Learning from conflict analysis in practice - an example from Burkina Faso and Niger

At the event “Conflict Briefing on Burkina Faso and Niger” in the Network for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Oxfam IBIS presented the outcomes of a participatory conflict analysi

By Anne Kristine Raunkiær-Jensen, RIKO, on behalf of the Network for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding.

At the event “Conflict Briefing on Burkina Faso and Niger” in the Network for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Oxfam IBIS presented the outcomes of a participatory conflict analysis conducted with their partners in Burkina Faso and Niger. Conducting joint conflict analysis with country-partners is an integral part of Oxfam IBIS’ peacebuilding portfolio and essential to integrate peacebuilding into programming and advocacy at country-level. The conflict analysis exercise gathered local partners and stakeholders from Burkina Faso and Niger to jointly map the most prevalent conflict at a country level and at a regional level, respectively. Quite surprisingly both country groups pointed to the same type of domestic conflict between farmers and herders while the biggest regional conflict factor was identified as the rise and spread of violent extremism. Already at this point we can infer some crucial lessons learned.

We must give ownership to local stakeholders An implicit assumption that too often underlies the work of NGOs is that only large-scale violent conflicts merits consideration in program planning. But conflict does not only become relevant to us once it morphs into full-blown war. While we may not give much thought to a less newsworthy strife between farmers and herders in Burkina Faso or Niger, as shows, this may be the most critical conflict affecting the lives of the population of those countries and thereby also our programming. This in turn confirms to us the absolute importance of conducting conflict analysis together with local partners and stakeholders who possess invaluable knowledge of the context that we must navigate in.

The challenges of establishing inclusive processes  The unforeseen choice of farmer-herder conflict meant that societal actors who could have been relevant to include in the exercise such as farmers’ groups or herders’ groups were not present at the conflict analysis workshops. Participatory approaches are important also in designing and organizing conflict analysis workshops. Yet, it might be difficult for NGOs organizing such workshops to ensure inclusivity in the process from the very beginning, as it requires local knowledge. That said, the process does not end with those workshops, rather the stakeholders included in the dialogue can be continuously expanded.

Bringing people together and initiating dialogue Conducting the conflict analysis workshops locally did not only provide Oxfam IBIS with a more nuanced understanding of the contexts they work in, but also had a valuable effect by bringing different stakeholders together to define and discuss the conflicts affecting them and their communities. Thereby the workshops initiated an important dialogue between societal stakeholders who would otherwise not have come together to analyze and discuss shared challenges and solutions.  

Remembering that similar conflicts manifest in different ways across contexts Despite sharing the challenge of dealing with the same type of conflict a remarkable difference emerged when reflecting on ways forward in managing and resolving this conflict. In one of the country contexts there was doubts about how to involve traditional leaders and religious leaders. They are often considered legitimate actors in communities by most constituencies. This was also the case in one of the countries. But in the other country, traditional and religious leaders were often entangled in politics and local economic structures. This raised the question of how to place them as stakeholders and whether or not they can act as mediators in this case - as they are often hailed to be. This serves to underline the importance of considering the local context and not assuming that generic best practices always apply.

The terminology we use matters Another discussion from the local workshops which recurred at the presentation in Denmark was the use of concepts such as ‘violent extremism’ and ‘radicalization’. Such terms may be commonly used by multilateral institutions and donors and thus adopted by NGOs, CSOs etc. but they continue to disguise much ambiguity. There are varying definitions of these phenomena and research and evidence on them remains scarce. Such reflections on the terminology we use, how we understand different concepts and what the application of those concepts actually means for our programming is an important element in conflict analysis. These lessons learned illustrate that we must continue to use joint conflict analysis with a point of departure in the local context, and to collect and learn from the insights that the processes generate.  Join us for the next network meeting where Oxfam IBIS will provide a briefing on ensuring local perspectives in South Sudan. This meeting takes place December 14th. See here for further details. Also consider applying for capacity training support to work more on conflict sensitivity and conflict analysis in your organisation. More information on the Network and upcoming activities can be found here: http://www.globaltfokus.dk/om-os/arbejdsgrupper/netvaerk-for-konfliktforebyggelse-og-fred