Effective Conflict Analysis Exercises: Overcoming Organizational Challenges

S Sardesai, P Wam


Understanding the social and economic factors that affect conflict improves the effectiveness of development strategies and programmes. This paper, published by the World Bank, examines the process of conducting conflict analyses and recommends how they should be organised, applied and disseminated. Creating buy-in for the analysis by country teams, use of local partners and dissemination of analysis findings are key to executing an effective conflict analysis.

In a country affected by conflict, where stakes are high and the situation often fluid, understanding social and economic contexts is critical to effective aid delivery. Development organisations are now making a systematic effort to conduct conflict analyses and integrate findings into their strategies and programmes.

A conflict analysis consists of: 1) the process by which the analysis is planned, organised, conducted and applied; and 2) the content of the analysis, including its thematic focus and scope. This study examined a number of completed analysis processes and recommends ways to strengthen the organisation and application of the exercise.

Key findings of the study are:

  • Most conflict analyses studied arose from need to better understand conflict dynamics and improve the effectiveness of country strategy and programme formation.
  • To acquire knowledge on conflict escalators and de-escalators, the analyses used techniques such as desk research, expert input, workshops, studies and fieldwork.
  • Single-agency analyses were usually conducted when there was a need for quick and confidential analyses for internal use. However, multi-agency analyses were increasingly the norm, leading to shared analysis and improved understanding between participating agencies.
  • Local partners have increasingly been more involved in conflict analysis exercises.
  • Use of analysis findings was weak in some cases due to limited country-team buy-in and lack of follow-up by analysis teams. Analysis dissemination appears limited, due to lack of strategy and resources.
  • Typical organisation and implementation challenges included time and funding constraints, limited capacity, unstable and volatile security climates and political sensitivities encountered in preparation of the analysis.

There are serious organisational challenges that should be addressed to prevent problems during analysis implementation. It is important to:

  • Create buy-in for the analysis by a range of actors;
  • Select an analysis team that includes skills in conflict analysis, local expertise and specific technical fields;
  • Forge a partnership between local and international partners and involve or at least inform the host government of the exercise;
  • Consider the host government’s sensitivities to conflict findings, i.e., focus on factors rather than actors, if feasible;
  • Prepare contingency plans to deal with volatile and fluid environments; and
  • Emphasise the need for dissemination of the analysis as part of a longer-term process of promoting findings and encouraging their inclusion in programs and strategies.

Use of conflict analysis has broader implications beyond a one-time-only approach. In order to apply the conflict perspective into other programme areas, it would be helpful to:

  • Establish conflict analysis exercises as the entry point in conflict-affected countries; make the analysis operationally relevant.
  • Test and mainstream conflict impact assessments for development interventions.
  • Use the conflict lens to strengthen country social analyses. Integrate a systematic conflict perspective into studies such as poverty, participatory assessments and livelihood analyses.


World Bank, 2006, 'Effective Conflict Analysis Exercises: Overcoming Organizational Challenges?', Report No. 36446-GLB, 21 June 2006, The World Bank, Washington DC