Practical Learning for international action.


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CDA is an action research and advisory organization that bridges the gap between theory and practice to improve the effectiveness of peacebuilding, development, and humanitarian organizations, and responsible businesses working in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. By strengthening the work of our partners, CDA contributes to positive, systematic, and lasting change for people and communities.  CDA applies a unique collaborative approach to learning that prioritizes local perspectives, rigorous analysis, and evidence-based methodologies to produce practical guidance for policymakers and practitioners alike.

Almost twenty years ago CDA articulated the principle of Do No Harm and developed a framework for analyzing the unintended impacts of aid on conflict, both negative and positive.  Do No Harm has been widely endorsed and adopted in the policies and practices of aid agencies, donors, and select corporations globally, and has made aid programs and business operations more effective and accountable to local populations.

For over twenty-five years CDA’s work has been driven by the same two fundamental beliefs:

  • The perspectives and capacities of people affected by conflict are essential to constructive engagements in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
  • Context matters. Effectiveness depends on a deep understanding of, and adaptation to, complex local dynamics.


CDA’s trusted expertise on effective engagement in complex situations is more relevant today than ever. Addressing the cascade of crises, from Syria and South Sudan, to Yemen and Myanmar, along with increased global fragility and rapidly evolving forms of political violence, requires the context-specific analysis and practical tools CDA has honed over two decades.   This is particularly true in the face of increasingly precarious donor support for international engagement.

The deadly, unintended consequences of efforts to counter violent extremism highlight the critical need for a more sophisticated understanding of local contexts and key conflict drivers, and more broadly rethinking the fundamentals of international engagements in fragile and conflict-affected states. Our work is, and always has been, grounded in a local and systemic understanding of fragile and conflict-affected contexts, based on evidence and context specific theories of change.


Our Next Chapter: Please see the March 2019 Newsletter for the latest updates on CDA’s re-envisioning efforts.

March 14 – Adding Up to Peace Book Launch: CDA is pleased to host Diana Chigas and Peter Woodrow for a public discussion of their book Adding Up to Peace. The event will be held Thursday, March 14, 2019 from 12:00 – 1:30 pm at the Roger Fisher House, 9 Waterhouse Street Cambridge, MA. This book examines, how multiple peace efforts in the same conflict zone have cumulative impacts, and how they “add up”—or don’t add up—to producing significant progress towards larger societal-level peace. The findings are a product of sixteen case studies conducted between 2007 and 2012, gathering the perceptions of both local and international stakeholders. This event is open to the public. Please RSVP here.

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Supporting Partners

Global Affairs Canada


Total SA


Carnegie Corporation of New York


Norwegian MFA


World Vision UK




Humanity United


Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs


US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)




Paung Sie Facility


International Rescue Committee