Tim Midgley and Michelle Garred, "Bridging the Participation Gap: Developing Macro Level Conflict Analysis through Local Perspectives". World Vision UK, 2012.

Executive summary

Poorly-planned aid can exacerbate the underlying causes of conflict. Equally when well-designed, aid interventions can help to prevent violence by helping to address these drivers of conflict. Conflict analysis is used to identify the main causes of conflict in any given context.This is essential for ensuring that humanitarian and development interventions do not make conflict worse (conflict sensitivity), and where appropriate actively seek to bridge the divides between conflicting groups to build peace (peacebuilding). Effective conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding work requires focused attention to the drivers of conflict at both micro (community) and macro (national or regional) levels, and co-ordinated responses at all levels. Conflict analysis therefore needs to take place at both levels.

Participatory approaches have an important role to play in effective conflict analysis.They help local people come together to identify key challenges that communities face, unlock local knowledge and empower people to find and act upon realistic solutions to address these challenges. Participatory approaches ensure that analysis and action are informed by the experiences and perceptions of all relevant groups, including those who hold power as well as those who do not.

A participation gap exists between micro and macro- level conflict analysis practice. Many non- government organisations and civil society organisations use local level conflict analysis methodologies, often incorporating participatory approaches.they generally do not conduct structured, macro-level analysis. Donors on the other hand, tend to focus more on macro-level analysis, but rarely make use of participatory approaches.This gap is critical; it can undermine conflict sensitivity. Failure to include local perspectives in macro-level analysis can limit the degree to which the analysis captures the multiple drivers and competing narratives of conflict. It can also be difficult to translate analysis into action if ownership is limited to a small group of external experts, most of whom are unlikely to be responsible for implementation of recommendations. Furthermore, 'traditional' analysis focuses primarily on the final product, and does not account for the potential impact of the conflict analysis process itself can have upon the context.this paper will show that participatory approaches can help overcome these limitations.

This paper draws upon over ten years of experience with World Vision’s macro-level, participatory conflict analysis methodology, ‘making Sense of turbulent Contexts’, complemented with lessons from other available methodologies and existing literature.the paper argues that participatory approaches can:

  • Improve the overall quality of conflict analysis by including a broad range of actors in the analysis and shedding new light on ‘standard’ narratives about a conflict.
  • Improve implementation and sustainability of recommendations by ensuring that findings are developed and owned by local people, making recommendations more realistic, sustained and likely to be implemented.
  • Improve inter-agency co-ordination and collective impact by bringing agencies together to develop common understanding of conflict causes and shared action plans.
  • Contribute towards peacebuilding objectives by bringing groups together to help build collaboration across conflict fault-lines and promote inclusion. It can help participants to understand their own roles in a context, empowering them to become active change agents.

Key recommendations for humanitarian and development actors include:

  • All programming in fragile contexts should be informed by macro and micro-level conflict analysis.
  • Participatory approaches should be used to complement traditional methods of macro-level conflict analysis.
  • Macro-level participatory conflict analysis methodologies should be widely available and support provided to ensure sufficient skills and resources are available to ensure that they are used.
  • Agencies should develop joint, collaborative conflict analyses using participatory methodologies.

©2015 World Vision International |