Untangling Early Recovery

Briefing papers
October 2009
Sarah Bailey and Sara Pavanello

How to lay the foundations for recovery in conflict and transitional settings is a problem that has long vexed the international community. The concept of ‘early recovery’ has generated attention in policy circles as a potential way of fostering recovery from an early stage, with governments and aid agencies examining how it might fit into their current ways of responding to conflict. Nonetheless, there is a good deal of confusion about what early recovery is, and how it differs from other approaches like humanitarian and development assistance, peace-building, state-building and stabilisation.

This HPG Policy Brief provides an overview of early recovery that will inform up-coming HPG research on early recovery, stabilisation and transitions. It argues that:

• ‘Early recovery’ has functioned as a way to classify and conceive of a broad range of activities and strategies which seek to promote recovery in humanitarian and transitional settings. However, the added value of early recovery has yet to be consistently demonstrated.

• Attention to early recovery is part of a drive to better organise international responses to foster recovery from conflict. Policy-makers should understand the opportunities and tensions presented by different approaches, including humanitarian assistance, development, and stabilisation, peace-building and state-building.

• Policy-makers and practitioners must be specific in portraying problems and proposed solutions; early recovery has served as a catch-all term for very different issues related to recovery.

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