Rehabilitating the Responders: The Role of a Post-Conflict Directory in Improving Coordination

Kristina Hook

March 2013

Directory-Oriented Peacebuilding Series

Far too often, a peace agreement is viewed as the final chapter in the saga of a civil war. In reality, however, the work of peacebuilding is just beginning. Successful post-conflict efforts will only survive the precarious early stages of the post-conflict period if they are based on a coordinated, integrated, and holistic approach by peacebuilding actors. Over the course of this four-part series, this author seeks to achieve four distinct yet complementary objectives. The first and foundational article of this series synthesizes existing academic knowledge to more fully understand the far-reaching impacts of civil conflict on societies, which in turn informs our understanding of the peacebuilding process ("The Cost of Conflict: Understanding the Ramifications of Internal Warfare"). The second article builds upon this knowledge, as principles of post-conflict coordination are introduced with the aim of demonstrating how increased coordination and cooperation could greatly improve existing efforts ("The Coordination Quandary: Applications and Implications of Post-Conflict Coordination Principles"). Practical applications of such concepts can be found in the following two articles. In the third article, the usefulness of a post-conflict directory is introduced and developed, as this author contends that such a resource would greatly improve the coordination of post-conflict efforts ("Rehabilitating the Responders: The Role of a Post-Conflict Directory in Improving Coordination"). The fourth article concludes this series by analyzing how a post-conflict directory would have improved coordination in the aftermath of the Ugandan civil war and the reconstruction projects that followed in its aftermath ("Substantiating the Claim: Establishing the Effectiveness of a Post-Conflict Directory").


In the wake of a civil conflict, survivors face an uphill battle to restore a sense of normalcy, as war "gains immortality in the disturbed mind of the survivors" (Marshall, 2002). Psychosocial data gathered from civil conflict survivors also adds a sense of urgency to the initial peacebuilding stages, as Wessells states that "the emotional, social, and spiritual wounds of war create a powerful impetus for continuing cycles of violence" (2007, 257). His statement is bolstered by other reports that describe the volatility of the first post-conflict decade (Mack, 2006) and the increased likelihood that peace agreements may fail in such contexts (Collier, 2003). Given such somber possibilities, this four-part series has sought to expand the discussion of post-conflict improvements by establishing just how far-reaching the impacts of civil conflict are and by identifying coordination as a major challenge for peacebuilders in the early post-conflict stages. With such foundational knowledge now considered, the question remains: what should we do? How can such obstacles be overcome? This article seeks to tackle such questions by advocating for a post-conflict directory, a potential resource that would greatly improve the coordination of peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts. While prototypes of such a resource have been used in the past, modern technology now affords the opportunity to improve and expand a directory's potential usefulness. In light of this fact, three basic suggestions regarding the types of information to be included in such a directory will also be presented, with the hopes that further research and a consideration of specific contextual factors will add to such proposals.

A sense of urgency characterizes the initial post-conflict stage, as "the emotional, social, and spiritual wounds of war create a powerful impetus for continuing cycles of violence."

- Michael Wessells

Post-Conflict Directory: Potential and Possibilities

As has been discussed, post-conflict actors struggle to maintain coordination and coherence for a variety of reasons (see, de Coning, 2004; de Coning, 2008). In some cases, coordination challenges arise from differing organizational goals, objectives, or mandates. For example, one party may be tasked with facilitating better relationships among citizens and the post-conflict government, while another may be responsible for organizing an airing of grievances against a government entity. However, finding creative ways to ensure that such missions are not conflicting must be prioritized. UNMAS has found some such success by publishing an annual Portfolio of Mine Action Projects (United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, 2006). Along these same lines, this article would like to propose the use of a post-conflict directory, which could be utilized as a vital communicative link among post-conflict organizations.

The creation of a "Conflict Yellow Pages" for a post-conflict region would not only aid organizations in communicating with each other, but may also be instrumental in linking organizations that are committed to similar types of work.

The creation of a "Conflict Yellow Pages" for a post-conflict region would not only aid organizations in communicating with each other, but may also be instrumental in linking organizations that are committed to similar types of work. Ideally, the formation of such a directory would commence in the peacebuilding planning stages, but one of the pros of such a resource is its ability to be continually updated. Therefore, the directory could still be produced in a post-conflict society where many organizations have already commenced reconstruction activities. The suggestion of a post-conflict directory is certainly not revolutionary, as some similar resources are in existence today. For instance, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) maintains a well-organized website for humanitarian affairs conducted in Somalia (UN OCHA, 2013). Listed under the website's "About Us" tab is a "Contact Directory," which provides contact information for cluster chairs and support officers, OCHA Somalia key contacts, and OCHA Somalia staff. Supplying the names, email, and phone numbers of such influential actors is a good start in seeking to foster inter-cluster participation. However, it is the intention of this paper to not only expand this type of resource, but also to advocate that a directory-based approach be embraced by an increased number of reconstruction actors in more post-conflict societies.

A central argument to a directory-based approach in post-conflict peacebuilding is that such a resource could be created and maintained without any central coordination. It could also more easily identify gaps in services, allowing organizations to approach donors with increased authority.

A central argument for a directory-based approach in post-conflict peacebuilding is that such a resource could be created and maintained without any central coordination. In the second article of this series, we discussed the potential for an entity such as the United Nations Peacekeeping Commission to fill a valuable need in the struggle for coordination (see, United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, 2005). As mentioned, the Peacekeeping Commission is an advisory board, yet it has the resources and international clout to facilitate networking and give active organizations more opportunities to discuss best practices and lessons learned. However, even this recommended role is not vital to the creation of a post-conflict directory, as this resource could operate without the creation of any additional mechanisms for central coordination. Additionally, this resource could play a valuable role in the international humanitarian landscape, which finds its agendas and priorities increasingly influenced by donors, as it would allow organizations to clearly see where their counterparts are active and what types of responsibilities they are carrying out. Thus, gaps in services could more easily be identified, and niches for other organizations to carve out could become much more obvious. Then, organizations would be able to approach funders with some authority and more clearly make the case that their proposed role is unique and would provide a critical missing piece of the puzzle.

In addition to its ability to work without a large degree of centralization, the directory proposed here is also distinct from existing contacts lists or directory prototypes in other ways. A key result of this specific type of directory-based approach is transparency. As we will touch upon again throughout this article, modern technology offers exciting possibilities for the creation of this resource. Instead of relying upon old-fashioned paper-based products, new technological platforms now allow for electronic versions that would be easier to keep updated throughout the process of peacebuilding. Further, these platforms could elevate this type of resource from the type of contact sheet that we discussed in the paragraph above, as exemplified by UN OCHA's Somalia page (2013), to a more dynamic resource that not only facilitates inter-organization communication but also the sharing of progress reports. With this new type of resource, gaps and redundancies in service will be much more visible, therefore not only promoting more transparency in the post-conflict field but also offering readers of the directory the opportunity to use current information in meaningful ways, such as by reallocating their resources more sensibly.

Moreover, a post-conflict directory, particularly one that is created in the planning stages, could give organizations an impetus to discuss their mission and goals for a region. Preferably, the directory may even begin with a shared mission statement or vision for the future of the post-conflict region. The formation of mission statements may not be feasible in some post-conflict regions, if the organizations are not able to agree on succinct or precise goals. However, as long as each organizational representative remembers to respect the opinions of their fellow actors, even unsuccessful attempts at creating a mission statement may prove useful as they give organizations increased insight into the individual objectives of the participating organizations.

Another alternative is to create several complimentary mission statements that reflect different perspectives on reconstruction, while still providing access to information on the specific actors who can provide each kind of peacebuilding service. Advanced knowledge of organizational goals and expectations may prove useful in the field, as precise organizational aims can sometimes shift. After some time spent working towards their previously stated goals, organizational actors may find that they have more in common with another agency than they initially supposed. Therefore, attempts at creating a shared vision statement may prove useful in the long-run, even if they are unsuccessful at first.

Suggested Elements of a Post-Conflict Directory

If a common mission statement cannot be agreed upon, the organizational representatives should still proceed with creating the directory, for such a resource can prove valuable in ensuring that missions are not conflicting because of simple miscommunications. A debate over at least some aspects of the mission statement(s) is to be expected, but perhaps some of this contention could be resolved by highlighting the areas in which full agreement is achieved and then explaining both the points of disputation and the reasoning behind such disagreements. To continue building such understanding between groups, this author proposes that a post-conflict directory may include three elements, with the hope that these sections will be expanded according to the context of the post-conflict situation and the nature of the programs that are being implemented.

Standardized List of Vocabulary and Acronyms

The first section the directory should contain is a standard list of vocabulary and acronyms. Statements regarding the vast jargon used by various organizations often contain the phrase, "alphabet soup," and while organizational terms of preference are understandable, they no doubt contribute to communication difficulties in situations where coordination is already a challenge (see, Swarbrick, 2005; Paris, 2009). Therefore, this glossary section should contain a list of all organizational acronyms, perhaps grouped by sector or individual agency, with such an endeavor seeking to be a sort of rudimentary translation service for this "alphabet soup." Despite the fact that acronyms vary widely across fields and organizations, many comparable terms often exist. This section will help organizations to recognize such similarities, while also making shared reports much easier and clearer to read. Organizations might also use this first section of the directory to nail down common definitions of concepts that can be somewhat nebulous, like improvement, access, or broader concepts like increased well-being. Defining these terms and concepts can help to solidify organizational unity as they mark a foundational step in agencies working towards the same goals.

Project Site Data

In the same spirit of ensuring that all post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation actors are "on the same page," the post-conflict directory should also consider including a map of the major project sites in the region. While certain security precautions may preclude this element in all post-conflict directories (see, Kurtenbach and Wulf, 2012), such a map or other representations of project site data could prove extremely useful in locations where post-conflict work is relatively uninhibited for a variety of reasons. First of all, it will enable resources to be spread out more efficiently as organizations are able to more easily distinguish areas of need. Secondly, post-conflict rebuilding efforts depend upon organic and frequently changing factors, and one of the consequences of such factors is that projects may either expand into a larger geographic territory or decrease in size if resources prove only to be adequate for a smaller population than originally imagined. In other cases, post-conflict projects may shift locations entirely if field reports show that a particular program would be better suited to another region or population within the post-conflict society. In such cases, having an easily updatable map that highlights the most up-to-date reconstruction efforts will prove invaluable for organizations, as other agencies may notice a new need in an area if a program shifts elsewhere. Having such a map would also allow a program coordinator whose program is moving geographic locations to discover what types of programs are already occurring at the new site, thus allowing him to contact such agencies if needed or desired.

The necessity for such a map to be easily updateable highlights the requirement for the directory to be available online, as it will be much easier to revise and access this way. The need for an updateable directory also demonstrates that in order for a post-conflict directory to be most effective, qualified workers from a variety of sectors must work together on this project. For example, communications and technological expertise are urgently needed, as such professions can offer the most practical and innovative suggestions for updating a post-conflict directory electronically in areas where the communication infrastructure is unpredictable or underdeveloped. Such occupations are best-suited for creating communication mechanisms that will work in unstable regions, perhaps by creating a tailored cell phone-based service.

Organizational and Actor Contact List

The final suggested section for a post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation directory should contain specific information for each agency that is in the field and for each government or donor that is somehow involved in reconstruction efforts. Again, the need to make this contact list easily amendable makes an online directory the best approach. Despite the fact that internet access is not always reliable in post-conflict zones until damaged communication networks are repaired, such difficulties are outweighed by just how quickly the information in this directory may change once field plans begin to be enacted. The ability to update an organization's contact page could also create a way for agencies to log program results or needs. Though a reputation for poor coordination or cooperation is sometimes unfairly labeled to the entire post-conflict field, many post-conflict organizations have reached out to their fellow agencies in the past. Therefore, an easily accessible and updateable directory may increase the speed at which these organizations are able to get in touch with each other, and it may also encourage further networking. This directory would be wise to include contact information of both the agency's project headquarters (often located in an industrialized nation) and contact information for field workers. Field workers can often offer each other detailed, practical tips regarding the actual implementation of a program, while employees at a project's headquarters often have the most current information about the whereabouts and work of their field workers if the workers are unable to be reached. Such contextual knowledge may prove especially useful for an organization that has just arrived on-site. If established actors are willing to share information with new workers, programs might become more efficient as the same mistakes are not repeated by multiple organizations. Existing versions of 3W (Who is Doing What Where?) (OCHA, 2009) and 4W (Who is Doing What Where and When?) (OCHA, 2012) maps are available on humanitarian document hosting websites such as ReliefWeb, and such existing resources may serve as a helpful guide for this section of a directory.


In conclusion, while the creation of a post-conflict directory is certainly not a panacea for the myriad of challenges that the post-conflict stage presents, the potential effectiveness of this resource is too great to ignore. However, like any proposed idea, this author would agree that the true value of this resource can be determined only by applying the directory-based approach to a current context. The following article in this series will indeed hold this resource up against the backdrop of the complex Uganda civil war and critically examine if and how a post-conflict directory could have impacted specific post-conflict programs. At present, however, suffice to say that the field of peacebuilding requires highly trained and yet also highly innovative personnel in order to cope with complex and rapidly changing scenarios. This author believes that it is with this same commitment to innovation that peacebuilders should consider and further research the role that a post-conflict directory could play in multiple contexts.

A Post-Conflict Directory Should Answer:


  • Which agencies are at work in the post-conflict region?
  • What agency-specific vocabulary needs to be shared?
  • Which populations does a post-conflict organization intend to target first?


  • What types of projects or programs have been enacted?
  • What societal needs are not in the process of being addressed?
  • What societal needs should be prioritized?


  • Which regions are receiving post-conflict support?
  • Which regions may need additional reconstruction resources?
  • Do specific security factors prevent such information from being shared?


  • Do organizational timelines for projects and programs exist?
  • Do organizations have a timeframe for transferring authority to local actors?
  • How long does each organization intend to offer ground support in the region?


  • What commonalities exist among organizational motivations for being in the region?
  • What broad goals exist for the post-conflict region?
  • What agreements can be made regarding organizational working methods?


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Use the following to cite this article:
Hook, Kristina. "Rehabilitating the Responders: The Role of a Post-Conflict Directory in Improving Coordination." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. March, 2013. <>.

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