“Do No Harm” in theory and in practice: Exploring the fine line between benefiting and harming local communities in development | Land Portal

LANDac International Conference 2022 Session Summary

During this session, we explored the question of doing harm. Giorgio Ferrari from the Knowledge Platform of Security and Rule of Law facilitated the session, which was co-organised with LAND-at-scale. Andreas Brown set the scene by introducing the concept of Ethics of Justice vs Ethics of Care. One of the main messages coming out from his presentation is to “Do not act according to your idea of justice, but according to their idea of needs”. Gemma van der Haar set out some important points from M. Anderson’s work on how aid can support war. She states that interventions given in a context of conflict, become part of that conflict. Herma Kamphuis and Maria Clara van der Hammen then gave a more practical demonstration of how ZOA and Tropenbos respectively implement a “Do-no-harm” approach in their interventions. This very much leans on taking the time to understand the context and the interests of the wide range of stakeholders. 

The discussion that followed touched on questions as “Should you not act at all if you know you might do harm?”,  “Is it bad to harm privileged groups?”, and “Can you make good the harm you’ve done?”. Some lessons taken from this session is that we have to question our assumptions, to gain a deep understanding of local knowledge, to establish communication between conflicting groups, and, more related to the land issue, to solve conflict before embarking on registration efforts.

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