“Do No Harm” A Relevant Concept for Crisis Hit Cameroon

Participants at the presentation

After over weeks of training to serve as Trainer in “Do No Harm,” thanks to the PCC Peace Office, the National Coordinator of the Cameroon Community Media Network CCMN Rosaline Akah Obah, had the opportunity to share this content in a presentation for over an hour last week.

What is “Do No Harm” concept?

The “Do No Harm” (DNH) is a concept used mostly by institutions and organizations to minimize harm in situations of violent conflicts and support local capacities to build peace. For example, how may aid be provided to IDPs in ways that, rather than feeding into an exacerbating conflict, help local people disengage from the violence that surrounds them and begin to develop alternatives?

The Need for Restitution by trainees

At the end of the training, the Preachers of Peace in Mezam Presbytery were encouraged to go back and explain to others the concept of “Do No Harm”, apply the “Do No Harm” tools in context analysis, use the concept to assess the impact of humanitarian or development assistance on conflict and use the framework to plan, monitor and evaluate their programmes.

Advantage of “Do No Harm” Concept

One very striking aspect of “Do No Harm” is that, “There are always options.”In case a particular decision reinforces a Divider( element that divides people) or undermines a Connector (element that brings people together and offers local capacities for peace), project implementers need to look for alternative ways of achieving their objective. Any option found to reduce a negative impact or to enhance a positive one must be checked again in order to avoid unintended side-effects.

Lessons on Impact of the Concept

There are seven lessons when exploiting the “Do No Harm” concept in a given context of conflict:

  • Assistance becomes a part of the CONFLICT CONTEXT. It is not neutral, but becomes a part of the context;
  • There are two realities in any conflict situation- DIVIDERS AND CONNECTORS. Dividers are those factors that people are fighting about or cause tension. Connectors bring people together and/or tend to reduce tension;
  • Assistance has an IMPACT on both dividers and connectors. It can increase or reduce dividers or increase or reduce connectors;
  • RESOURCE TRANSFERS are one mechanism through which assistance produces impacts: what aid agencies and organization bring in and how they distribute it;
  • IMPLICIT ETHICAL MESSAGES are the other mechanism of impact: what is communicated by how agencies and organizations work;
  • The DETAILS of assistance programmes matter:what, why, who, by whom, when, where, and how and there are always OPTIONS for changing assistance programmes to eliminate negative impacts (increased conflict) or to improve positive contributions to peace.
  • In order to understand the potential impact of a programme on a context of conflict, it is important to be aware which conflict one is talking about. Who are the two groups that are on the different sides of a conflict line, and how can we describe the identities of the two sides?

Conclusion

Remember not all conflicts are bad. Different views may be an expression of a healthy process of change that may lead to development.

However, when we cannot accept different viewpoints, it can turn into destructive violence between parties involved that may prevent progress. This is where DNH comes in.

The great Peace Crusaders of Mezam also embraced other insights on Peace and peacebuilding, mediation and conflict management. Given our current dispensation, this training serves as a veritable tool box to cure the malady ravaging our society in various forms.

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