Cord: Peacebuilding advice for project design

Cord are a peacebuilding organisation who have been supported by a UK Aid Direct grant to implement a WASH programme in Burundi providing access to clean drinking water, improved sanitation and health over a three year period.

The Burundi project has impacted over 139,000 people. In this case study, Cord reflect upon the significant factors that contributed to the project’s success and focus on the unintended positive outcomes, which we can draw lessons from for future programmes, particularly those which support peacebuilding objectives in the field of poverty reduction.

  • A ‘do no harm’ analysis at the project design stage helped shape the programme in a more inclusive and participatory way.

Involving communities in working together to identify the most vulnerable people enabled a discussion which was both impartial and objective. When identifying for example, where to place a water point, communities asked:

‘By placing the water point here, how might it divide our community or how might it connect our community?’

‘Who would benefit most and who would benefit least? How can the maximum number of people benefit?’

Through such discussions, communities decided that everyone should have equal access to WASH facilities, which inspired other community members to build latrines by their own means.

This sense of community responsibility also extended to schoolchildren. Beyond the educational aspects of sanitation and hygiene, communities took on the challenge of improving sanitation conditions within their schools, leading to improved social cohesion and increased latrine usage in general.

  • The project was structured around community level Water Point Committees and local authority engagement, involving both men and women.

Another key success factor in the project was how decisions were structured around engagement between community level Water Point Committees, consisting of both men and women who managed the water points, and local authorities.

This approach mitigated potential for conflict early on so that challenges could be overcome through regular monitoring and dialogue.

Engaging local authorities had a positive impact beyond expectations. By involving them in joint monitoring activities with the communities, agreeing mutually where water points were located, validating the final list of water points together and holding regular joint reflection sessions, it was possible to learn and adjust the project activities.

Women’s self- esteem increased when they were part of the committees and those who were engaged in construction work reported that they felt more valued by their co-workers. In some instances, women subsequently reported a reduction in domestic violence because of their new role contributing to family income.

In addition to increased self–esteem and more peaceful household relations, gender roles were discussed within communities. This led some women to report that their husbands had become more supportive within the domestic sphere by carrying out tasks traditionally perceived as a women’s role, such as fetching water.

Having more accessible water points meant that young girls were able to attend school more regularly, as fetching water was also previously a role prescribed to them.

  • Future programmes could build more peacebuilding indicators into the project design

The focus of the Burundi project was a WASH intervention, therefore the peacebuilding and ‘do no harm’ aspect was monitored internally and on a more ad-hoc basis. For future programmes Cord recommend that key indicators, such as improving relationships within the home, decreasing gender-based violence and improving women’s self-esteem could be factored into the project design and donor reporting, regardless of the intervention’s primary focus.

Further general reflections conclude that the peacebuilding model and approach enabled the project to be reflected on in a more transformational way. For example, at the heart of the model was the interconnectedness of the ‘relational space for peace’, a method that Cord seek to support and enable in all contexts in which they work.

Many of the unexpected project outcomes related to this aspect of peacebuilding by creating spaces for dialogue using non-violent communication, resolving conflict through local capacities and building trust and respect to engage whole communities in challenging inequality and injustice together, working towards more peaceful and inclusive societies where all people can flourish.


The information in this article was compiled by Martina Hunt, Cord Learning Manager

Grant holders who are interested in knowledge-sharing and incorporating peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts into their work are encouraged to contact Martina: