Preventing conflict in fragile countries through understanding and promoting economic justice

Preventing conflict in fragile countries through understanding and promoting economic justice


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) – Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)



PI and Project Team members 

Principal Investigator: Dr Chuck Thiessen, Coventry University
Co-Investigator: Dr Patricia Sellick, Coventry University
Co-Investigator: Dr Roddy Brett, University of Bristol
Co-Investigator: Ms Karol Balfe, Christian Aid Ireland/International
Co-Investigator: Dr Laura Bernal Bermudez, Pontifical University Javeriana, Colombia

Project partners and Countries

Non-Governmental Organization (Afghanistan)
Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (Guatemala)
Cedetrabajo (Colombia)
Institute of Social Policy Research (South Sudan)
Organisation of Responsive Governance (South Sudan)
Syria Centre for Policy Research (Lebanon/Syria)

Project Overview:

Our overarching vision for this project is to model equitable and long-lasting working partnerships with research organisations in five low and middle countries (LMICs) - Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, South Sudan and Syria - and strengthen their and our capabilities in regard to the global challenge of understanding the relationship between informal and formal economics in conflict zones and promote more robust research and evidence gathering around these themes.

This project is developing a series of five national workshops to feed into a global workshop to examine economic justice and transformation as a significant contributing factor to sustainable peace. Set inside a larger funding proposal (GCRF Network Plus), this project will ultimately impact marginalised communities, who often experience economic inequalities connected to conflict and the widespread struggle to understand the interaction of formal and informal economics and what measures lead to sustainable peace. More specifically, this project will enable thematic, methodological and management skills sharing through a series of workshops, virtual capacity-building for partner organisations, and commission scoping exercises to:

  1. illuminate context-specific and locally-identified and prioritised themes and issues (related to economic justice) by marginalised people affected by conflict;
  2. gather and document local and/or local-language data, literature, commentary and other resources relevant to what economic justice and transformation looks like in specific contexts and;
  3. map local research institutions and infrastructure.

This project will enhance our research network's ability to strengthen the evidence base for effective and contextually sensitive policies and programmes that prevent conflict and promote economic justice. Project activities are informed by an awareness that global research partnerships have structural, social, material, personal and linguistic issues and exhibit power relations that determine whose knowledge, skills, agendas and values are prioritised.

Further, the legacy of historical colonial relationships and current global power dynamics shape each of our five selected contexts and expectations of international development and research partnerships. In response, our proposed activities recognize that partners will have diverse priorities, concerns, schedules and capacities, and that ignoring these differences or assuming that partnerships are built on a level playing field can obstruct effective ways of working and limit our transformative capacity. Thus, this project has been conceived of and developed in partnership with project partners in the five selected LMICs, including five local offices of the international NGO Christian Aid along with a selection of their partner NGOs with whom Christian Aid has already established and nurtured relationships. The input of these organisations has directly shaped our project activities and will amplify project impact due to the knowledge, skills and experience that each partner brings.

  • Project Impact Statement

    This project will build equitable and sustainable partnerships with research organizations in 5 low and middle-countries (LMICs) (Afghanistan, Colombia, Guatemala, South Sudan, Syria) and build capacity to address the global challenge of understanding the relationship between informal and formal economies and economic justice in conflict-affected societies. This project will consolidate pathways toward more robust research and evidence gathering to contribute to significant policy change at national and international level. The project has been conceived of and developed with end-users in our selected LMICs, and will commission thematic, methodological and management capacity-building for partners and as well as scoping exercises to illuminate context-specific and locally-identified priorities related to economic justice, document local/local-language data and other resources and map local research institutions and infrastructure. The project has 3 key pathways to impact:

    1. Develop a strengthened research community and more robust research infrastructure in 5 LMICs by connecting and expanding the cohort of capable researchers and research managers available to support academic institutions, international organizations, local governments, and local civil society. Workshops and capacity-building will upskill in state of- the-art methods and more fully engage with the latest human ethics protocols, gender equality and safeguarding in research implementation/management. Activities will develop a robust and self-sustaining local network of researchers in each context. The network will connect local and international researchers with a focus upon women-led organizations and under-researched geographically remote areas. Our approach will be based upon improved models of partnership between Southern and Northern organisations that will extend beyond this project and lead to sustainable future cooperation.
    2. Promote local research on economic justice and transformation to feed in to policymaking at the national/international level. Our project will promote/gather local/national research from a diverse range of sources - including written/archival and oral - focusing on experiences in and perceptions of the formal and informal economy with the aim of understanding strategies for survival in conflict-affected societies. We will build a publicly available database of resources and make recommendations for prioritized translation to promote future uptake of local research both inside and outside the LMICs. Broader uptake will amplify the impact of local research and insight and address frequent side-lining of non-English research resources in the formulation of economic, political, development and peacebuilding intervention policy. Greater access to local understandings and perceptions of economic justice, peace processes and transformation will allow policymakers to better understand how to address specific contexts and bolster local ownership by guaranteeing that locally-identified needs/priorities - including of all genders, minority groups and oppressed populations - are taken into account. Better policy will contribute to the satisfaction of SDGs 5&10 (gender equality and reducing inequality).
    3. Amplify and support critical dialogue and empowerment regarding economic justice through local, sustainable and safe platforms. Economic justice and transformation is contentious in most LMICs: it has potential to transform the status quo, shift traditional gender dynamics and tackle exclusionary structures and power relations. Our equitable partnership will develop thoughtfully-constructed, sustainable and safe platforms for dialogue through a participatory scoping process to identify important themes of local consequence.
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