Conflict analysis is a staple of practitioner communities – local and international, public and private – working in fragile settings. Humanitarians, in particular, are increasingly discussing their roles in protracted crises that defy the traditional logic of swiftly responding to an acute emergency.
Standard tools such as post-conflict and post-disaster needs assessments continue to be pursued, but with growing recognition of the limited applicability and pertinence of such (laborious) undertakings for making sense of rapidly evolving field dynamics. Overall, the linkages and institutional overlaps between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding practitioners operating in such environments remain poorly captured, as are organisational understandings of what conflict-sensitive programming entails.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pilot ‘action learning initiative’ hosted by the CCDP in 2016 highlighted the inadequacies of standard conflict analyses (including context and stakeholder mappings) for effectively informing operational procedures, decision-making processes, and day-to-day interactions with affected populations and local communities, as well as with staff members, government representatives and partner organisations.
Building on insights from the 2016 initiative, the first phase of the Action Learning for Conflict Analysis (ALCA) project hence aimed at promoting the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus by exploring novel ways of engaging in joint, shared, or at least coordinated analysis and planning among various actors. Specifically, it sought to study existing conflict analysis tools used by OCHA and its partners in settings of protracted crises.
Going beyond standard ‘solutions’ to pre-conceived ‘problems’, the project facilitated a reflection process around back-of-the-envelope analytical tools for field staff. These materials, based on the pedagogical study of how practitioners engage in ‘problem-solving’, ultimately sought to provide a dynamic and variable set of tools in which multiple solutions can be derived to any particular problem that is encountered. In accordance with the overarching goal of the project, succinct materials for action learning were developed.
Field missions to OCHA country offices in Colombia (November 2017), the Philippines (June 2019) and Mali (November 2019) were conducted , which confirmed many of the impressions gathered by the CCDP team during its observations of the 2016 training initiative. The key takeaways from the country analyses were presented in a Validation Workshop in January 2020, attended by key figures from OCHA and Geneva’s diplomatic community, including representatives from the Swiss, Swedish and UK Missions to the UN in Geneva.
These takeaways and the outcome of the Validation Workshop fed into a comparative study and the development of an action learning workshop that was piloted in Geneva March 2020. The 24 OCHA attendees undertook a preparatory assignment before attending the workshop.
This project enjoys the support of the UK Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and benefits from grants offered by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). A new project phase, “Action Learning for Conflict Analysis (ALCA): Promoting System-Wide Analytical Capabilities across the Triple Nexus”, started in June 2021.
Masayo Kondo Rossier - Civil-Military Coordination Service, Response Support Branch, Coordination Division, OCHA Geneva
Koenraad van Brabant - Independent Consultant in Geneva and CCDP Research Associate