Our Theory of Change

Through research, capacity development, and advocacy, the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre raises awareness and knowledge about international humanitarian law (IHL) to create lasting behaviour change.

In the last decade, the world has seen a trend of increasing disrespect for international humanitarian law. Attacks against civilians and civilian objects, against humanitarian and health workers, and violations of the rights of people in detention have become widespread in a multitude of armed conflicts.

Since the behaviour of armed actors has a direct impact on the level of humanity in conflict, the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre works with these actors to ensure their behaviour is in conformity with their legal obligations.

We work with humanitarian organisations, governments and state armed forces, armed groups, civil society, legal professionals, and other actors around the world to increase the knowledge about the laws of war, and put pressure on those who do not adhere to international law.

The theory

  • We believe that to promote humanity in conflict, the behaviour of armed actors as the primary duty bearers must align and be in conformity with international humanitarian law. It is their conduct which directly impacts the level of humanity experienced by the rights-holders and which is visible to the population.
  • We acknowledge that change towards the respect of IHL, will always differ across context, each of which will present its own unique challenges and opportunities.
  • We assume that armed actors do not operate in isolation, and therefore their behaviour can be influenced in a positive manner through internal and external pressure even during a time of crisis.
  • We assume that pressure can be generated by enhancing knowledge, leading to mobilisation and collective action. For example, internal pressure could be generated from within an armed group by exposing key members to the specific nature of IHL principles. External pressure can lead to collective action such as through protests, resulting in blacklisting of certain groups or individuals whose conduct is exposed.
  • Such pressure is then assumed to shift the cost-benefit analysis, contributing to an environment in which decisions to (continue to) engage in behaviour not aligned with international standards is no longer tenable both in general and/or in relation to specific practices and as a result, positive behaviour change takes place. In this moment we see behaviour adapt and change against the backdrop of, as a minimum, short to medium -term transformations of structures and social norms.

    Our role

    • Inspired by Diakonia’s approach to how we see change occurring and our role, we build our programmatic interventions upon three notions of knowledge building, facilitating collective action and changing social norms and structures transforming.
    • We translate/interpret these concepts into our work by developing three pillars to our programme intervention, each of which is underpinned by increasing knowledge in order to facilitate some collective action and transformation.
    • Whilst these pillars are common to all Desks, the application of each pillar is shaped the context, which each Desks assess to identify and apply the most relevant strategic and tactical choices. We assume that we are able to adapt and respond to relevant foreseen and unforeseen contextual changes.
    • Therefore, the application of these choices, assuming our understanding of how change occurs is correct, should then lead to direct and indirect pressure being placed upon armed actors, who then in turn change their behaviour more in line with IHL, which ultimately results in more humanity in conflict broadly or in relation to specific protection issues.