Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Mercy Corps Inclusive Natural Resource Management Final Program Evaluation

Author, Copyright Holder: 
Causal Design/Mercy Corps

Executive Summary 

Funded by USAID’s Office of Conflict Management & Mitigation, Mercy Corps' Inclusive Natural Resource Management (INRM) Program strengthened basic communication, collaboration, conflict management, and negotiation skills of key government and civil leaders who are working across lines of existing division to resolve natural resource based conflict in their communities. Findings captured an increased willingness among these key leaders to engage one another as a partner, rather than an opponent, a noticeable shift from confrontation to collaboration. In effect, the INRM Program supported the broader transition and decentralization process in Myanmar by: strengthening township level actors’ negotiation skills in order to address community concerns related to development and natural resources; promoting “constructive engagement” between civil society and local government actors; and resolving natural resource based conflict. 

Focused at the subnational level, key program activities included: negotiation training, including interest-based negotiation (IBN) for local government and civil society leaders, monitoring of alternative dispute resolution processes, land law education, and the implementation of natural resource projects that created opportunities for multi-stakeholder engagement, while addressing community concerns related to natural resources. Program activities were implemented in partnership with local organizations, Ar Yone Oo (AYO) in Chin State and Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS) in Shan State. The program was implemented in Tonzang and Tedim Townships in northern Chin State and Taunggyi, Kalaw, and Hopone Townships in southern Shan State. 


The final evaluation measured program performance and compared it to its original intent, capturing progress made relative to objectives and targets. The evaluation also measured changes in constructive engagement and dispute resolution activity among participants. A mixed-methods approach was utilized that leveraged existing quantitative data, previously collected by Mercy Corps, and qualitative tools developed and administered by Causal Design. 

Key Findings 

1. Conflict Context 

A. Conflict Awareness 

The INRM Program helped to converge natural resource conflict awareness among civil society/community and government actors as they report similar levels of conflict awareness. A comprehensive analysis of data collected across multiple evaluation tools indicated that 72% government, 77% civil society, and 67% community acknowledged conflict in their communities at end line, compared to 59% government, 84% civil society, and 92% community at baseline line, demonstrating a convergence of perspectives among varying actors across the life of the program. At baseline, government leaders appeared to be largely unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge natural resource and economic development related issues in contrast to concerns expressed by community and civil society representatives. This change in leaders’ perspectives suggests the program successfully improved conflict awareness among government participants, building a strong foundation for collaborative action. Additionally, data suggests improved government awareness and/or willingness to acknowledge community natural resource related needs and concerns from baseline to end line. 

B. Conflict Frequency 

The INRM Program helped to reduce the frequency of reported natural resource conflict among civil society and community participants. According to the leader survey for example, 62% of government and 55% of civil society leaders reported a general “decrease” in conflict at end line, compared to 40% government and 19% civil society leaders at baseline, indicating a general decrease in the frequency of reported tension and/or conflict experienced by participants over the life of the program. 

C. Sense of Agency 

Findings suggest civil society/community’s sense of agency on natural resource related issues has improved. At baseline for example, 72% of civil society/community reported having little (33%) to no (39%) influence, compared to, 56% reported having little (56%) to no (0%) influence at end line. 

2. Constructive Engagement 

The INRM Program took advantage of a pivotal time in Myanmar’s history with a heightened demand by civil society and communities for good governance and inclusive natural resource management. In responses to civil society and community concerns, the INRM Program helped to increase communication and collaboration between government and civil society leaders and improve the effectiveness of dispute resolution practices, bringing key actors together to address and solve natural resource related conflict, where previously only weak or no relationships had existed. 

A. Communication & Collaboration 

The INRM Program helped to close the gap that exists between government, civil society and community representatives by strengthening opportunities for communication and collaboration. Now government and civil society leaders are more willing to view one another as a partner, rather than an opponent, and utilize constructive means of engagement, rather than aggression and confrontation, to solve issues together. When asked, ”how often do you work with other actors?”, 68% government and 61% civil society leaders reported “half” to “all” of the cases, compared to 50% government and 39% civil society at baseline, indicating leaders are working together on a more frequent basis. 

B. Quality of Communication & Collaboration 

Negotiation training participants emphasized that communication with leaders improved as a result of the program. “I now understand that I should give more space, in terms of decision making and negotiation, to civil society and that this will make my job easier in the end,” cited one government leader. When asked if interaction with leaders in other sectors (government/civil society) changed in the past two years in key informant interviews, 92% of government and 85% of civil society participants reported an “increase.” Government and civil society leaders also reported increased efficiency at utilizing informal networks as a result of training, an unintended benefit of the program. For example, some civil society leaders reported thinking more creatively about the conflict management process and how to maneuver professional channels in order to gain access to influential government representatives. 

Natural resource projects also provided an opportunity for government and civil society to work together. Leaders jointly implemented seven natural resource projects over the life of the program and collaborated on many more. Natural resource projects also supported the broader transition and decentralization process in Myanmar by building the capacity of leaders to address local natural resource concerns. 

3. Dispute Resolution 

A. Negotiation Training 

Mercy Corps’ negotiation training improved leaders’ skills to address and resolve conflict in a more participatory and systematic manner. Negotiation training combined classroom and experiential learning to train 138 government and civil society leaders in Shan and Chin States over the life of the program. As a result, leaders reported distinct changes in their negotiation style, including a shift in their conflict management approach from what was often described as “hard line” or “traditional,” and typically characterized as “aggressive” or full of “emotion,” to a non-confrontational and participatory approach. Leaders now possess adequate negotiation skills to objectively analyze party interests and resolve conflict in collaboration with others. 

B. Negotiation Confidence & Expertise 

Negotiation training participants, particularly government leaders, are more confident in their negotiating ability and report high levels of negotiation expertise. End line findings captured a notable increase in leaders that reported “more expertise” from baseline (9% government/14% civil society) to end line (41% government/ 19% civil society), indicating a substantial improvement in negotiation expertise in both leader groups, particularly government representatives. 

C. Dispute Resolution 

Leaders who participated in the Mercy Corps negotiation-training program are actively addressing and resolving conflict in their communities. At end line, for example, 76% of government and 87% of civil society leaders reported active involvement in conflict resolution activities, indicating leaders that participated in the program are well positioned to address and resolve conflict and are actively doing so in their respective communities. 

Leaders who participated in the negotiation-training program report they are more effective at resolving disputes. When asked how often the application of the IBN methodology resulted a conflict resolution in the leader survey, 70% government and 81% of civil society reported “more than half” or “all” of the cases, compared to 61% government and 57% civil society at baseline, suggesting negotiation training provided leaders with practical tools to effectively address and resolve conflict. 


Future programming can build on the successes of the INRM Program in a number of ways, including: 

 Future programs should develop strategies that leverage existing leaders or “champions” to drive institutional change in their respective organizations and/or greater community; 

 The establishment of a negotiation/mediation network to support dispute resolution activities at a greater scale, particularly for land related issues; 

 The development of natural resource boards that focus on land and/or water related disputes in an accountable and transparent manner; 

 Future good governance and peacebuilding programs may consider partnerships with government departments as service providers to secure government buy-in; and 


 More rigorous M&E systems that accurately measure causality from baseline to end line and utilize a participatory approach to monitor program performance.