Aid Effectiveness in Insecure Areas

By Sharmala Naidoo [Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining]

The issue of aid effectiveness in conflict-affected and insecure areas is receiving increased attention within the development community. The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness,1 Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations2 and the recent Accra Agenda for Action3 signal donor and recipient commitment to improve the effectiveness of aid. Conflict-affected countries often present aid-effectiveness challenges that require special attention—but what does this mean for countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war? This article examines recent developments, highlighting some implications for mine action.

In March 2005, over 100 donors and developing countries convened in Paris to reform the international aid system and make it more effective in addressing global poverty. The previous aid system, in place since at least the 1960s, had changed over time, mainly because of its problems and lack of effectiveness. The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness1 was issued in an attempt to rectify the flaws and emphasize the need to “increase the impact of aid … in reducing poverty and inequality, increasing growth, building capacity, and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”1

The Paris Declaration established five principles to shape aid delivery:

  1. Ownership: Developing countries set their own development policies and strategies, while donors support capacity development and institution building.
  2. Alignment: Donor assistance should be consistent with the national priorities outlined in developing countries’ development strategies.
  3. Harmonization: Donors coordinate their aid activities.
  4. Managing for results: Developing countries and donors focus more on the impact
  5. Mutual accountability: Developing countries and donors are more transparent in the use and impact of aid to their citizens and parliaments.
Bosnian Minefield
A minefield in Bosnia prevents land use after the conflict has ended. Photo courtesy of GICHD

The Paris Declaration recognized that aid effectiveness principles apply to conflict-affected and insecure areas but require adaptation, particularly where local ownership and capacity are weak. A recent report by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit4 reinforces this message. It concludes that the Afghan context poses unique challenges to aid-effectiveness principles, including continued insecurity, limited capacity, competing agendas, corruption, lack of coordination, and lack of clarity among military, humanitarian and development interventions.4

In 2007, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation Development Assistance Group released Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations2 (hereinafter, the Principles). The Principles calls on donors to ensure conflict-sensitive aid, whole-of-government approaches5 and policy coherence6 in the political, security and development spheres. The Principles also encourages donors to link aid to the wider agendas of peace-building, conflict prevention and state-building.

More recently, in 2008, developing countries and donors met in Accra, Ghana, to review progress on aid reform, and they issued the Accra Agenda for Action.7 The AAA emphasizes the following when engaging in conflict-affected areas:

Post-conflict Implications

In order to maximize contributions to relief, recovery and stabilization efforts, donor coordination and harmonization are vital in mine/ERW-affected countries like Afghanistan, Somaliland, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Where possible, support for mine action should be aligned with national government plans and procedures.

During and immediately after conflicts, mine action often plays an important role in facilitating peacekeeping and humanitarian access, as well as enabling the delivery of essential goods and services. It can also make important contributions to building peace, reducing armed violence and strengthening the capacity of state institutions. In such contexts, donors should ensure that support for mine action contributes to broader peace-building, armed-violence reduction and institution-building processes, where appropriate.

One example of how mine action played an important role in building confidence was between the government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in 2002 when a locally-brokered ceasefire was negotiated, leading to a tri-partite Memorandum of Understanding among the government of Sudan, the SPLA and the United Nations. Following 30 years of conflict, this was the first time leaders from opposing sides in Sudan signed a nationwide agreement. The MoU allowed for emergency demining of key routes between North and South Sudan in the Nuba mountains. The United Nations Mine Action Service, in association with DanChurchAid and two Sudanese nongovernmental organizations—Sudanese Association for Combating Landmines and Operation Save Innocent Lives—jointly trained 15 people from both sides as deminers. Community members from both sides were involved in assisting the deminers with clearing vegetation in exchange for food through a World Food Programme food-for-work scheme.

The value of humanitarian weapons abatement was apparent in 2008 when Mines Advisory Group started working with the Burundian police, Police Nationale Burundaise, in support of Burundi’s civilian disarmament campaign. A mixed MAG-PNB mobile team collected and destroyed small arms/light weapons previously handed over by the population or seized by the PNB. As part of Burundi’s implementation of the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa,8 MAG conducted a survey of the PNB SA/LW sites in June 2009. This survey led to a comprehensive physical-security and stockpile management project in 2009 with MAG and the PNB which, parallel to the marking of weapons, focuses on collecting and destroying surplus and obsolete SA/LW, as well as improving the physical security of police weapons stores. It also focuses on strengthening the capacity of the PNB in weapons and ammunition accountability and safe storage.9,10,11 The project is ongoing with completion expected in April 2010.

MAG Deminer
A MAG Deminer in Sudan. Photo courtesy of GICHD

A final example of the aid effectiveness is seen with Danish Demining Group’s active involvement in efforts to reduce armed violence. In Somaliland, DDG is working with local communities and peacebuilding organizations to reduce the demand for SA/LW and enhance community safety. As previous attempts to forcibly disarm communities have failed, DDG is focusing on training local communities in conflict-management and conflictresolution techniques, safe storage of SA/LW and ammunition, undertaking mine/ERW clearance and destruction and building trust between communities and the police.12 In Somaliland, where state structures remain weak, strengthening the capacity of communities and civil-society organizations is critical.


Donors face increasing challenges in delivering aid effectively in countries affected by mines and ERW. Recently, several strategies including the Paris Declaration, the Principles and the AAA have encouraged donors to take a wider look at the unique issues encountered in delivering aid to conflict-affected and insecure areas. In order to maximize the benefits of relief, recovery and stabilization efforts, donors are encouraged to conduct joint assessments, promote flexible funding modalities, work in harmonization with local governments and communities, and look at the wider agendas of conflict prevention, state-building and peace-building in war-torn areas. In maximizing aid effectiveness, donors can make valuable contributions toward peacebuilding, strengthening local government institutions, reducing violence, countering poverty and facilitating the coordination of humanitarian access in communities affected by mines/ERW. Making aid effective in conflictaffected countries is clearly challenging. However, enhanced donor coordination, harmonization and support for broader peace-building, armed-violence reduction, and institution-building initiatives are all vital, and they can go a long way to improving safety and reducing poverty in communities affected by mines/ERW. J


  1. Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. 2 March 2005. Paris. Accessed 5 October 2009.
  2. Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations. April 2007. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed 5 October 2009.
  3. Accra Agenda for Action. 25 July 2008. Accra. Accessed 5 October 2009.
  4. Roberts, Rebecca. “Reflections on the Paris Declaration and Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan.” Discussion Paper, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. April 2009. Accessed 6 October 2009.
  5. Whole-of-government approaches refers to public-service agencies working across portfolio boundaries and, in this context, typically involves ministries responsible for defense, diplomacy and development working closely together.
  6. Policy coherence refers to greater coherence in policies across sectors that affect developing
    countries (e.g., trade and development).
  7. Accra Agenda for Action. Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. 2–4 September 2008. Accra, Ghana. Accessed 21 August 2009.
  8. Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. Accessed 21 August 2009.
  9. MAG. “Burundi.” Accessed 5 October 2009.
  10. MAG. “Burundi: Supporting Human Security.” Accessed 5 October 2009.
  11. MAG. “MAG’s approach to Conventional Weapons Management and Disposal.” Accessed 5 October 2009.
  12. Danish Refugee Council and Danish Demining Group. Concept Paper: Community Safety in North West Somalia (Somaliland). February 2009. Accessed 21 August 2009.


Sharmala NaidooCurrently serving as Project Manager for the Linking Mine Action and Development project at GICHD, Sharmala Naidoo has previously worked with Saferworld and Amnesty International. She spent several years in Zimbabwe, working with local human-rights and development NGOs. Prior to this, she worked for the Canadian Foreign Ministry. Naidoo holds a Master of Arts in public administration from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Contact Information

Sharmala Naidoo
Project Manager
Linking Mine Action and Development Project
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
7 bis, Avenue de la Paix
PO Box 1300
1211 Geneva 1 / Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 906 83 22
Fax: +41 22 906 16 90
Web site: