Contributing the special 50th edition of PLA notes, the author argues that continuum thinking may not be useful for promoting development under conditions of violent conflict or civil war. Continuum thinking is defined as viewing relief, rehabilitation and development as distinct sequential processes in a time-frame model that is, a linear process moving from one stage to the next. The author criticises this approach for 4 main reasons: social conflicts and civil warfare are often circular processes, meaning that periods of relative calmness are often interrupted by violence; it is virtually impossible to distinguish between a pure emergency situation and a development situation; rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches tend to focus on re-establishing a status quo that in fact held the seeds of the conflict; efforts need to find an approach that prevents a reappearance of such destructive patterns and find a new way forward; and emergencies (and aid distribution) do not take place within a social and political vacuum. The article then looks at examples of participatory development in Sri Lanka, during times of war, as an example. The case study looks at how the Integrated Food Security Programme Trincomalee (IFSP) lobbied for a development-oriented participatory approach in Sri Lanka. In conclusion, the author argues that the experiences of IFSP show that participatory development requires a process of continuous negation with local implementing partners, and that only if aid agencies use this kind of process can their work contribute to the social and economic recovery of a war-ridden society.
International Institute for Environment and Development