We advised Brendan Bromwich who was working on a United Nations Environment Programme on the link between peace building and the management of natural resources in Sudan. 

Accountability can require reporting on progress. One example of this comes from a United Nations Environment Programme on the link between peace building and the management of natural resources in Sudan. The programme ran between 2007 and 2014 based on the recognition that building and restoring cooperation over natural resources and the environment is important for both peace building and governance of natural resources. 

Three types of relationship were highlighted as essential for progress:

  • Institution–Institution: including increased collaboration and coordination within and between government organisations and other institutions, such as civil  society, international organisations or the private sector.
  • Institution–Community: effective relationships between government and communities are characterised by consultations, participation in decision-making, accountable and effective service delivery, cost recovery and timely maintenance.
  • Community–Community: seen, for example, in collaboration at the community level, including agreements over access to resources and trade between livelihood groups.

The programme required a new approach to describing softer project outcomes and demonstrating progress – showing that the relationships essential to the improved governance of natural resources and building peace were being successfully supported and developed, alongside more tangible results such as construction of water-management structures. Where the development of relationships is both essential to programme outcomes, and likely to take significant time, then the ability to demonstrate progress to secure continuing programme funding becomes particularly important. Drawing on the Relational Proximity framework, a new approach on measuring project outcomes in terms of relationships was developed. For each of the three key types of relationship, six typical stages of development were identified, each of which could be characterised by different degrees of Relational Proximity. This represented a measured pathway for monitoring progress.

The programme reached a number of conclusions about this relationships-based approach. The first is around the improved analysis of governance and peacebuilding contexts. The use of relational metrics and the measured pathway to describe improving relationships was seen as extending the availability of practical tools. Measuring the impact of interventions was thought to be enhanced ‘through the formulation of the measured pathway against which developing relationships can be compared’. The steps in the pathway enabled analysis of relationship progress. The approach was also seen as providing a new way to design interventions. If problems can be identified in relationships terms then the solution may be tailored accordingly. At a larger scale ‘the relationships-based theory of change provides a narrative of how effort in aid leads to impact for communities that can be applied in many contexts in which governance and peacebuilding are relevant.