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

Ethiopia’s Worsening Crisis Threatens Regional, Middle East Security

Ethiopia’s Worsening Crisis Threatens Regional, Middle East Security

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

By: Payton Knopf; Jeffrey Feltman

The Gulf Arabs recognize a strategic reality that has eluded the stove-piped U.S. foreign and security policy bureaucracy for too long: The Horn of Africa is an integral part of the Middle East’s security landscape, and increasingly so. No country demonstrates this more clearly than Ethiopia. That country’s escalating internal crises pose an increasingly grave threat not only to the country’s citizens but to international peace and security and to the interests of the United States and its partners in the Middle East, principally Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

A Year After Soleimani Strike, Iraq Bears the Brunt of U.S.-Iran Tensions

A Year After Soleimani Strike, Iraq Bears the Brunt of U.S.-Iran Tensions

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Sarhang Hamasaeed

The January 3, 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil marked an escalation in already simmering U.S.-Iran tensions. For Iraqi leaders, the Soleimani strike exacerbated an already challenging balancing act in maintaining Baghdad’s relationships with the United States and Iran, with whom it shares a long border and religious and social ties. During the past tumultuous year for Iraq, U.S. forces and Iranian-allied armed groups engaged in tit-for-tat attacks in Iraq. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed look at how U.S.-Iran tensions played out last year in Iraq and the region and if the incoming U.S. administration, and its desire to reengage in nuclear talks with Iran, could help allay the impact on Iraq.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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