A small grant project in Shangla district in Malakand, Pakistan was able to resolve a conflict affecting three villages by building better relationships between these communities and by improving an existing infrastructure project that had itself become a key conflict driver.
The need to rebuild infrastructure
The conflict that erupted in 2007 in the Malakand region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, and the military operation that followed led to weakening of the area’s already modest infrastructure. The devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010 and 2011 exacerbated the situation. Consequently, “infrastructure was one of the most damaged sectors where some 2,000 kilometres of roads, 170 bridges, 700 educational and 150 health facilities, and 158 government buildings were completely destroyed”. The damage to community infrastructure and institutions was a catalyst for numerous conflicts among communities. In a post-conflict area like Malakand, rebuilding infrastructure is important not only to revitalise the local economy, but also to support sustainable peace between communities. However, it must be done in a way that is conflict sensitive.
Cause of conflict
After the difficult period of violence and natural disaster in Shangla district, in 2014 a national organisation funded a water supply scheme to respond to the local infrastructure needs of Lilownai village. However, while the scheme was valuable for the residents of Lilownai, two neighbouring villages, Tauheed Abad and Barkalay, were left out of the project – even though the water source for the scheme was located in these two villages. As a result, the villagers from Tauheed Abad and Barkalay stopped the supply of water to Lilownai, and the scheme which was worth PKR 12.5 million (around £80,000) was abandoned. Not only that, it also caused conflict among the villagers from all three areas.
Small grant provision and initial discussions
In Shangla, a small grant was provided by Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP) to local civil society organisations (CSOs), including the Sustainable Development Society (SDS) and the Network for Social Development (NSD). Representatives from both of these organisations had attended workshops, led by CAMP and Saferworld, where they were trained on mediation, dialogue and community-driven initiatives for peace. Using these new skills, SDS and NSD organised community consultation meetings with elders from all three villages – including politicians, religious leaders, school teachers and local activists – to try to resolve the water issue.
These meetings highlighted that the abandoned water scheme and the resulting conflict were priority issues for the CSOs, since now all three villages were facing the problem of access to clean drinking water. It was also stressed that it was women and children who were suffering the most as a result of this conflict, because they now had to travel long distances to collect water, putting them at risk. The fact that the water supply lines had been installed but were not benefitting anyone had also left people frustrated.
CSOs take action through dialogue and infrastructure development
Following the initial discussions, SDS and NSD used the small grant to form four peace committees, two each for men and women, to facilitate dialogue between the conflicting parties. These dialogues allowed the community members to formally discuss possible solutions to the conflict. The CSOs also conducted training workshops for community members, transferring their mediation and negotiation skills, so that they could resolve future issues independently. In an effort to engage all stakeholders, the CSOs even held meetings with the district administration.
The CSOs soon understood that the conflict among the communities would not be resolved through dialogue alone – there was still the primary issue of the failed water supply, which required further construction if it was to serve all three villages. Although construction of a water supply scheme for the villages was initially not a part of the small grants project, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue, the CSOs decided to allocate some funds for the construction of pipelines. CAMP approved this change in implementation plan, understanding the importance of rebuilding the water infrastructure in these communities so that it was no longer a conflict driver but could instead support peace. Around PKR 70,000 (£450) was allocated from the project to construct the water supply scheme, with the same amount contributed by SDS. The CSOs were also able to mobilise the community, who contributed an additional PKR 160,000 (£1000).
By establishing this real community participation, the project was able to identify issues, find ways to address them – in this case through improvements to infrastructure – and resolve conflict in a sustainable way.
Saferworld and local partner CAMP's project ‘Promoting Participatory Approaches to Peacebuilding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ started in January 2012, and is funded by the European Union Delegation to Pakistan under its Instrument for Stability component.