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Research offers hope for protracted conflict – new report


Cutting-edge research, with new insights drawn from across different disciplines offers real-world solutions to seemingly intractable conflict, according to a new report.

The report, Protracted Conflict, Aid and Development: research, policy and practice, summarises the findings of a conference, held at the British Academy in October 2017, and organised by Research Councils UK. The conference brought together senior policymakers, high-level representatives of humanitarian aid and development agencies, and outstanding researchers, to look at the potential of new research partnerships in dealing with one of the world’s most serious issues.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Professor Andrew Thompson, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Research Councils’ Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Champion, said: “What this report demonstrates is the very significant contribution that research, in this case funded by the GCRF, can make to designing more effective solutions to the protracted conflicts that impede development as well as destroy so many innocent lives.

“Working in concert with humanitarian and development agencies, as well as UK Government and the United Nations,” Professor Thompson continued, “GCRF researchers are shaping new thinking on conflict prevention, resolution, and lasting peace.”

Long-drawn-out conflicts – conflicts lasting years, and often decades – have enormous human and economic costs, both in terms of the immediate need for humanitarian assistance that they create, and their lasting effects on stability and development. With protracted conflict becoming more prevalent in recent years, this is a huge challenge for humanitarian and development agencies, for multilateral organisations such as the UN, and for national governments. 

Conference attendees heard many examples of how research is already being used to help deal with the effects of protracted violence, from understanding the roots of conflict and the psychology of combatants, to understanding the effects of humanitarian aid on the economies of conflict-affected countries, and understanding what makes for a successful peace settlement.

At the same time, the conference identified areas where more can be done to harness the power of research, and make it useful to policymakers and humanitarian and development organisations, in their efforts to prevent future conflicts and bring existing conflicts to an end. The conference mapped-out a future research agenda, dealing with the changing nature of violence (with more conflicts happening in urban areas, for example, and growing numbers of non-state armed groups), and helping researchers engage more constructively with governments, and with humanitarian and development practitioners.

The conference was made possible through the GCRF, a new, £1.5bn fund, which enables UK researchers to work in partnership with researchers in developing countries. The aim of the GCRF is to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems, and work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Support for the conference also came from the United Nations.  In a message of solidarity, UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “I’m delighted that the GCRF, building on excellent research being carried out internationally, has been able to convene such a distinguished group of academics and representatives of humanitarian and development organisations. The hope is that this conference, building on hard work and hard thinking being done elsewhere, can make a real difference, building capacity, sharing knowledge and reinforcing research partnerships, to contribute to properly addressing the complex challenges, including their underlying social, historical and cultural causes, that confront us today.”

Copies of the Protracted Conflict, Aid and Development report can be found on the GCRF page.

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