Peace and conflict impact assessment

Peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA), first formulated by Kenneth Bush, is a means of anticipating and evaluating the impacts of development projects on structures and processes that (1.) strengthen prospects for peaceful coexistence and decrease the likelihood of violence; and (2.) increase the likelihood that conflict will become violent (Bush 1998). While similar to DNH in its focus of how aid impacts conflict, PCIA differs from DNH in various ways, including (Garred and Goddard 2010):

    • It assesses the risk of how contextual factors could impact on a project in addition to how the project might impact on the context.
    • It places more emphasis on mutual learning, grassroots empowerment and community development.
    • It places more emphasis on indicators.
    • It places less emphasis on the breadth of field-based learning and testing.

There are three key steps to conducting PCIA (see Bush, 2009):

        • Mapping exercise: to better understand the complexity and dynamics of peace and conflict environments and the interests, objectives and actions of stakeholders.
        • Risk and opportunity assessment: to identify the negative and positive ways in which the peace and conflict environment could impact on the initiative.
        • Peace and conflict impact assessment: to identify the ways in which the initiative could create or worsen conflicts or contribute to peacebuilding. This assessment should be engaged in pre-initiative, during the initiative, and post-initiative – contributing to planning, monitoring and evaluation. Hoffman (2003) argues, however, that the phases are poorly linked: factors identified in the pre-project phase are not clearly correlated with areas identified toward the end.

Benefits of PCIA include: two-way assessment, looking not only at how an intervention may affect the context but also how the context can affect an intervention; and an explicit focus on involvement of local actors (although whether this occurs in practice has been questioned – see the Aid for Peace section).

Potential barriers to the operationalisation of PCIA include: political challenges to integrating PCIA findings into programme design and implementation; and nondescript indicators. Much of the debate on PCIA centres on the extent to which indicators and evaluative steps should be specified. Bush emphasises that indicators should be user-driven. Bornstein (2010) finds that such a flexible approach, which can incorporate input of local residents, provides a rich body of information helpful to the development of indicators. Others find, however, that the lack of specificity hinders the ability of actors to effectively operationalise the framework; and that PCIA is more often used post-intervention rather than throughout the project cycle. As such, there is less opportunity to adapt and improve the effectiveness of programming mid-cycle.

Using peace and conflict indicators vs. stated project indicators

PCIA does not evaluate the effectiveness of a development project against its stated objectives, outcomes or outputs, but rather against indicators related to peace and conflict. It is possible for a project to achieve stated criteria but perform poorly according to peacebuilding criteria. Conversely, a project could fail according to stated criteria but succeed in terms of peace and conflict impacts (Bornstein, 2010). An education project, for example, may fail to increase the number of students able to pass state-wide exams, but may succeed in increasing and improving inter-group relationships by creating a safe, neutral environment for interaction and countering stereotypes (Bush, 1998).

Key texts

Bush, K. (1998). A Measure of peace: peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA) of development projects in conflict zones (Working Paper #1). Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.
How can we assess whether a development project fosters peace or increases the likelihood of conflict? This working paper proposes a systematic mechanism, PCIA, to anticipate and assess peace and conflict impacts of development work in violence-prone regions. Five areas of potential impact are identified: institutional capacity to resolve violent conflict and build peace, military and human security, political structures and processes, economic structures and processes, and social reconstruction and empowerment. In each area, possible peace and conflict impacts and sample questions are outlined.
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Bush, K. (2009). Aid for peace: A handbook for applying peace & conflict impact assessment (PCIA) to Peace III projects. INCORE, University of Ulster, and United Nations University
This handbook, prepared for an EC-funded peace programme in Northern Ireland, outlines how to operationalise PCIA. Worksheets are provided for the three steps: 1) mapping, 2) risk and opportunity assessment, and 3) ‘PCIA proper’. Completing the worksheets to produce a paper PCIA is only the first step; integrating its findings into programme design and implementation is a political challenge. Progress depends on getting commitment from decision-makers and building a network of PCIA champions.
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Hoffman, M (2003). PCIA methodology: Evolving art form or practical dead end? In A. Austin, O. Wils, & M. Fischer (Eds.) Peace and conflict impact assessment: Critical views on theory and practice. Berghoff Research Center.
How can PCIA be shaped into a practical tool rather than just a list of general questions? This paper provides an overview of three approaches to PCIA: those that use standard donor evaluation criteria; those that assess the peace and conflict impact of development and humanitarian programming by multi-mandate organisations; and those that focus explicitly on peacebuilding interventions. A key issue is over-emphasising context at the expense of broader lessons. A sector-wide initiative is required to develop workable common indicators for PCIA, along with stronger links between PCIA at policy, country and project levels.
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Case studies

Ahmed, Z. S. (2011). Peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA): Lessons from Pakistan. Peace and Conflict Review, 5(2), 12-27.
How has PCIA been applied in Pakistan? This paper provides a critical analysis of PCIA as adapted by international development agencies in Pakistan. It finds that there is little understanding of PCIA at the grass-roots level and that few agencies work in collaboration with one another. It recommends that agencies develop a common platform to pool resources for PCIA related exercises and that a broad range of stakeholders are consulted and involved in the process.
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Bornstein, L. (2010). Peace and conflict impact assessment (PCIA) in community development: A case study from Mozambique. Evaluation, 16(2), 165-176. doi: 10.1177/1356389009360471
How useful is PCIA in practice? This article presents findings from a study that used PCIA to structure exploratory research on conflict and peace in Mozambique. PCIA functioned well as a tool for situational analysis, richly documenting sources of conflicts, competing claims over resources and rights, and problematic policies on the part of development organisations, government and private actors. Difficulties gathering information stemmed from systemic power differentials between researchers and respondents, and intensive demands on time and resources. The study shows that PCIA, if used flexibly and in dialogue with local people, can yield valuable insights.
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Journal of Peacebuilding and Development. (2014). Special Issue on PCIA, 9(1).
This special edition explores how PCIA is used today, in various sectors, in local and international contexts. Although it is implemented varyingly, commonalities include the need for deep attention to factors and capacities that drive conflict and peace; and for ownership around analysis and priority-setting.
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Additional resources

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. (2007). Peace and conflict impact assessment: methodical guidelines. Bonn and Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
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Peacebuild, website page with list of PCIA resources
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