decades, but development spend to build resilience has remained very low.
  • Development, peacebuilding and humanitarian financing should all be making a positive contribution to building resilience and stability.
  • We need the right analytical and data tools to do the job well, and to avoid doing harm.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we must make people’s and civil society’s voices central to our work.

We are working with bilateral, multilateral and civil society partners to try and make new approaches to conflict and crises a reality. We also hope that the OECD DAC can play a significant role to help donors and others make progress on this critical agenda.

Photo: Russell Watkins/DFID


[1] World Bank (2018), ‘Decline of Global Extreme Poverty Continues but Has Slowed: World Bank’. Available at:

[2] Peters K. (2017), The next frontier for disaster risk reduction: tackling disasters in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, ODI. Available online:

[3] Development Initiatives (2018), Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2018 (available at: and OCHA (2019), Financial Tracking System.

[4] See: One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, Report of the UN Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit’, A/70/709, available at: and sustaining peace, Report of the UN Secretary-General, A/72/707, available at:

[5] American Institutes for Research (2017) Humanitarian Cash Transfers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Evidence from UNICEF’s ARCC II Programme, Available at

[6] As reflected in the UK Humanitarian Reform Policy (available at: and Building Stability Framework (available at: