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Conflict Analysis

Conflict Analysis and Mapping: the diagnostic tools

Like any effective intervention, PaCSIA’s approach starts with an in-depth analysis. Conflict mapping and analysis provide a bird’s-eye view of the underlying issues, making the invisible visible. But these processes also dig deep, uncovering the hidden dynamics that often fuel conflict. By presenting findings in an illustrative format, stakeholders get a clearer understanding of the problem space, thereby fostering an environment conducive for dialogue and intervention.

There are many methodologies available for conflict mapping, from simple group facilitation tools like the Conflict Tree to complex systems maps of dynamic attractors. What matters to us is who is involved in the conflict mapping. Our work with Interactive Management and Creative Dialogue and Design methods have shown us that the journey is often more important than the map of the report that is produced at the end of a conflict analysis exercise. Conflict analysis and mapping are opportunities for different stakeholders to engage in dialogue and to discuss different experiences and views of a conflict situation. This leads to a much more nuanced and useful understanding of the situation.
We vividly recall a conflict mapping exercise in Bougainville in early 2016. Together with a group of trusted local peacebuilder colleagues we discussed issues of social conflict in the Panguna mine area. Our colleagues quickly honed in on the production and distribution of home brew (illegally produced alcohol from garden fruit that is distilled and sold within the community). They described the social problems created by home brew, including domestic violence, youth crime, health issues, addiction and people disengaging from communal activities such as church or sport. Quickly the group moved towards problem-solving and started discussing that communities should enact by-laws to ban home brew, that the police should seize equipment and gas bottles and that offenders should be fined. We used the well-known Conflict Tree mapping tool to analyse the conflict as a group. When we came to the roots of the conflict and asked why people produced home brew, suddenly a woman leader in our group mentioned that it was often widows who produced home brew. We were surprised and explored this further. The group discussed that widows often had no source of cash income but needed to pay school fees for their children. Producing home brew was a way to ensure access to the cash economy. This discussion was an eye opener for the group as it turned out that there was little malicious intent in the production of home brew by the women and that everyone supported education for the children. Our problem-solving then turned from fines and retributive interventions to ideas for community support for widows and their children and to other ways of dealing with the root causes for why people consumed home brew.
What was far more important than the technical tool used in this exercise was the dialogue that the process of conflict analysis produced that deepened everyone’s understanding of the situation and led to innovative ideas to address a common problem.