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What is it?

Conflict analysis is a structured analytical process which offers insights into the risks for violent conflict in a specific area, country or region; the root causes of conflict or instability and possible triggers; key stakeholder mapping regarding conflict and violence as well as actors for peace and resilience; conflict-sensitivity issues related to development or other EU engagement; and opportunities for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
Conflict analysis is intended to inform the interventions of all EU actors, in the spirit of the EU Integrated Approach to Conflict and Crises and the 2017 Joint Communication on Resilience. As such, it should be a shared, joint analysis among all EU services aimed at supporting the work of the EU Delegations.

This Guidance should be used in strict correlation with the EU staff handbook on operating in situations of conflict and fragility.

What can it be used for?

The EU undertakes joint conflict analysis among EU actors and other partners (if appropriate) in order to:

  • shape EU conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution efforts
  • ensure effective and conflict-sensitive engagement in countries at risk of violent conflict
  • strengthen coherence and coordination in line with an integrated approach to conflict and crises
  • inform related analytical processes and policy or programming decisions, as well as political decisions
  • inform conflict sensitivity in all interventions, regardless of sector, type or objective, including peacebuilding engagements
When can it be used?

Ideally, conflict analysis should be used at the beginning of the programming and/or design phase to shape conflict-sensitive external action and development programming. It can also be used at different phases of the intervention cycle to meet various objectives or reflect contextual changes.
An EU-led conflict analysis is often useful in informing parallel analytical exercises, policy processes and programme design, implementation and monitoring. For example, conflict analysis is a logical follow-on to the selection and prioritisation of a country for the EU conflict Early Warning System, enabling a 'deeper dive' into the conflict dynamics of a country deemed at risk.
Conflict analysis may usefully inform different phases of development programming, CSDP (Common Defense and Security Policy) missions planning and strategic review processes; or lay the foundation for integration of conflict sensitivity into the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus and resilience analysis. Conflict analysis should be done in conjunction with gender analysis or with a strong gender-sensitive perspective.
Conflict analysis has also served as the basis for joint programming – especially in fragile countries – and can be useful in defining EU human rights and democracy country strategies; civil society roadmaps; support for human rights defenders; transitional justice processes; engagement on women, peace and security issues, conflicts related to natural resources and land, and so on.

Who can use it?
  • All EU services ( INTPA, NEAR, FPI, EEAS, ECHO) at the headquarters and delegation levels
What are its strengths?
  • Allows for a great degree of flexibility, enabling the analysis to be adjusted to the specific purposes, needs and resources available.
  • Can open spaces for dialogue and policy coherence, generally through its support by an in-country workshop (in situations where it is safe to do so and in order to ensure EU Delegation participation).
  • Can help ensure that an intervention's logic and related theory of change are conflict sensitive.
  • Can help ensure greater gender and conflict sensitivity so as to limit adverse impacts on women, children, youth, indigenous peoples and other communities in vulnerable or marginalised situations.
What are its limitations?
  • Relatively resource intensive, especially in terms of its preparation and coordination. This impact can be mitigated by drawing on available methodological and logistical support from a INTPA Unit (B2 – Fragility and Resilience) and external experts as appropriate.
  • The EU Delegation needs to take the lead in determining the degree and appropriateness of in-country involvement in the analysis by EU Member States, other international donors and civil society.
  • Requires commitment and senior management buy-in on the part of all EU participating actors to ensure follow-up and monitoring of implementation of key recommendations and priorities for action.
  • Needs regular updating.


Key elements

While the methodology for conflict analysis is highly flexible and can be complemented by specific conflict-sensitivity assessments, it generally addresses the following.

  • causes/drivers of conflict, including the structural causes of the conflict which are resistant to immediate change, triggers which may tip a high-risk situation over the threshold towards violence, and patterns of resilience or local capacities for peace which allow high-risk areas to withstand the risk of violence;
  • stakeholder mapping, including parties to the conflict, people affected by the conflict and those with interests and stakes in the conflict;
  • scenarios of possible future trajectories, including worst case and best case in terms of conflict scope or impact, indicating the likelihood of each scenario;
  • ongoing engagements, including a mapping of past and present prevention, peacebuilding and stabilisation activities by the EU and other international organisations, civil society, or national and local authorities;
  • actionable recommendations for the EU to undertake alone or in partnership, including both short- and long-term responses and recommendations to ensure conflict-sensitive engagement, conflict prevention measures and peacebuilding;
  • implementation and monitoring, including roles and responsibilities, which should be discussed during a workshop and given adequate follow-up afterwards;

The conflict analysis should inform programming as appropriate. Its outputs generally include a desk-based literature review; a report from the in-country workshop(s); reports from relevant in-country meetings (with civil society organisations, other international partners, etc.); and a final report documenting workshop discussions and recommendations for conflict-sensitive and conflict-preventative actions.


Data/information. The tool relies on a broad mix of data and information gathered from a literature review (of EU internal documents, government and non-governmental/international non-governmental organisation reports and assessments, academic studies, reports from key peacebuilding organisations, etc.).

Time. The time frame is closely linked to the objectives, scope and context of the conflict analysis, and the terms of reference. A conflict analysis is a flexible tool that can be adapted to a sector, region or thematic approach. In a crisis setting, it may take longer to conduct because of safety and security concerns, or may need to be adapted, in terms of data collection/literature review.

Skills. The analysis is normally conducted through a facilitated discussion involving all EU staff from all services ( INTPA, NEAR, ECHO, FPI. EEAS – Headquarters and Delegation) with various degrees of thematic and geographical knowledge. External experts may have added value and can provide support throughout the process or during specific steps (e.g. literature review, facilitation, report writing). In addition, INTPA G5 - Resilience, Peace and Security  can provide overall guidance for the process, in coordination with EEAS.

Facilities and materials. Coordination between different EU actors and Delegations is essential – e.g. in organising the inter-service mission and/or workshops in Brussels, selecting and hiring expert(s), and selecting venues for workshop(s).

Financial costs and sources. Costs may vary depending on the context and scope of the analysis. Budget considerations should include the costs of hiring one or more experts, staff time (and mission budget) to participate in workshop(s) and validate reports, and for other potential logistics (workshop venue), etc.

DEVCO, EEAS-FPI and/or the EU Delegation might need to share responsibilities for these costs, possibly through their own facilities which allow for selecting and hiring experts with a combined thematic and geographic expertise (knowledge of conflict analysis, conflict sensitivity and knowledge of the country).

Tips and tricks

  • Conflict analysis can be conducted in any context and can be particularly useful in crisis settings.
  • Its joint nature promotes ownership of the process by participants and especially by EU Delegations.
  • Multi-sectoral expertise at the EU level and by other partners can be engaged where feasible and appropriate.
  • Consider the comparative advantages of the conflict analysis and the opportunity to support other intervention(s) with multiplier effects (programme design, joint programming, Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus, risk management, mid-term reviews, creation of new focal sectors, follow-up to EU conflict Early Warning System, etc.).
  • In timing the conduct of the analysis, note that stakeholders might be more receptive to resilience building in a post-crisis context or when designing new programming cycles.
  • Consider the potential for new funding or the best use of existing funding tied to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the setting up of new focal or thematic sectors for programming, etc.


Where to find it

European Union External Action, 2020. 2020 Guidance note on the use of Conflict Analysis in support of EU external action

Complementary guides, methodologies and tools