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In the design phase, context analysis is a preliminary analysis which guides successive, more focused assessments (e.g. public policy analysis, stakeholder analysis, capacity assessment). Context analysis permits us to:

  • Take account of national SDG progress, priorities and implementation gaps where available to ensure that actions are aligned with and support partner countries’ implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
  • Assess the sector public policy/reform-making process. Understanding this framework allows interventions to be assessed against the current status of the sector and its compliance with the national and international commitments of the partner country, government or institution.
  • Identify formal and informal actors working on sector development. Such identification will allow us, in a subsequent stage, to select those having an interest in our intervention. At this stage, preliminary direct relations to a number of stakeholders will likely be developed with their precise role clarified in subsequent analysis.
  • Acquire a basic understanding of the sector's technological capacity. Obtaining an overview of this capacity will be useful in better matching intervention design with sector resources (e.g. distance learning that requires connection to the electricity grid).
  • Understand the social and cultural environment. This understanding will aid in developing an appropriate relationship with the partner, i.e. when supporting policy dialogue – which should, however, remain firmly anchored in EU values.
  • Inform (and be informed by) policy dialogue. A sound knowledge of the environment will provide a solid base for communicating with state/non-state actors, facilitating a shared understanding of the process leading to the intervention and of the intervention itself.
  • Understand country specifics. In a fragile and/or conflict situation, this is accomplished by performing context-related analysis (conflict analysis, situational risk analysis, fragility assessment, vulnerability assessment, risk and resilience assessment, post-disaster needs assessment, recovery and peacebuilding assessments).

Context is not only local and external, but also includes other development actors and other components of the EU engagement strategy. Consultation with colleagues, including those from other Commission and EU services, is thus critical.

In line with EU values, it is essential to consider from the very beginning of the context analysis the human rights-based approach and cross-cutting issues – gender equality and women’s empowerment, the environment and climate change, fragility and resilience, conflict sensitive approaches. Starting from EU priorities may orient operational managers, since initial assessment stage, towards certain interventions or specific aid modalities, presenting an higher added value.

Countries in situations of fragility and conflict and/or with structural conflict risks require special attention in order to achieve sustainable development and greater resilience. Any action needs to be analysed through a lens of conflict sensitivity and resilience building to maximise positive impacts and minimise negative ones, thereby ensuring that interventions do no harm.

Methdological fiche(s):

Context analysis – PESTEL

The Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA)

Gender Equality and Non-discrimination: resource page

Country environmental profile and regional environmental profile

Guidance for conflict analysis