The Conflict and Stabilization Monitoring Framework (CSMF) is a data collection tool adapted to the Iraq context from USIP’s Measuring Progress in Conflict Environments framework. CSMF collects data directly from Iraq’s conflict-affected communities using a set of 48 indicators tied to four core conflict and stabilization dynamics: community security, rule of law, governance, and livelihoods. The CSMF was created to establish a robust evidence base for peacebuilding in Iraq using systemic, longitudinal data. The data provides nuanced insights that can inform efforts to mitigate violent conflict and sometimes challenges commonly held assumptions about barriers to peace. By collecting data directly from Iraqi people living in conflict-affected communities, the CSMF supplements other qualitative sources of information such as civil society actors, government and political stakeholders, and traditional and social media.

CSMF findings can inform both policymakers and peacebuilding practitioners. CSMF looks deeply and objectively at how Iraq’s complex and fluid conflict dynamics change as a result of political and security variables in combination with peacebuilding and development interventions. The data can be used to:

  1. Establish a baseline before interventions, and aid design thereof;
  2. Measure results of interventions; and
  3. Monitor dynamics for potential destabilization—and hopefully trigger preventive action.

The CSMF reflects USIP’s commitment to monitoring as a tool for adaptive institutional learning. In Iraq, USIP is using this data to adjust its programs to the changing conflict environment. CSMF findings inform the design of USIP’s ongoing local dialogue processes in Nineveh which address tensions that discourage the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from minority communities. The findings help USIP understand what issues may be ripe for attention, and thereby calibrate its approaches to specific conflict drivers. Finally, each additional round of data collection allows deeper analysis to link changes in the conflict environment to USIP and its partners’ past and current work. This means both adjusting our work in response to the data and evaluating whether our work has contributed to changing dynamics.

USIP welcomes feedback on the CSMF: How is this data being used? How could it be improved or expanded to address gaps in existing data?

Since September 2018, USIP and Social Inquiry, a nonprofit research organization, have collected three waves of CSMF data from IDPs and residents of communities across Iraq’s Nineveh province. A microcosm of Iraq’s social mosaic, Nineveh is home to Christians, Yazidis (Ezidis), Shabaks, Kurds, Turkmen, and both Sunni and Shia Arabs. These communities have undergone intense disruptions and violence since the self-styled Islamic State’s (ISIS) incursion in 2014. Despite the territorial defeat of ISIS, thousands remain displaced from towns and villages across the province, unable or unwilling to return to their homes. The complex interplay of political and security factors in ISIS’s wake has also contributed to intercommunal tensions between ethnoreligious groups.

CSMF data collection currently occurs in Nineveh province, but may be expanded to other locations in the future. Three additional waves of data collection are planned, with the next wave scheduled for mid-2020. USIP will publish forthcoming data and analysis as it becomes available.

Findings represent data collected through household surveys in four districts—Hamdaniya, Sinjar, Tal Afar, and Tal Keif—in February 2018 (sample size 1,100), August 2018 (sample size 1,505), and April and May 2019 (sample size 1,851). The sample sizes increased across waves because data collection expanded to areas that were previously inaccessible due to security dynamics. Round two expanded to Sinjar Center, and round three expanded to the Ayadhiya subdistrict of Tal Afar. In round three, the Hamdaniya sample size was also expanded, but the Rabia subdistrict was not covered.

USIP recognizes the data has limitations. The survey tools also cover extremely complex issues, often subjective in nature. And because CSMF reaches local Iraqis living in these communities, conflict dynamics and conditions on the ground sometimes present heavy challenges for data collection.



Located about 20 miles east of Mosul, Hamdaniya is one of 14 districts contested by the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It is home to Christian and Shabak communities and to smaller populations of Yazidis, Kaka’is, Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. Both the Christian and Shabak communities have historically been targeted by terrorist groups, with towns such as Qaraqosh—a historical stronghold of the area’s Christians—suffering greatly. In ISIS’s wake, tensions between Christians and Shia Shabaks have increased over land, political representation, security, and cultural identity.


Located in western Nineveh and populated by Yazidis, Sunni and Shia Arabs, and Kurds, Sinjar district— which includes the Yazidi town of Sinuni—is also disputed between the KRG and the Government of Iraq. The district’s populations have suffered greatly in the aftermath of ISIS’s genocidal campaign against the Yazidis. ISIS crimes—including mass execution, enslavement, and forced displacement of thousands—have severely strained the relationship between Sunni Arabs and Yazidis, who feel the need for accountability and compensation.

Tal Afar

Tal Afar is located in northwestern Nineveh, between Sinjar and Mosul, and is home to a sizeable population of ethnic Turkmen, mostly located in the two major population centers: Tal Afar Center and Ayadhiya subdistrict. Approximately 60-70 percent of Turkmen in Tal Afar district are Sunni and the remainder are Shia. The towns of Rabia and Zummar have sizeable Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations. While Tal Afar’s entire Shia Turkmen population was displaced in the wake of ISIS, most have returned, due in part to the strong presence of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the area. A large portion of the district’s Sunni community remains displaced, fearing that upon return they will be targeted for revenge violence by local Shia or PMF-affiliated armed groups due to their perceived affiliation with ISIS. 

Tal Keif

North of Mosul, Tal Keif is a predominantly Christian area, but is also home to Yazidis and a small Sunni Arab population. Post-ISIS, the relationship between Sunni Arabs and their Christian and Yazidi neighbors has frayed. Demographic changes and the division of control between the Iraqi government and KRG has left many of Tal Keif’s Christians scattered across northern Iraq, hesitant to return because of uncertain security conditions. With local security provisions split between the Iraqi Security Forces, PMF, and KRG, ISIS threats loom given Tal Keif’s two ISIS detention centers and terrorism court. Tal Keif Christians are also concerned about permanent changes to the demographic composition in traditional communities. The large number of displaced Sunni Arab families that resettled in Tal Keif after ISIS took over Mosul are playing increasing roles in local governance.