Conflict Analysis: Best Practices Identified by the OECD

What's in this Post?

  • Common Weaknesses of Conflict Analyses
  • Checklist for Reviewing a Conflict Analysis
  • Key Questions for Conflict Analysis

Common Weaknesses of Conflict Analyses

Experience shows a number of recurrent challenges to the production and use of conflict analysis.

Partial analysis. Due to time or resources constraints, it is often tempting to limit the focus of the analysis to a donor’s particular programme or strategy and how it might fit the context. Such an approach can lead practitioners to miss important aspects of the context or to develop misguided or irrelevant programmes.

Many people carry out context analysis, believing it to be conflict analysis. A context analysis seeks a broad understanding of the entire political, economic and social scene. A conflict analysis is more narrowly focused on the specific elements of that broader picture that may cause, trigger, or propel incompatible interests or violence. Conflict analysis focuses on those political, economic, social, historical and other factors that directly influence the shape and dynamics of the situation of conflict and fragility.

Analysis is not updated. Analyses are performed only at the front end of a programme. There are seldom efforts at ongoing in-depth analysis or monitoring and adjusting over time.

Programming is not linked to analysis. Even when practitioners do perform an analysis, they often fail to link their programme strategy to it or adjust activities and strategies to changing dynamics over time.

Many implementing agencies and staff work on the basis of an implicit analysis, often based on their own experience. Some programmes—frequently effective ones—are grounded in an informal analysis that draws on the long experience of local people or long-time observers of a conflict. These analyses can be quite sophisticated and may be constantly updated as individuals move about and talk with many different people. However, when analysis is done this way, different members of the same project team or organization sometimes operate on the basis of quite different understandings of the situation and their programme’s role in it. This undermines the development of coherent strategies, weakens sustainability (when staff leave, so does their analysis) and significant assumptions often remain undiscussed and untested. Therefore, efforts to make the implicit analysis more explicit and to share observations are usually valuable.

Note: This post is taken verbatim from the OECD-DAC’s Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fra..., page 28, box 1.4.

Check out some of these resources to improve your conflict analyses:

Conflict Sensitive approaches to development, humanitarian assistan... by Saferworld

Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment Tip Sheet by SDC

Conflict Analysis Tools by SDC

Manual for Conflict Analysis by SIDA

Checklist for Reviewing a Conflict Analysis

If a conflict analysis has been carried out as part of developing a donor's strategic engagement or programme design, the team will need to review the analysis and assess its quality and relevance at the outset of the programme and how it was adapted (or not) over time. In this process, the evaluation team should pose the following questions:

     1. Given the resources and capacities of the agency or organisation being evaluated, was the appropriate conflict analysis approach or tool chosen to guide the design and implementation of the programme(s) or policy(ies)? Did the analysis generate adequate information for determining the relevance of the intervention to the needs of the peacebuilding process; to the effectiveness of the programme designs and implementation; and to an assessment of the appropriateness of the theory of change?

     2. Was the analysis kept up-to-date from the time the programme or policy was designed through the period of time under evaluation? Does it capture the evolution of the conflict in a way that can be used to look at relevance and longer term impacts? (If not, the evaluation team may need to update the analysis.)

     3. Was the process of conflict analysis appropriate and effective?

  • Was the analysis conducted by skilled people with an understanding of the conflict?
  • Did the analysis gather information from a wide range of sources? Did it include perspectives from all the main stakeholders in the conflict?
  • Was the analysis conducted in a conflict-sensitive manner? For example, did it ask questions in a way that avoided exacerbating divisions? If the analysis was conducted by convening stakeholder workshops, did the facilitators possess, or lack, sufficient skills to engage conflicting parties in productive discussion? Did the analysis process put researchers (and local partners) at risk by sending them to insecure areas? Did it put interviewees at risk by exposing them to retaliation?

     4. Was the analysis done at the appropriate level? For example, if a programme was to be initiated at the provincial level, was a national analysis supplemented by an analysis of conflict dynamics within the province?

     5. Were the conclusions reasonable? Were critical elements missing from the analysis? To what degree was the analysis shaped by the expertise of the agency or their general beliefs about how to bring about positive change?

     6. Was the analysis linked to strategy? Did it actually inform implementation and activities?

Note: This post was taken verbatim from the OECD-DAC’s Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fra..., page 44, box 3.3. 

And check out the following related resources!

Criteria for Assessing the Evaluability of a Theory of Change by Rick Davies

Theory of Change Assessment: A Cheat Sheet by Ehren Reed 

Manual for Conflict Analysis by SIDA (particularly good for understanding different levels in conflict analysis)

Some Key Questions for Conflict Analysis

Profile

  • What is the political, economic, and socio-cultural context?
  • What are the emergent political, economic and social issues?
  • Are there important regional/international dynamics?
  • What are the geographic dimensions? What areas that are prone to conflict and fragility, or affected by them, can be situated within the context?
  • Is there a history of conflict?

Conflict causes and potentials for peace

  • What are the structural causes of conflict and fragility?
  • What issues can be considered as proximate or dynamic causes of conflict and fragility?
  • What triggers could contribute to the outbreak or further escalation of violence?
  • What are the strategies or habits for dealing with conflict that contribute to violence?
  • What new or emerging factors contribute to prolonging conflict and fragility dynamics? Have original causes shifted due to events during war and mass violence?
  • What factors can contribute to peace and stability? What existing factors bring people together and can be built upon or reinforced?
  • What are the most important drivers of conflict and peace? Which factors have the greatest influence on the situation?

Actors

  • Who are the main actors (people who perpetuate or mitigate the situation of conflict and fragility)? How do they contribute to or mitigate conflict?
  • What are their interests, goals, positions, capacities and relationships?
  • What capacities for peace and stability can be identified? Who can make a difference?
  • What actors can be identified as ‘spoilers’ (those who benefit from ongoing violence or who resists movement towards peace and stability)? Why? Are they inadvertent or intentional spoilers?

Dynamics and future trends

  • What are the relationships and dynamics among key drivers of conflict and peace?
  • What are the current conflict and fragility trends? What are the negative reinforcing cycles?
  • What are the windows of opportunity?
  • What scenarios can be developed from the analysis of the conflict and fragility profile, drivers and actors?
  • How might different scenarios play out given likely future developments (in the short and long run)?

Note: This post was taken verbatim from the OECD-DAC’s Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fra..., page 45, box 3.1.

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Tags: analysis, conflict, context, design, evaluation, oecd, peacebuilding, transformation

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