Insightful analysis is essential to any conflict management process, from prevention to mediation to reconciliation. This course will help you understand the potential trajectories of a conflict situation so you can develop effective peacebuilding strategies.

The commander of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia visits the site of a truck-bomb attack allegedly conducted by al-Shabab in Mogadishu on Oct. 15, 2017. Photo: Flickr/AMISOM/Tobin Jones
The commander of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia visits the site of a truck-bomb attack allegedly conducted by al-Shabab in Mogadishu on Oct. 15, 2017. Photo: Flickr/AMISOM/Tobin Jones

Course Overview

A nuanced understanding of the context and dynamics of a conflict can determine the effectiveness with which you intervene, help you untangle the often-unintended consequences of any actions or policies, prevent any harm from being done, and help determine future priorities for program development.

This course is a case-based introduction to the process of conflict analysis. Participants will be introduced to two analytical tools that will help them identify emerging threats of conflict and opportunities for managing or resolving a conflict, and they will be given the chance to apply these tools to historical cases and relevant problem-based scenarios and differentiate among the various stages of the Curve of Conflict and practice mapping the generation, escalation and resolution of intrastate and international conflict. Further topics in Week 3 include how and why peaceful conflicts escalate to violence and the necessary conditions for their de-escalation.

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Chapter 1

In this chapter we explore the importance of conflict analysis in today’s world and how the nature of conflict and trends in deadly violence have changed since World War II.

Chapter 2

In this chapter we delve into ideas such as the difference between a conflict assessment and conflict analysis, the importance of active listening, and the concept of "Do No Harm."

Chapter 3

This chapter examines two specific frameworks for conflict analysis: the "cycle of conflict" and the "curve on conflict." Various components of these analytical frameworks will then be discussed further, such as: the difference between conflict prevention, management and transformation, the root causes and structural causes of conflict, and trigger events.

Chapter 4

This chapter explores the various stages and components of the USIP Conflict Assessment Framework.

Chapter 5

This chapter investigates the importance of listening when conducting a conflict analysis.

Course Instructors

  • Jeffrey Helsing, (former) Associate Vice President, US Institute of Peace
  • Matthew Levinger, Director, National Security Studies Program; Program Director, Master of International Policy and Practice; George Washington University

Related Publications

Oil Blockades, Protests and Resignations: The Latest on Libya’s Conflict

Oil Blockades, Protests and Resignations: The Latest on Libya’s Conflict

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

By: Nate Wilson

As global and regional players jockey for influence, international efforts to resolve the conflict remain stymied and ineffective. Meanwhile, Libya’s vast oil reserves—which provided a decent standard of living for many Libyans prior to 2011—have been under blockade, devasting the economy and livelihoods and leading to mounting frustration among Libyans. Further muddying the waters, the prime minister of the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, announced he would step down in October and transfer power to a new administration.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

China-Venezuela Relations in the Twenty-First Century: From Overconfidence to Uncertainty

China-Venezuela Relations in the Twenty-First Century: From Overconfidence to Uncertainty

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

By: Matt Ferchen

The outsized ambitions and scale of the China-Venezuela political and financial relationship in the twenty-first century have meant that its failures and disappointments have been correspondingly large. This report explores how the nations came to be involved, how each side has responded to Venezuela’s extended economic and political crisis, and the implications for the future of the bilateral relationship and for China’s aspirations to be a leader and agent of international development.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Prospects for Crisis Management on the China-India Border

Prospects for Crisis Management on the China-India Border

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By: Patricia M. Kim; Vikram J. Singh

After a deadly skirmish in June and shots fired in September, Sino-Indian tensions have escalated to a level not seen in decades. Both countries’ foreign ministers recently agreed to a five-point framework to manage the situation, showing both sides want tensions to plateau rather than deteriorate further. But the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will not easily go back to a well-managed bilateral irritant—right now, it’s a dangerous flashpoint and likely to stay that way. USIP’s Vikram Singh and Patricia Kim look at the recent discussions, what’s driving the escalation, how the conflict affects the region, and what history can tell us about how it might be resolved.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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