I have spent the last several weeks going over the foundations of conflict assessment. I have explored the players, their interests and intentions, and impediments to resolution. All of these are part of the structure that builds a conflict analysis, but putting these together to build a useful tool requires some knowledge and a bit of skill.
One of the basic requirements of a conflict assessment is a reason why. In the literature this will likely be described as a mandate. The mandate provides the preliminary information that will help you get the conflict assessment started. What is important is that the mandate is clear; that is, you know what you are expected to accomplish. The mandate should detail the goals and agenda of the assessment, a listing of stakeholder representatives, and a detailing of the phases and timeframes for the assessment.
Where the mandate comes from is also important. If you are an outsider to the conflict, your mandate could come from some party or parties involved in the conflict. It is also possible that you could be a party to the conflict and your mandate comes from within the parties to the conflict; if this is the case than you must exercise extreme caution to guarantee that other parties cannot accuse you of bias.
After the mandate comes information gathering. Information gathering is the process of collecting the facts on the players, their interests and intentions, and the impediments to conflict resolution. In addition to this information, artifacts and materials that are germane to the conflict can be gathered as well.
Analysis involves turning these gathered facts into something useful. This can include mapping of the parties to the conflict, or zeroing in on important issues. This initial analysis is the basis for the conflict assessment report.
The purpose of a conflict assessment is to provide a shared body of knowledge to the parties to the conflict. Typically, this is going to come in the form of a report or presentation, but regardless of form it should provide utility to its end users. This report will detail a number of issues:
- Listing and description of the stakeholders
- Listing and description of the interests of those stakeholder
- Structural issues contributing to the conflict
- Listing and description of the known impediments
- Listing and description of stakeholder conditions for resolution of conflict
- Listing of authorized stakeholder representatives
The report will go through a number of iterations based on repeated distribution, feedback, and revision. At the end you want to provide a tool that can be used to facilitate a negotiation between all conflicting parties. The downside is that sometimes you end up with a document that provides proof that negotiation is not possible. Either way, the conflict assessment will be useful in explaining what can be done, or not, in a given conflict.