It is currently estimated that by 2015 half of the world’s people surviving on less than $1.25 a day will be found in fragile states. People living in countries affected by violence are twice as likely to be undernourished, 50% more likely to be impoverished and it is three times as likely that their children will not be attending school .
Islamic Relief currently works in over 16 fragile or conflict locations around the world, understanding conflict is key to our work to empower communities and the protection of life and dignity where people are suffering. Islamic Relief has been engaged in conflict transformation programming for over 10 years and has made a sustainable impact through its work, including in Yemen, Pakistan, and Sudan. Islamic Relief has particularly focused on combining current tools and best practice with traditional Islamic principles and teachings.
In line with our aim to act as a policy leader on Islamic humanitarian and development issues, we are working to provide leadership on the role faith principles play in the resolution of conflict, and to encourage awareness of faith and Islam among other development actors.
Islam and Islamic organisations, both historically and in contemporary conflicts, have played a central role not only in providing relief and rehabilitation but also as agents of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Whilst there are a range of approaches in conflict resolution and transformation Islamic faith principles, methodologies and instruments are not, as yet, widely referenced in the development community. Islamic Relief is keen to broaden and deepen its understanding of how the use of faith traditions, principles and teachings can be used to address conflict through improved community understanding and practice.
Islamic Relief provides a publicly available toolkit that outlines practical programming tools from the basis of Islamic principles and faith teaching. This will be used to promote peaceful resolution of conflict with the communities we are engaged with, and provide clarity on the values that inform our work on conflict as a faith based organisation.
The theory of change relating to this is that faith in Islam is a powerful change agent and is often above all other influences; therefore principles and teachings from classical Islamic tradition can influence actors within conflicts to design and agree processes and structures, both at a community and higher level, looking to address competing priorities, avoid violent conflict and accept compromise.
Faith plays a primary role in the lives of the majority of the world’s population, but in the development sector it is all too frequently cited as a cause of violent conflict without also looking at the role faith plays in reconciliation and transformation of those disputes. Dialogue between faith communities can often shed light on how religious differences are, often, not the primary source of tension.
Islamic Relief is committed to working on inter-faith initiatives towards conflict transformation in a number of ways:
- To work with partners in other development agencies to develop their awareness of Islam and Islamic principles to inform their work with Muslim communities
- To work with partners in other faith-based organisations to advocate for awareness of faith based approaches to conflict within the wider development sector.
- To work with partners in other faith-based organisations in facilitating inter-religious dialogue.
‘Protecting life and dignity’ is a primary Strategic Focus Area of Islamic Relief’s five-year strategy, with Disaster risk reduction as a key outcome. This commits us to “strengthened global, national and local disaster preparedness for Islamic Relief target countries”, along with prioritisation of DRR in all Islamic Relief target areas, including in conflict transformation.
‘Resilience’ is more frequently understood in terms of resilience to natural disasters, the impact of climate change or other economic shocks. However it is also the case that communities can build resilience to conflict and preventative strategies to reduce the impact of conflict should it occur. As a result Islamic Relief approaches to conflict transformation are focused on supporting the existing mechanisms within a community manage and resolve disputes, mitigate violence and prevent the escalation of conflict.