Non-state actors and civil society adaptation to crisis: conflict and disaster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD by Publication


This portfolio of research comprises an in-depth exploration and critical analysis of different methods of responding to conflict and disaster, here collectively termed crisis. While recent years have experienced increasing movement in practice and especially policy towards localisation and recognition of domestic capacities in humanitarian and peacebuilding work, there remain significant gaps between policy priorities and operations on the ground. Local expertise, practices and knowledge are often not sufficiently integrated or even acknowledged in responding to conflict and disaster and reconstruction processes. Barriers to this include lack of basic recognition, falling under the radar of established systems and structures, colonial and interventionist mentalities, lack of contextual understanding of gender and other social divisions, and unwillingness or inability of established Global North institutions to genuinely share power and decision-making.
However, the published outputs in this portfolio rigorously demonstrate that suitably crafted research agendas and data collection methods can accurately and equitably reflect the experiences and needs of affected people, and speak directly to the sensitivities of colonialism and the localisation agenda. This portfolio demonstrates that it is possible to make progress in research and humanitarianism that reflects a greater awareness of colonial legacies and shifts towards localisation, while recognising the complexities around these contestations in policy and programming. Improvements in these particularly sensitive and contentious areas tends to be iterative and piecemeal, but I attempt to show thorough this portfolio some case studies of demonstrable success in localising response to conflict and disaster. While this portfolio critically analyses alternatives to top-down and interventionist approaches in conflict and disaster, it also highlights the tensions and shortcomings in domestic or national level responses, if these replicate some of the same deficiencies outlined above. Thus, there may be limitations to locally-led agendas for peace and recovery if they also lack appropriate and inclusive approaches. Localisation is not a panacea, suggesting that a more nuanced understanding is required of what constitutes representation and participation to ensure durable peacebuilding and disaster reconstruction.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University

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