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Final Evaluation of CoCoon: insights in conflict transformation

Aidenvironment and the University of Reading (UK) conducted the final evaluation of the Conflict & Cooperation over Natural Resources in Developing Countries program (CoCooN). CoCooN is a knowledge, research, and innovation program for evidence-based policy development, interventions, and practices in the field of conflict and cooperation on natural resources. The evaluation consisted of desk studies, interviews and visits to five end-of-project meetings in different countries.

CoCooN started in 2010 and was one of the first NWO-WOTRO programs in which transdisciplinary consortia work in co-creation towards the multiple objectives of development relevance, scientific quality and capacity development. A particularly challenging part of the evaluation was finding evidence on whether the joint objectives of high quality research, realizing development results, and capacity building can be combined. There is evidence that these three objectives can be integrated, but this requires high intensity leadership. Successful projects adopted an action research approach that is conceptually and methodologically robust, including capacity building that balances ‘sound science’ with ‘problem-oriented development actions’. Successful integration is a difficult balancing act that requires strong research coordination and leadership.

One finding of the evaluation is that the focus on conflict and cooperation is relevant and innovative. The understanding that academic conflict experts may have of conflict and cooperation dynamics has not yet filtered down to policymakers and practitioners. The dominant response to conflicts is still one of ‘conflict resolution’ to reduce the negative effects. It was found that CoCooN has generated insights into the processes of transforming conflicts into new forms of cooperation, and the success factors that are involved. Processes that particularly supported processes of conflict transformation included the following: improved capacities, improved awareness among relevant actors, the existence of platforms for debate or negotiation, improved understanding of the causes and impacts of the conflict, introduction of better technologies, pressure on power actors by legal actions, and inputs to improved policies and legal frameworks. It was also concluded that the added value of the CoCooN approach could be enhanced if efforts were made to ensure a better match between policy demand and research supply (with commitments on both sides).

For more information, please contact Jan Joost Kessler.