Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment - PCIA - Principles and General Procedures

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Stages of PCIA

There are a number of different steps and processes suggested by various sources, depending on the specific purpose a PCIA is designed to serve. The following four stages are common to most PCIA processes. The four key stages of PCIA are:

  1. Introduction and sensitisation to PCIA: Clarify the purpose of the conflict impact assessment, what needs to be monitored, handling of information, participants and follow-up.
  2. Conflict analysis and conflict relevance assessment: Collect, structure and systemise information available about the conflict; preliminarily assess the relevance of different kinds of interventions on the conflict.
  3. Project organisation and impact analysis: Assess conflict related risks and the impact of the project on the conflict.
  4. Evaluation and adaptation: Examine whether specific actions should be taken, or whether the program should be re-designed.

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Stage 1: Introduction and Sensitisation to PCIA.

Clarify purpose: A PCIA is best understood as an on-project learning and steering instrument, which is best carried out by the project team. If carried out as an external assessment, involvement of the project team and gaining their support is a must. Some members of the team carrying out the assessment should be familiar with the conflict, with the project, and with PCIA methodology.

Ownership of information: The project team should also clarify, at an early stage, how the results should and can be dealt with.

Role of the project in conflict: The expectations of people taking part in the assessment should be clarified. The project has to develop a common understanding of the role that it is meant to play in the conflict. There must be a readiness to draw the appropriate conclusions if problematic project impacts become evident. Therefore it should be discussed what can realistically be achieved within the given time frame, resources, capacity, political mandate, etc.

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Stage 2: Conflict Analysis and Conflict Relevance Assessment

PCIA is only effective when based on sound conflict analysis. Conflict analysis studies its structures, actors and dynamics.

Step 1: Structural Analysis:

  • Define conflict for the purpose of the analysis.
  • Compile a broad contextual analysis.
  • Weigh - in terms of relative importance – sources of tension and conflict.
  • Identify connections and linkages between sources of conflict.
  • Develop an initial decision on what are the key sources of conflict.

Step 2: Actor Analysis:

  • Map out conflict actors.
  • Analyse the interests, relations, capacities, peace agendas, and incentives of each actor.

Step 3: Analysis of Conflict Dynamics:

  • Analyse longer term trends.
  • Assess the likely shorter term triggers.
  • Assess which factors are likely to accelerate or slow down conflict dynamics.
  • Think through a range of potential future conflict scenarios.
Apart from describing the conflict, it is necessary to preliminarily assess the relevance that components of the intervention have for the conflict. The objective of a conflict relevance assessment is to judge whether the overall direction of an intervention (Objectives, main activity lines, project area, etc.) has an influence on the critical factors identified in the conflict analysis.

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Stage 3: Project Organisation and Impact Analysis.

Project or organisation appraisal involves establishing a connection between one’s own organisation and its social and political setting. The way in which a development organisation presents itself in the field, the partner(s) it co-operates with, which target groups it supports, and how staff members are recruited - all of these are political statements.

The organisation must therefore regularly examine itself or be examined with regard to:

  • Objectives: What does the project hope to achieve? Are all parties to the conflict involved in the design and planning of the project? How are clashes of interests dealt with?
  • Partner structure: What is the role of the partner in the conflict? In most cases the government is also a party to the conflict.
  • Target groups: Who is benefiting and who is excluded from the project? Selecting target groups often leads to the provision of onesided support to certain social groups. Who wins and who looses?
  • Resource flows: Are decisions about resource flows transparent and inclusive? Developmental co-operation brings resources, services, technical and organisational capacity into a country or a region. Developmental organisations therefore constantly have to take decisions on how these inputs are to be distributed. Different actors in the political and social “arena of struggle” compete for developmental aid as an important resource.
  • Recruitment practices: Are there criteria that automatically exclude certain groups?
  • Security: Security of staff depends heavily on the standing of the organisation, and on the personal relationships that they have been able to establish.
This step relates the results of the conflict analysis to the results of the organisational analysis. Tracing the actual impact of a development intervention on conflicts is certainly the most challenging step in a PCIA. It is based on uncertain predictions about which course the conflict will take in the future.

Table 1: Grouping / categorisation of impact hypotheses

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The attribution of certain changes in the conflict situation to the project is problematic. Developmental cooperation usually has a relatively limited sphere of action, whereas conflicts are complex processes determined by multiple factors. Thus, scientific precision can not be achieved. The approach is at best about identifying plausible possibilities.

To deal with the challenges described above, explanatory information on impacts is needed. It is therefore recommended to combine various methods, of which each offers a different perspective on the conflict situation and the work of the project (Triangulation).

Possible methods are:

  • Case studies.
  • Impact hypothesis.
  • Participatory Impact Assessment.
  • Conflict Monitoring.
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Case Studies.

Case studies do not claim to be generally applicable, but they can provide insights into the complex make-up of cause and effect at the local level and can point out new, previously unexpected impacts. In doing so, they break down barriers of perception, which are structurally inherent in conventional short-term studies. Case studies should be led by specialists on the subject area in question. They always require spending a lengthy period of time in the field. It can be useful to recruit “insiders” (Project workers) and “outsiders” (External specialists) to the survey team in order to complement the external view and the project view of events.

Participatory Impact Assessment.

In participatory impact assessment, the point of departure is the subjective view of the target groups. Target groups and other people affected by, or involved in, the project are asked to identify the conflict-related impacts of the project inputs that they know of and judge them according to their own criteria. The idea behind this approach is to add the target groups’ “view from below” to the “view from above” established as a result of the impact hypotheses or case studies. Participatory impact assessment emphasises the experience of individuals living in a conflict situation. It has to do with values, feelings, relationships and adjustment strategies. In addition, the method offers the opportunity to recognise unintentional and as yet unknown impacts.

Conflict Monitoring.

Conflict monitoring consists of observing the actual changes in the conflict situation over a certain period of time, and of examining to what extent a connection can be made between these changes and the work of the project. It focuses on actual, observable changes without claiming that the project has actually influenced the conflict. As a rule, developmental projects are not influential enough to achieve this. The question is rather to what extent the project is working in an economical, geographical, social or cultural area, which has proved to be critical for the future developments of the conflict.

Figure 1: PCIA systems approach

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Impact Hypotheses.

Impact hypotheses demonstrate why we think that a certain activity will lead to a certain change. Impact hypothesis involves examining the progress that the project has made in bringing about the changes in the conflict situation that it hoped to achieve. The objectives of the project are the point of departure for this. The idea is to establish a direct causal relationship between an individual project activity and the expected or actually observed changes. Impact chains are hypotheses; whether the impact actually materialises or not must be the subject of an empirical investigation. To help in this, indicators for each individual step are drawn up, which enable monitoring of whether certain changes have indeed been achieved.

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Impact Hypotheses.

Impact hypotheses demonstrate why we think that a certain activity will lead to a certain change. Impact hypothesis involves examining the progress that the project has made in bringing about the changes in the conflict situation that it hoped to achieve. The objectives of the project are the point of departure for this. The idea is to establish a direct causal relationship between an individual project activity and the expected or actually observed changes. Impact chains are hypotheses; whether the impact actually materialises or not must be the subject of an empirical investigation. To help in this, indicators for each individual step are drawn up, which enable monitoring of whether certain changes have indeed been achieved.

Figure 2: The process of action science

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