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Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

Chapter 15.4 DRR, social crisis and conflict

Situation analysis

Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

The key to good practice is good context or risk analysis that enables organisations and groups to plan for and manage different types of disaster, ensuring that they are aware of how conflict or instability may affect their projects, as well as the potential impact of those projects on conflict and instability. However, development and DRR agencies often lack good situational knowledge of this kind, leading to interventions that are not sufficiently conflict-sensitive.

When carrying out an analysis of context and risk, it is important to break down the distinction between conflict and natural hazards. Agencies need to know about the nature of threats of all kinds faced by individuals, households and communities, and understand how conflict affects these threats. They also need to be clear about how insecurity will affect their own ability to carry out DRR initiatives, and its impact on project outcomes. In considering factors that cause or worsen insecurity, they may need to define risk thresholds and adapt their project objectives and ways of working if those thresholds are exceeded.

There are a number of tools for assessing conflict and its implications for development programming at national and local levels.+See Saferworld et al., Conflict-sensitive Approaches to Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Peace-building: A Resource Pack (London: APFO, CECORE, CHA, FEWER, International Alert and Saferworld, 2004),; Conflict Sensitivity Consortium, How To Guide to Conflict Sensitivity, 2012, These are used to analyse the conflict itself (the background situation, causes, actors, dynamics, etc.), develop scenarios of how the conflict will develop in future, map and analyse existing responses (including development and peace-building interventions) and develop new initiatives. Repeated assessments during the project cycle will be required in most cases, since situations rarely remain stable for long: crises may flare up and die down repeatedly, and under conditions of severe stress additional pressures can generate crises rapidly – see, for example, the outbreaks of rioting in several low-income countries triggered by global fuel and food price increases in 2007–2008.

Vulnerability and capacity assessments (VCAs) can be extended or adapted to include conflict sensitivity: for example, ActionAid’s Participatory Vulnerability Assessment tool (see Box 3.3) has been adapted in this way.+How To Guide to Conflict Sensitivity. VCAs ought anyway to identify the full range of threats facing societies and the root causes of vulnerability, including underlying patterns of discrimination and unequal power relations (see Chapter 5). Analysis of governance issues, political dimensions, power dynamics and the immediate causes of a crisis can be added to this.

Existing data-gathering, analysis and presentation tools may be sufficient, provided that those who use them have sufficient awareness of all the relevant issues and questions. Assessment approaches for vulnerability and DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict often employ similar or even identical participatory methods and tools, offering the possibility of more coherent analysis to cover these different issues. Participatory approaches can give insights into how and why conflict arises, as well as promoting dialogue and collaboration between different groups, which can contribute towards peace-building; if carried out correctly, they can give a voice to people who are normally powerless. A more formal political economy analysis might sometimes be appropriate: this type of analysis focuses on power relationships, the distribution of power and contests over power between individuals, communities and organised groups, and how these affect the outcomes of development initiatives.+For more information, see C. McLoughlin, Topic Guide on Political Economy Analysis (Birmingham: University of Birmingham, 2012),

Early warning systems for natural hazard and conflict threats are usually quite separate, although some conflict early warning systems include environmental and food security indicators that are recognised as potential causes of social tension.
+Examples include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Early Warning and Response Network and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Conflict, Early Warning and Response Network (CEWARN) for the Horn of Africa. Community-based systems have proved effective,+J. Leaning and P. Meier, Community-based Conflict Early Warning and Response, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 2008, and there is scope for combining environmental, hazard and conflict indicators in local-level forecasting and warning systems.