Conflict Assessment

Before one can intervene in a complex conflict, one must do a conflict assessment to understand what is going on. Parties, too, need to do their own assessment if they are to be able to make informed choices about what to advocate and how to go about pursuing their goals. Many of our respondents had comments or advice on the conflict assessment process, as it is so important to both conflict prosecution and transformation or resolution.

Conflict Assessment in General

Larry Susskind talks about conflict assessment and option identification.


To mediate or not to mediate: that is the question, says Marcia Cambell, when approaching worldview or value conflicts.
Wendell Jones talks about understanding and approaching human conflict as a complex adaptive system.
Silke Hansen describes how she has to explain her role carefully when she is doing her conflict assessment.
Determining when events happened is important to understanding a situation, says mediator Silke Hansen.

Uses for Conflict Assessment

Chester Crocker suggests that before approaching a conflict, intervenors should engage in conflict assessment.


According to Suzanne Ghais, conflict assessment is an important part of facilitation.
Brazilian economist Olympio Barbanti talks about the importance of conflict assessment in development work.

Benefits of Conflict Assessment

Kevin Avruch suggests that cultural differences sometimes obfuscate the true motives that are driving conflict. Conflict assessment can clarify these motives.


Frank Dukes, an environmental mediator, observes that the presenting problem is seldom the real problem. A conflict assessment can be used to figure out what the real problems are.
Larry Susskind talks about how conflict assessors can distance themselves from the bias of the convener and therefore succeed in doing things that the convener cannot do. "How-to" Suggestions
Larry Susskind says that to deal with real-life complexities, conflict assessment processes should be simple, straightforward, and transparent.
Mary Anderson describes the minimum requirements for successful conflict analysis, and also presents a matrix which helps to understand where in the peacebuilding system a particular intervention fits.
William Zartman describes ways to analyze a conflict and prepare for negotiations.
Elise Boulding on getting in the disputants' frame of mind.
Chester Crocker outlines the elements of a successful intervention.

Leo Smyth explains that one useful job for a mediator may be to outline where an individual fits into the whole conflict system.
Paul Wehr talks about using conflict mapping and single-text negotiation to intervene in a university conflict.
Suzanne Ghais suggests that setting an agenda and identifying goals to be accomplished can be an important part of intervention.
William Steubner suggests that when analyzing conflict, practitioners should question why conflict was not there before.
What's the most important skill conflict intervenors can have? Listening, according to Paul Wehr.
Wallace Warfield describes how one identifies the real leaders in a group.

Leo Smyth talks about how framing influences conflict assessment.

Leo Smyth suggests that watching parties' behavior can be an important part of conflict assessment.
Silke Hansen describes how she measures the level of community support before she decides to intervene in a dispute.
CRS Mediator Efrain Martinez reflects on the sequence he uses to find the key parties in a community conflict.
CRS Mediator Richard Salem describes who he would talk to first when he first got into a new conflict situation.
It is easy to learn the history of the community if you listen more than talk, observes CRS Mediator Renaldo Rivera.

Ethical Issues

Louise Diamond talks about ethical guidelines for third party conflict intervention and assessment.


Lawrence Susskind asserts that intervenors' lack of discipline in conducting conflict assessments has "dramatically held back the application of dispute resolution in the public arena."
Ron Fisher describes Track I-II coordination in Tajikistan.
Jannie Botes explains that journalists do not perceive mediation to be part of their role, but they do see their role as being conflict analysts. That is how to engage them in conflict theory.
Jannie Botes explains that due to space constraints, journalists tend to oversimplify conflicts. This can give their audience a very inaccurate view of the situation, especially in complex intractable conflicts.
Carolyn Stephenson explains most of the work of a workshop comes ahead of time.
Bob Ensley describes why meeting people in person is best when doing conflict assessments.
Bob Ensley describes how he finds out what is going on in a town when he first visits a conflict site.