The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) is a six year global research programme exploring livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conflict-affected situations.
Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid and the European Commission (EC), SLRC was established in 2011 with the aim of strengthening the evidence base and informing policy and practice around livelihoods and services in conflict.
What is the focus of SLRC’s research?
The evidence base on livelihoods, services and social protection in conflict-affected situations is patchy and extremely weak in certain places. In particular, there is:
- little understanding of the relationships between service provision, legitimacy and state-building;
- little evidence on the service delivery and human well being outcomes of external actors’ state-building and capacity development efforts in conflict-affected situations;
- a lack of comparable and longitudinal research into how people are able to maintain or create secure livelihoods during and after violent conflict.
At the centre of SLRC’s research are three core themes, developed over the course of an intensive one-year inception phase.
1. State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance in conflict-affected situations
Establishing, building or strengthening state legitimacy is a major element of state-building, and considered important for securing both peace and development.
Using a local-level, people-centred perspective, we will explore how individuals’ experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance shape legitimacy, and attempt to identify some of the routes through which improvements in legitimacy might strengthen state-society relations. More specifically, we want to know whether government provision of basic services actually contributes to state-building via its possible effects on state legitimacy.
2. State capacity: building effective states that deliver services and social protection in conflict-affected situations
If the first theme focuses on the ‘demand’ side of state-building, then the second is concerned with its ‘supply’ side.
SLRC research under this theme will follow a two-stage logic: we will first describe what international actors’ approaches to capacity development in conflict-affected situations look like, before analysing the outcomes of their engagement in order to draw out lessons for future programming. Theme 2 research therefore involves both descriptive and prescriptive elements, and will be of direct use to aid agencies engaging in state-building and service delivery operations in conflict-affected environments.
Taken together, these two research themes will generate evidence that contributes towards a fuller understanding of the different dimensions of the state-building process.
3.Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conflict
Research under this theme will ask: what do livelihood trajectories in conflict-affected situations tell us about how governments and aid agencies can more effectively support the ways in which poor and vulnerable people make a living?
SLRC will address this using a longitudinal perspective – a key gap in the current evidence base – which will help build a picture of how people attempt to secure their livelihoods in particular contexts and over time. Rather than tracing the impact of individual programmes, this will enable us to start from the perspective of poor people, and to ask which, if any, aid interventions or government policies and programmes are making a difference in peoples’ lives.
By paying close attention to the governance structures that both support and undermine people’s livelihoods, we will link our research within this theme with our work on legitimacy and state capacity.
Particular issues and sub-themes to investigate in more detail will emerge through an iterative process. However, based on a set of 10 evidence papers completed during SLRC’s inception phase, it is anticipated that these may include: processes of return; land rights; urbanisation; shifts in gender roles; emerging non-western actors; the role of the private sector; markets (particularly agricultural markets); and opportunities for growth.
Some funding will also be available for SLRC partner organisations to bid for work outside of these core themes and in other conflict-affected countries.
How will SLRC carry out the research?
At the heart of SLRC’s research will be a survey on livelihoods and access to services,which will also explore experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance.This will be carried out on two separate occasions – once at the start of the programme, and once again at the end– thus providing a valuable longitudinal, panel-based perspective. The surveys will be complemented by in-depth qualitative research.
Developing capacity is at the core of SLRC’s approach to conducting high quality research, and we will achieve this through a combination of activities, including funding PhDs for students from the global south, holding training sessions and workshops, and facilitating collaboration between our partners (for the development of both northern and southern researchers).
SLRC is also paying particular attention to mainstreaming gender throughout its work, both in terms of the content of our research (i.e. research questions, methods, analysis) as well as the way in which we carry out our work (i.e.management, staffing, uptake). In order to track performance and ensure accountability on this front, a core gender team has been established within the Consortium.
Where is SLRC working?
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the lead organisation.
SLRC partners include: the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Sri Lanka, Feinstein International Center (FIC, Tufts University), the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Pakistan, Disaster Studies of Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
SLRC’s research focuses on seven core countries, covering a range of conflict-affected situations:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- Sierra Leone
What will be done with SLRC’s research?
Through a combination of regular engagement with key stakeholders and disseminating compelling, accessible and relevant research outputs, we intend to ensure our findings are used to facilitate better informed policy making and practices, and to promote spaces for dialogue.
SLRC will pay particular attention to engaging with national and local governments, and national civil society, within our eight focus countries. In doing this we will leverage the strength of Consortium members by building on CEPA’s, SDPI’s and NCCR’s existing capacities and expertise at national levels, and ODI’s, Feinstein’s and Wageningen’s at an international level.
SLRC research also hopes to contribute towards on-going efforts by the g7+ – an exciting new institution that is enabling fragile states to bring their own voices to debates about fragility – and the ‘International Dialogue on Peace-building and State-building’ to measure fragile states’ progress towards achieving the five Peace-building and State-building Goals (PSGs) as set out in the ‘New Deal’.
How can I find out more?