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Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace—or War

Mary B. Anderson
Do No Harm:  How Aid Can Support Peace—or War
ISBN: 978-1-55587-834-4
ISBN: 978-1-62637-214-6
1999/161 pages/LC: 98-44669
Also of Interest:  Opting Out of War: Strategies to Prevent Violent Conflict by Mary B. Anderson and Marshall Wallace
"In her insightful and practical book ... Anderson offers the development community an opportunity to, at the least, do no harm.... Do No Harm makes an important contribution to an ongoing discussion about how outsiders can play a productive role in preventing and resolving violent conflict."—Ana Grier Cutter, Ethics and International Affairs

"NGO staff members are encouraged to put some of their scarce time for learning aside to read this book."—Angela M. Wakhweya, African Studies Quarterly

"Provide[s] the reader with short but profound examples of how aid has been given in a range of conflict situations.... [Do No Harm] is a well written and a very usable book."—Journal of Peace Research

"A book that makes for intriguing reading for all those interested in international affairs and humanitarian efforts from the perspective of those who are actually engaged in it."—Doris H. Gray, International Journal on World Peace


Echoing the words of the Hippocratic Oath, the author of Do No Harm challenges aid agency staff to take responsibility for the ways that their assistance affects conflicts.

Anderson cites the experiences of many aid providers in wartorn societies to show that international assistance—even when it is effective in saving lives, alleviating suffering, and furthering sustainable development—too often reinforces divisions among contending groups. But she more importantly offers hopeful evidence of creative programs that point the way to new approaches to aid. Calling for a redesign of assistance programs so that they do no harm while doing their intended good, she argues further that many opportunities exist for aid workers to in fact support the processes by which societies disengage from war.


Mary B. Anderson is coauthor of Opting Out of War: Strategies to Prevent Violent Conflict and Rising from the Ashes: Development Strategies in Times of Disaster.


  • Introduction.
  • Today’s Wars and the Pursuit of Justice.
  • The Characteristics of Conflict Areas.
  • Aid’s Impact on Conflict Through Resource Transfers.
  • Aid’s Impact on Conflict Through Implicit Ethical Messages.
  • Framework for Analyzing Aid’s Impact on Conflict.
  • Food for Work: Rebuilding Homes in Tajikistan.
  • Children in Civil War: Programming Toward Peace in Lebanon.
  • Norms of Humanitarian Conduct: Disseminating Inernational Humanitarian Law in Burundi.
  • The Harmony Project: Peace Building Amidst Poverty in India.
  • Village Rehabilitation: Supporting Local Rebuilding in Somalia.
  • Reflecting on the Role of Aid.