Quo Vadis Conflict Analysis – Part I

Quo Vadis Conflict Analysis?

The first step to understand a situation, a dispute or a conflict is to conduct thorough conflict analysis. This exercise helps us to get a better picture or to apply a range of lenses in order to establish a composite of what is taking place.
As such, there are a range of conflict analysis tools, provided by international organizations, donors, expert institutions and for a broad range of conflicts.
Oftentimes, they have been designed with a specific audience in mind: typically, these are the users of an intervention structure or mechanism, such as UNDP, the Worldbank, UN FAO, SIDA, to name a few. These tools inform the users, to give them a better appreciation of the situation and to start designing interventions, to coordinate better and to keep the beneficiaries of the intervention involved and engaged. As such, it is an open ended activity since conflict is an ever evolving system, as the old adage says.

At this point is where I believe that we need to start having a better appreciation of the tool itself and how it gets translated into effective interventions and conflict resolution. With that being said, I would like to focus on two important factors: the role and function of the users and the purpose of doing analysis.

Since we know that users apply a specific understanding and approach to conflict, their interventions will be driven based on the results of their respective conflict analysis. However, it can also be said that users may have to re-evaluate their approach to conflict analysis to allow them to reframe their perspective and approach to finding a solution to a situation. This reasoning is less theoretical than a more pragmatic approach to the way on how misguided interventions have generally not paved the way to anything more than mere management of conflict and, to lesser extent, conflict resolution. My argument goes to a more descriptive approach and frame of conflict analysis than a prescriptive one. While policy responses are the normal daily business of interventionists, a descriptive angle would allow for more audience and conflict parties focused interventions, ie observing not diagnosing is the new proposed approach. The angle is to get a better grasp and appreciation of parties’ aspirations, expectations, positions and needs. Putting the party into the focus of the intervention allows for empowerment, equity and parity, equalizing power disparities and, actually, peace.

Let me attempt to develop the argument further in the next part.

to be continued…

Courts Can’t End Civil Wars

The conflict in South Sudan is only the latest instance where extreme violence has erupted after a breakdown of political order. But rather than prioritizing political reform, the international community tends to focus on criminalizing the perpetrators of violence….: Courts Can’t End Civil Wars – NYTimes.com. by Thabo Mbeki and Mahmood Mamdani