Linking conflict analysis with practice

The literature widely identifies the challenges of linking analysis and practice – this applies to conflict analyses and also other forms of analysis (e.g. PEA, early warning indicators) (OECD, 2002). CDA Collaborative (2013: 4) note that, as conflict analyses are often disconnected from programme strategies, they do not help with the ‘so what?’ question. This reduces their effectiveness in informing policy and practice. Another weakness is that conflict analyses can identify a long list of important factors, without prioritisation or analysis of the dynamics among the factors (ibid.).

Integrating analysis, evaluation and redesign

DFID used a strategic conflict analysis as the basis for a conflict prevention and peacebuilding evaluation of its programme in Nepal. This ‘Conflict‐sensitive Programme Review’ then fed into a revised country strategy. Among the changes that came about was a greater emphasis on transparency, because it had been shown that this could reduce tensions locally and prevent Maoist interference. The review also highlighted the need for an active ‘equal opportunities’ policy to ensure all social groups were represented among DFID staff. Conflict analysis, strategy and evaluation were integrated.Source: Vaux for OECD and CDA, 2007, in OECD (2008: 25).

Vaux (2015: 7) finds that conflict analyses may produce ‘impractical recommendations’, especially if they are not ‘precise enough’ or if they do not adequately identity the ‘obstacles’. Vaux suggests a follow-up feasibility assessment of the recommendations may be necessary, involving wider stakeholders in the country of analysis.

CDA Collaborative (2013: 4,1) finds ‘no clear link between whether and how a program did conflict analysis and its effectiveness’, and ‘the question of how to do conflict analysis in a way that facilitates effective choices in programming remains’. OECD (2002: 11) finds conflict analyses are ‘underused’ and have ‘yet to exert a major influence on planning and design’. Duffield (2001: 262) notes that ‘most governments and aid agencies lack the organisational structures to allow them to use such information effectively’. While external actors may aspire to work better, there are many political and institutional factors that limit them from achieving this (e.g. funding, pressures to spend budgets, political imperatives, etc.).

The evaluations of DFID’s 2002 Strategic Conflict Assessment have not been published, but they are reviewed in Barakat and Waldman (2013), who note that the analyses were generally commissioned on an ad hoc basis and relied on the country head or conflict adviser’s personal priorities. There was a lack of understanding of when to carry out the analysis and there had been ‘serious underutilisation’ in situations of latent conflict.