Bringing Peace to Life?

Event start date
Event start time

Linna building, auditorium K 103, address: Kalevantie 5


Doctoral defence of M.Soc.Sc. Anisa Doty

Bringing Peace to Life? A Narrative Analysis of Finnish Development Intervention in Conflict-Affected Nepal

The field of science of the dissertation is International Relations.

The opponent is Professor Emeritus Luc Reychler (University of Leuven, Belgium). Professor Tuomas Forsberg acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Bringing Peace to Life? A Narrative Analysis of Finnish Development Intervention in Conflict-Affected Nepal

A gap between policy idea(l)s of broad security and a security-development nexus, and their seeming absence in the practice of development cooperation led to this study. This research explores the practice of development in a conflict-affected context. It is a case study of a Finnish-Nepali bilateral water and sanitation project in Far Western Nepal. It asks whether or not and how it was that the Rural Village Water Resources Management Project came to take into consideration its conflict-affected operational context. The aim is to produce policy-relevant insights on the theme of aid and conflict.

The theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of the study are based on a review of the shifts in security-development thinking. In focus is the notion of a peace-security-development nexus and the debate on aid and conflict. These themes provide a foundation for the four-dimensional theoretical framework, which defines interventions as working in, on or around conflict; as well as through peace and conflict sensitivity; risk management thinking; and intervention ethics.

The study is based on storied knowing (narrative cognition). It provides a grassroots perspective into development practice as a representation of the international by bringing individuals involved in the project to the fore as legitimate knowers in the sphere of International Relations. The dataset of the study is composed of project documentation, archival material, interviews and research journal entries. Informed by principles of appreciative inquiry, the research has been carried out as a configurative narrative analysis. The result is a retrospective historical narrative of the studied case project.

The studied case is set into context through three intersecting dimensions: Finnish policies guiding development cooperation; Nepal as a conflict-affected area, with focus on the Far West and Bhatakatiya VDC in Achham district; and Finnish-Nepali bilateral development cooperation.

The narrative shows that the studied project was affected by its conflict-affected context in several ways throughout its duration, and points to repeated claims within the project documentation of the intervention’s contribution to peacebuilding. Yet these claims are found to be largely void of substantial content and wanting of monitoring and evaluation to confirm them. The project’s responses to contextual challenges are disclosed as having been predominantly reactive and ad hoc. Reasons for this included thin contextual knowing and absence of local analyses, uneven and weak understanding of conflict sensitivity among project actors; as well as the vague and inconclusive policy and program guidance regarding aid in conflict-affected contexts. Further, despite a strong emphasis in the intervention on risk management, the narrative presents the project as lacking in systematic and localized context and conflict analyses or risk assessments. On the other hand the story tells how transparency in all project work; emphasis on project actors’ local knowledge and contacts with local staff and beneficiaries; as well as adopting a participatory approach were used proactively as ways to respond to the risks perceived. Finally, the story reveals how the project was able also to respond to structural injustices and root causes of conflict through its program design based on strong local ownership as well as through its inclusive working modalities.

The findings of the empirical narrative are discussed through the theoretical framework, which presents the studied project first as having worked around, and in conflict despite the conflict: conflict was found to have been treated as a constraint to development and something to be avoided. Secondly, the study reveals the primacy of “one-way-street” risk management thinking in the project: only risks presented by the context toward the project were considered, but not vice versa. Thirdly, the project was found to have been semisensitive to conflict and to have worked intuitively in the conflict-affected context: aid actors were found to have acknowledged the conflict and to have been guided by experience of a prior Finnish development intervention in Nepal during the time of the civil war. Fourth, this research exposes the intervention design based on a rigid participatory step-by-step process of water use master planning and the approach of gender equity and social inclusion as courses through which the project may be seen as having also worked on conflict. Fifth, through a reflection of a framework of intervention ethics, this study shows how the project largely held with principles of mutuality, impartiality, consistency, and universality; how it held with the principles of sustainability and complementarity in varying degrees during different stages of the project, and how it did not quite fully live up to the principles of accountability and reflexivity.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2209, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2016. ISBN  978-952-03-0225-2, ISSN 1455-1616. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1709, Tampere University Press 2016. ISBN  978-952-03-0226-9, ISSN 1456-954X.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail:

Additional information

Anisa Doty, Puh. 040 723 1536,,