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Field guide to conflict analysis

This annex provides a guide to help practitioners apply conflict analysis tools in the field. Conflict analysis is a learning process to help mediators and stakeholders improve their understanding of a conflict and decide whether and how best to manage it. The annex is intended to help mediators use conflict analysis tools as part of conflict management processes.

The annex complements Section 5, which explains why conflict analysis is essential, how it is integrated into the conflict management process, and what role each tool plays in it.

Analysing conflict

Conflict analysis comes in at various stages during a conflict management process:

A. Preliminary conflict assessment: During the entry phase, the conflict analysis that is carried out as part of the conflict assessment is a strategic instrument for the mediators to plan the way forward - to decide whether or not to proceed in the conflict and what steps to undertake next. It is carried out after initial contact with the stakeholders in the entry phase and after listening to their accounts and concerns. A preliminary conflict assessment is carried out by the mediators internally.

B. Facilitated conflict analysis: The conflict analysis during this later stage in the process is different from the initial conflict assessment in that the mediators help the stakeholders to conduct their own analysis. The mediators seek to support and advance a process of self-examination and self-discovery among the conflict stakeholders. All stakeholders must be able to follow the process, understand the results and know how those results have been obtained. So the mediators' main task is to explain and visualize each step of the process and all interim results.

Depending on the circumstances, the mediators may facilitate the conflict analysis as a joint multistakeholder event. When there are severe tensions, the analysis may be better done separately with the different stakeholder groups. However, at some point, the different stakeholders need to share their analyses in order to promote better understanding of each other's points of view.

The aim of conflict analysis at this later stage is for stakeholders to reach a common understanding of what the conflict is about, and what its meanings and implications are for each party. For different stakeholders this may involve broadening or narrowing the scope of issues to be negotiated.

Tools in conflict analysis

Tools are aids for the people who carry out conflict analysis. Each plays a different role in the various steps of the process map. The tools are not rigid processes, and can be adapted according to the specific requirements. It is essential to distinguish that tools can be used in two different ways.

Tools can be (internal) mental models round which the mediator can structure his/her thoughts while talking with conflict stakeholders (strategic conflict analysis). When used in this way, tools:

Alternatively, tools can be aids for facilitating group sessions. In these cases, the tools are applied openly with the conflict stakeholders (facilitated conflict analysis) and help to:

There may be difficulties in applying tools in traditional settings. The following are some examples:

Illiteracy: Tools need to be adapted or replaced by others; for example, pictures rather than written words can be used to represent specific points.

Creating conflict: The use of a tool may lead to a situation of conflict when the conflict analysis is being carried out jointly with opposing stakeholders. In this case, it may be more appropriate to apply the tools with each different stakeholder separately.


Tool number




Root cause analysis

To help stakeholders examine the origins and underlying causes of conflict.


Issue analysis

To examine the issues that contribute to conflict and the specific issues that give rise to a specific conflict in more detail, focusing on five categories:

1) problems with information;
2) conflicting interests;
3) difficult relationships;
4) structural inequalities;
5) conflicting values.


Stakeholder identification and analysis

To identify and assess the dependency and power of different stakeholders in a conflict.


4Rs analysis (rights, responsibilities, returns, relationships)

To examine the rights, responsibilities and benefits of different stakeholders in relation to natural resources, as part of improving understanding of a conflict.

To examine the relationships among (or within) different stakeholder groups.


Conflict time line

To assist stakeholders in examining the history of a conflict and to improve their understanding of the sequence of events that led to the conflict.


Mapping conflict over resource use

To show geographically where land or resource use conflicts exist or may exist in the future.

To determine the primary issues of conflict.

Tools 1 to 4 are core tools, which are a fundamental part of detailed conflict analysis. Tools 5 and 6 are complementary tools, which are helpful, but need not necessarily be used in each conflict analysis.

Core tool 1: Root cause analysis


To help stakeholders examine the origins and underlying causes of conflict.


The root cause analysis helps to illuminate the linkages among the different factors and causes that have triggered the conflict. It helps build simple cause - effect chains, which show the underlying dynamics of the conflict.

Root cause analysis can be applied as:

  • an internal mental model to structure the thoughts of the mediators;
  • a facilitation tool applied with the conflict stakeholders to guide them in their own analysis.

Root cause analysis is usually carried out with each conflict stakeholder separately during:

  • shuttle consultation - as part of preliminary conflict analysis (step 3);
  • stakeholder engagement - stakeholders analyse their own conflict.

The root cause analysis can be repeated throughout the conflict analysis process, as more information becomes available and new issues arise.


Flip charts.

Post-it notes.

Coloured marking pens.


Draw a Sample conflict tree (Attachment 1a) on a flip chart.


Root cause analysis reveals different interpretations of cause and effect; some stakeholders may be unwilling to bring out key problems, and there are often differing perceptions about the importance of different problems. However, the root cause analysis can be overdone so that the conflict tree becomes too complex to help the analysis. The conflict tree in Attachment 1a may illustrate this phenomenon.



Sections 4.4; 5.4; and 6.


A. Carrying out root cause analysis as a part of preliminary conflict assessment (entry phase):

1. In the entry process, mediators contact the different stakeholders and give them space to explain their cases, grievances and perceptions of the situation. In this early stage of confidence building, root cause analysis should not be carried out directly with the stakeholders. However, mediators may use the technique of asking "Why?" questions to explore the boundaries and underlying causes of the conflict in more detail.

2. Later, when the mediators meet together, they can use the information obtained from the different stakeholders to develop a preliminary conflict tree as the basis for their decision whether or not to engage in the conflict management process. Root cause analysis is useful in demonstrating how local causes of conflict can be linked to much broader social, political and economic issues. This, in turn, can help determine the level of conflict on which mediators need to focus their attention.

B. Facilitating stakeholders' root cause analysis

1. Introduce the purpose of the activity to the stakeholder group. Explain that this activity assists their understanding of how and why conflict originates and the sequence of contributing causes.

2. Post the Sample conflict tree and describe the steps of the process. Explain that a conflict may seem to be either very complex or very clear-cut. However, it may be far more or far less complex than it first appears. Root cause analysis is therefore an essential way of managing the conflict and preventing escalation. Explain that when the root causes of a conflict are not properly understood, any steps to manage and solve that conflict may miss some important causes. The conflict may then not be properly managed, and may re-emerge later on. This is similar to felling a tree without eradicating its roots, which causes the tree to start growing again.

Clarify any questions that participants may have about the process.

3. You can carry out the root cause analysis with the whole stakeholder group or subdivide the group into subgroups. If you form subgroups, you may get different perceptions of the conflict, which would otherwise have been missed. For example, women, youth and the elderly may have very different views, poor people may look at conflict differently from rich ones, etc.

Discuss the suggestion to divide into subgroups with all the participants and let them take the final decision.

Subdivision makes sense only if you feel that:

4. Facilitate root cause analysis in the whole group or in subgroups. Divide the tasks of mediation, documentation and process monitoring among the mediation team members:

The starting point is the specific conflict. Invite the participants to discuss the root causes of the conflict. Check whether there is any reluctance, which needs to be taken into consideration. Only start the process when you think that the participants are ready to do so.

Next, ask the participants to discuss why the conflict has occurred, or what the immediate causes of the problem are. They should write each reason on a separate post-it, and place these below the appropriate conflict headings on the flip chart. If some of the participants are illiterate, use pictures to represent the causes instead.

Then, working outwards, participants should keep asking themselves the question "Why?" for each of the immediate causes. The group should discuss the reasons, writing each on a post-it. These steps are repeated until the participants have reached some basic or root causes of the conflict or issue being addressed. They can move the post-its as necessary.

Explain to the participants that they should not get bogged down in arguments about whether or not a "Why?" is valid. This is an exploratory activity and the truth or relative significance of each "Why?" can be determined later.

Finally, the participants should connect the post-its with lines to show the linkages between causes and effects. Remind them to check their logic by repeating the process of asking "Why?" down through the levels of causes, as outlined in the previous paragraph.

5. If you have divided the main group into subgroups, reconvene them into the overall group after the subgroups have finalized their own analyses. Ask one person from each subgroup to post and explain its chart.

Then, discuss the similarities and differences of the analyses in the overall group, and let the participants discuss:

6. It is now time to consider how relevant each of the different causes and effects is, and to evaluate the significance of different cause - effect chains. Differentiate among:

Let the participants discuss which of the different chains are most important and where the root causes are. These need to be addressed first.

With the participants, discuss that when a conflict has multiple contributing causes it is unlikely that all of these causes can be tackled or addressed simultaneously. Priorities have to be established. Emphasize that there are no set rules for establishing priorities. However, an important aspect of conflict analysis is to identify the most significant causes of conflict. One way of doing this is to rank the issues in terms of significance. In doing so, it is also useful to distinguish which issues are:

Remind the participants that, ultimately, those involved in conflict will have to construct their own criteria for determining the priorities for action. They may decide to focus on the issues that most immediately affect the conflict now, or they may decide to tolerate a certain level of what appears to be localized conflict in order to focus on the underlying issues of the dispute.

7. The group session on root cause analysis is completed when the participants have:

Attachment 1a: Sample conflict tree

This is a simplified root cause analysis of a conflict over forest logging among traditional owners, a timber company and the government forest service. The conflict tree diagram was prepared by traditional owners who were opposed to timber harvesting on forest land that they claimed as part of their ancestral estate. They wanted logging to be stopped, and argued that the conflict was brought on by:

The traditional owners identified and recorded each of these issues, exploring the contributing events and causes. The diagram drew attention to a number of other stakeholders and subgroups (other than the traditional owners, the logging company and the forest service), which were involved in the conflict. Gaining support from some of these groups was a key to managing the conflict.

The causes of conflict listed on the conflict tree reflect the biases of the traditional owners' perspective. In discussing the diagram, they conceded that not all of the listed causes might be factual. The diagram did, however, provide a framework for:

The diagram helped the conflict stakeholders to decide the scale at which they needed to manage the conflict in the short term. It identified a number of places for possible action to manage the conflict and improve collaborative management processes. For the local community, the diagram also linked broader political and policy decisions to impacts in their area. It also showed which action they could take to anticipate and address possible future conflicts.

Core tool 2: Issue analysis


To enable stakeholders to identify the types of issues within a conflict and consider the most effective means of addressing them.


Issue analysis adds on to root cause analysis by providing a second level of analysis. The tool helps to identify and enumerate the core issues that contribute to a conflict and provides a checklist to help mediators consider five different categories of such issues (Attachments 2a and 2b).

Issue analysis is an essential tool in the entry process, especially during shuttle consultation. It helps explore the boundaries and key issues of the conflict, in order to sort them out and place them in context.

Issue analysis is best used as an internal mental model for mediators, particularly during the entry process and stakeholder consultation, when the mediator needs to obtain a clearer picture of the conflict. The tool should not be used as a facilitation aid in the group, because the differentiation into different types of issues may confuse people.


Flip charts.
Coloured marking pens.
Prepare flip charts from Different types of issues that lead to conflict (Attachment 2a) and Sample issue analysis table (Attachment 2b).


In real-life conflicts, it may be difficult to distinguish clearly among the different categories, and it is helpful to be pragmatic in sorting the issues. At the same time, the categories may help to trigger additional useful questions to ask and additional issues to look into.


Sections 4.4; and 5.4.


1. Carrying out issue analysis as part of preliminary conflict assessment (entry phase):

When the mediation team is analysing the conflict internally, each participant should identify the issues that he/she regards as being central to the conflict. Hand out index cards or post-its to each participant so that they can record each issue on a separate card or post-it. Ask the participants to state the conflict briefly and read out the issues. As they read them, have them place the cards or post-its on the flip chart. After all the issues have been presented, organize the cards into groups in which issues of a similar nature are clustered according to the five types of core issue:

Identify what gave rise to the issue:

In reality, these categories of issues can overlap, and the participants should be cautioned not to become anxious if there is not a "clear fit". It is important that the categories are used as tools for more systematic thinking about each of the contributing causes of conflict.

The team should also decide which of the issues are most significant and mark these with an asterisk (*). It should also note which are most immediate and which require long-term action.

When this has been done, the team takes a few minutes to look at the analysis and discuss possible actions for addressing the conflict, based on that analysis. The team should then discuss which steps it can undertake to facilitate solving the conflict.

2. Facilitating stakeholders' issue analysis

Issue analysis is best done in small groups to learn about the wide range of views different stakeholders are likely to hold about sources of conflict.

Separating a conflict into its various issues, and then identifying the type of each issue and its causes (whether these are differences, threats or gaps) can be useful in developing a strategy for conflict management.

When talking with the stakeholders, mediators should let them tell their own stories and express their emotions without much interference. Mediators may enquire by asking "Why?" questions when appropriate. The mediators can take the list of five core issues as the basis for more specific questions during stakeholder consultation, or later, during stakeholder engagement (step 4).

One mediation team member should take notes, but only after the mediator has asked the speaker's consent. The information from these notes can then be used in the preliminary conflict analysis. The issue analysis needs to be updated by the mediation team whenever new information arises throughout the conflict management process. It becomes a stock of important background information for the mediators.

Attachment 2a: Different types of issue that lead to conflict

Type of issue


Points to remember in managing such conflicts

Conflicting interests

· Differing needs and desires, sharing of benefits and resource use
· Perceived and actual competition of interests
· Can emerge from a perceived or actual lack of shared interests

· Identify common or shared interests
· Underlying needs can often be satisfied in more ways than are at first obvious
· Clarify whether interests are real or perceived

Information issues

· Lack of information or differences in interpretation of information
· Can be linked to differing methods of assessing, evaluating or interpreting information
· Poor communication (listening or expression) or miscommunication among disputing parties

· Reach agreement on information needs
· Reach agreement on how information can be obtained and verified
· Reach agreement on the criteria for evaluating or interpreting information
· A third party may improve communication
· Encourage transparent decision-making

Difficult relationships

· Differences in personality and emotions, as well as misperceptions, stereotypes and prejudices
· Incompatible behaviours (routines, methods, styles); differing expectations, attitudes and approaches to problem solving
· History of conflict and bad feeling among the parties

· Identify the specific difficulties, encourage conflicting parties to avoid generalizations in stating their difficulties with one another
· Aim to build positive perceptions and solutions
· Emphasize fair ground rules to be followed by all parties
· Work to realign or build relationships, fostering care and willingness on the part of the parties

Structural issues

· Differing ideas regarding appropriate management processes, rules, roles and power; can apply to meeting committees or organizations
· Perceived or actual inequality or unfairness concerning power, control, ownership or structures that influence access to or distribution of resources
· Factors that hinder cooperation such as decision-making structures and responsibilities, time constraints, geography or physical settings

· Help disenfranchised groups to understand their own and other parties' perceptions of the conflict
· Gain agreement on a shared review of specific grievances - e.g. too much bureaucracy, poor representation
· Aim to transform conflict into a force for social change so solutions are sustainable in the long term

Conflicting values

· Differences among cultural, social or personal beliefs, or different world views and traditions
· Different goals, expectations or assumptions that reflect personal history and upbringing

· Frequently the most difficult to change
· Some differing human values may be non-negotiable
· Focus on interests or shared goals and avoid focusing on resolving differing values
· Require a long-term strategy that builds respect and supports the sharing and understanding of values among stakeholders

Adapted from: Moore, C. 1996. The mediation process: practical strategies for resolving conflict. Second edition. San Francisco, California, USA, Jossey-Bass; Warner, M. 2001. Complex problems, negotiated solutions: tools to reduce conflict in community development. London, ITDG Publishing.

Attachment 2b: Sample issue analysis table

Type of issue

Description of the issue

Analysis of issues

Conflicting interests

Women need to collect forest materials and medicinal plants*

The community forest users' group (CFUG) wants to stop the poaching of wildlife

· Perceived difference in interests related to use of the forest (wildlife versus supporting local livelihoods)*

· Perceived threat of the CFUG and the forest office restricting access to needed resources*

Information issues

Villagers have no access to information on the proposed restriction

Hunters question how the bird is endangered

· Lack of information from the CFUG to the village on the proposed restriction

· Validity of information needs to be confirmed

Difficult relationships

Previous bad relationship between the CFUG chairperson and the village

· Suspicions that the CFUG chairperson from another village is supporting forest office interests over this village's interests (as retaliation for a past dispute)

Structural issues

Consultation with villagers on forest use

· Failure of the forest office and the CFUG to consult the women or hunters before making the proposal

Conflicting values

The significance of local bird feathers in traditional ceremonies

· Forest officers' lack of appreciation for the ceremonial importance of bird feathers in determining relationships within villages

Proposed actions that emerged from the conflict analysis:

  • Check the details of the proposal with forest officers and the CFUG.

  • Forest officers to provide and explain information on the birds and the significance of the area.

  • Women to negotiate the primary area of interest: securing access to necessary forest materials and medicinal plants.

  • Forest officers to be educated on the traditional value of bird feathers.

  • Other long-term actions: change consultation process and make chairperson more accountable to entire constituency of the CFUG; village representative to meet with chairperson.

Information about the example: One local village heard that the District Forest Office and the CFUG had decided to restrict access to an area of forest in order to protect an endangered bird species. The district forest officers convinced the CFUG that the restriction of access was necessary to protect one of the few remaining nesting habitats for the bird and to stop poaching by hunters. Male hunters in the village disagreed that the bird was in any danger, as they still saw many in the forest. Women villagers were angry because the proposed closure affected an area that was important for the collection of housing materials and traditional medicinal plants. All the villagers feared that they would no longer be able to collect local bird feathers for use in traditional ceremonies. Both the women and the hunters in the village saw the conflict as being centred on gaining continued access; the Forest Office saw it as a conflict of unsustainable resource use within the region.

Core tool 3: Stakeholder identification and analysis


To identify and assess the dependency and power of different stakeholders in a conflict.


Stakeholder identification and analysis helps to identify the stakeholders involved or affected by the conflict, how powerful they are and what relations there are among them.

Stakeholder analysis can be applied as:

  • an internal mental model to structure the mediators' thoughts;

  • a facilitation tool applied with the conflict stakeholders to guide them in their own analysis.

It is carried out with each conflict stakeholder separately during:

  • shuttle consultation - preliminary conflict analysis (step 3);

  • stakeholder engagement - stakeholders analyse their own conflict (step 4).

Stakeholder analysis can be repeated throughout the conflict analysis process, as more information becomes available and new issues arise.


Flip chart.
Coloured pens.
Coloured poster paper.
Glue sticks.


Analysing the involvement of different stakeholders and their relative power is a sensitive issue and requires carefully mediated group discussion. In addition, it is important to ask for secondary stakeholders who may be influential, but who are not directly involved in the specific conflict.


Section 5.5.


1. Explain the purpose of the activity and that the term "stakeholder" refers to all those people or organizations that have a stake in the conflict. These are the people and organizations that are directly involved in the conflict, are affected by the conflict, or influence (or may influence) the dynamics of the conflict.

2. Explain briefly the Sample stakeholder diagram (Appendix 3a) on a flip chart, or draw it on the ground. Describe a simple conflict example and how the diagram depicts the different stakeholders, their interests and their relative power.

Ask the participants whether they find this analysis useful and whether they are willing to conduct such an exercise.

3. Ask the participants to identify and list all the stakeholders in the conflict.

Invite the participants to draw circles on the ground, or to cut them out of paper, to represent the stakeholder groups (by labelling the circles). The size of each circle should reflect the relative interest or stake of the stakeholder group that it represents. To determine this stake, it is useful to consider how affected the stakeholder group is by the issue or its outcome. For example, a large circle indicates that the stakeholder group is greatly affected by the issue and will be significantly affected by the outcome. A small circle indicates that the stakeholder group is not affected as much.

Allow the participants to position the circles around the conflict at the centre of the diagram. Use distance from the centre and from the stakeholder circles to depict the relative closeness (not geographic) of the stakeholders to one another and to the conflict. Ask less active participants whether they agree with the position of the different circles, and guide a discussion so that all the participants agree. If it is difficult to find agreement, you may consider forming subgroups.

Once they are satisfied with their stakeholder interest circles, the participants should discuss the relative power that each of these stakeholder groups has to influence the outcomes of the conflict.

Choose a triangle that represents the relative influence of each stakeholder group (the bigger the triangle, the more power the group has to influence the outcome of the conflict). Position this on top of the appropriate circle (overlapping).

Once they are satisfied with their diagram, participants should discuss, and then mark with an asterisk (*), those stakeholders that they feel are the primary stakeholders. These stakeholders should be involved in managing the conflict.

At the end of the activity, the participants should have a piece of flip chart paper depicting the conflict, with circles and triangles representing the stakeholder groups and their relative interest and influence.

4. If the mediators have formed subgroups, give each subgroup the space to present and explain its analysis to the others. If the analyses of the different subgroups differ considerably, ask the reasons for this. Ask how the subgroups can find a common understanding of the stakeholders involved, because this will be important in strengthening their negotiation positions.

5. Initiate a discussion around the following points:

Note for mediators:

There are no easy answers to decide the appropriate balance of stakeholders in managing conflict. To assist the decision, stakeholder groups need to define and agree on criteria for primary and secondary stakeholders. To a large degree, these criteria depend on the goals and desired outcomes of the conflict management process. If the goal is to work towards fair and equitable resolution, you must ensure that the primary stakeholders include those who are most affected by or dependent on the resource, or on the resolution or escalation of the conflict. This includes considering the range of options available to a stakeholder group if an interest or basic need associated with a resource is not met.

Stakeholders that are linked to the conflict but have less direct effect on it are secondary stakeholders. They may play key roles in resolution strategies; when they can be objective, for example, they may act as a third party or intermediary; or they may work alongside a weaker party in an advocacy role, moving the wider political arena towards greater equity. For effective collaboration and management, those stakeholder groups with power, authority and influence over the sustainability of the outcome should be included. If they are not involved early on, powerful groups may not accept solutions or support implementation.

Adapted from: Larson, P. & Svendsen, D. 1995. Participatory monitoring and evaluation: a practical guide for successful ICDPs. Washington, DC, WWF; Worah, S., Svendsen, S. & Ongleo, C. 1999. Integrated conservation and development: a trainer's manual. Godalming, UK, WWF UK.

Attachment 3a: Sample stakeholder diagram

The conflict was among the forest users of one village (village A), the staff of a government forest agency and members of a conservation NGO. It centred on a proposed decision to prohibit the harvesting of rattan in a forest reserve. The two organizations believed that the harvesting of rattan by village A was degrading the biodiversity of the forest reserve. The figure illustrates how the members of village A viewed the stakeholders to this conflict. It presents how they defined the different stakeholders, their views on how affected those stakeholders were by the outcome of the management decision, and their own relative power to influence that decision.

The women of village A, who traditionally harvest, process and sell the rattan, were seen as being the most affected by the proposed decision, but they had the smallest input into decision-making processes. Both the chief and the other men of village A felt disadvantaged by a prohibition on rattan because they predicted a reduction in overall family income. They were seen to be more powerful than women because they had participated in some of the consultation meetings held by the forest agency. They had significant fears about the effect on the village children, as the money generated from sales of rattan craft was a main source of income for paying school fees.

On the other side, the men from a neighbouring village (village B) did not collect or use rattan, but were seen to be more influential than any person in village A was. People of village A accused the men of village B of providing incorrect information about rattan harvesting to the forest agency and conservation NGO in order to gain greater support for an alternative income-generating project. The conservation NGO, which was providing technical advice on management of the reserve, and on which the government forest agency relied for financial support, was seen to be the most influential in determining the decision. The people in village A did not understand the NGO's concerns about biodiversity, nor how an organization that is composed of people living far away would be greatly affected by the rattan issue.

In the diagram, the size of a stakeholder group's circle and its proximity to the issue indicate the extent to which that group is considered to be affected by the outcome of the conflict. The size of a group's triangle indicates the relative power that the group has on the final management decision. The proximity of stakeholders to one another indicates the relationships and alliances among the groups.


Core tool 4: Analysing the 4Rs - stakeholder rights, responsibilities, returns and relationships


To examine the rights, responsibilities and benefits of different stakeholders in relation to the resource, as part of improving the understanding of a conflict.

To examine the relationships among (or within) different stakeholder groups.


The fourth R (relationships) is useful for a number of reasons, including:

  • recognizing existing stakeholder networks that have an impact on the conflict;
  • identifying potential new alliances;
  • helping to identify and evaluate potential intermediaries;
  • improving knowledge about the power base of stakeholders.

Knowing the differences in stakeholders' rights, responsibilities and benefits related to a resource is often critical to understanding a conflict. Inequities among stakeholders related to these four variables often underline power imbalances and shape the relationships among groups.

The 4Rs analysis is a very sensitive tool and needs careful application. It is only to be applied as:

  • an internal mental model for the mediator;
  • an aid for a particular stakeholder (group) preparing for negotiations, and a way of levelling the playing field among different stakeholders.


Flip chart.
Coloured pens.
Copy Sample conflict background sheet (Attachment 4a).
Prepare flip charts from:
Sample 3Rs matrix (Attachment 4b);
Sample stakeholder relationships map (Attachment 4c).


When applied in rural communities, this tool may need careful explanation and guidance from the mediator, because it requires a sound understanding of specific conceptual categories. People may not always find such categorization easy.

Note: The relationship diagram (the fourth R) and stakeholder identification (Core tool 3) are partially overlapping in terms of what they analyse.


Sections 5; and 6.


1. Explain the purpose of the activity and the meaning of the 4Rs: rights, responsibilities, returns and relationships. For clarifying your own mind, go through the example in Attachment 4a.

Rights, responsibilities and returns are relationships that stakeholders have to the resource base:

In addition, stakeholders have relationships among each other that are independent of the resource.

2. Ask the participants to list all the stakeholders identified in the stakeholder analysis (Core tool 3). Then, prepare a table with three additional columns for rights, responsibilities and returns. Invite the participants to fill in the table for each conflict stakeholder. If they are reluctant to do so, or do not understand the concept, use a simple example to illustrate what each R means in practical terms.

3. The participants then construct their own matrices:

4. Initiate a discussion around the following questions:

5. At the end of the discussion, introduce the second stage of the analysis, which focuses on analysing the relationships among stakeholders:

6. After they have had a chance to do this, use the following points to initiate a discussion among the participants:

Adapted from:

Dubois, O. 1999. Assessing local resilience and getting roles right in collaborative forest management: some current examples and a potential tool, with special references to sub-Saharan Africa. In FAO. Pluralism and sustainable development, proceedings from an international workshop, 9 - 12 December 1997, Rome, FAO; Charles, T. & Percy, F. (In press.) Still a valuable tool: using the 4Rs to work out management and benefit sharing at Bimbia Bondadikombo Forest, Cameroon; Worah, S., Svendsen, S. & Ongleo, C. 1999. Integrated conservation and development: a trainer's manual. Godalming, UK, WWF UK.

Attachment 4a: Sample conflict background sheet

In this example, an overseas logging company approached the national forest agency for a seven-year timber concession to harvest 50 000 ha of forest that had traditionally been occupied and used by local indigenous communities. This proposal resulted in a conflict among the local communities, the government and commercial interests.

Under the country's existing legislation, all forested land belongs to the State, and the national forest agency is legally responsible for its administration and management. Prior to colonization, however, most forest areas within the country were held in some form of customary tenure by indigenous tribes. This customary tenure has never been recognized formally by the State, either during or after independence. Forest use rights and management authority have been, and continue to be, a contentious issue.

The proposed concession area lies in a remote region of the country that is poorly serviced and lacks infrastructure. The government does not have adequate funds or staff to manage the forest in this area, which has been used increasingly by migrants - refugees who have illegally crossed the border from a neighbouring country. In order to improve its control of forest use, the government has initiated a collaborative forest management programme that engages the assistance of local communities. The indigenous people have strong cultural ties to the forest and are dependent on forest products for their livelihoods. They are concerned about the migrants' burning and clearing of the forest, and have offered to work as forest guards in order to prevent the forest from degrading into open access. They have also helped a national research institute and an overseas conservation NGO to conduct an inventory of forest plants and animals and to implement special measures to protect endangered species.

The government is interested in increasing its revenue through logging royalties, and the logging company has agreed to construct a major road through the area. The road would increase access for future development and assist in patrolling the country's border and controlling the influx of refugees.

The logging company has insisted that, for safety purposes, its lease should prevent local people from using the forest area. The company is also concerned about community opposition to the logging activity. The government has assured the company that, in the past, the existing collaborative management programme has been useful in gaining the communities' assistance. It does not give local residents legal authority in making forest land use decisions, or provide them with greater access to forest areas.

Two of the three village communities (villages A and B) have opposed the logging, claiming that it would limit access to needed forest materials, food and medicines. Village A is additionally concerned that its river, and only source of drinking-water, would become polluted from the upstream logging activities. These villages have been supported by a development NGO working on health issues in the area. This NGO is also active nationally in advocating greater recognition of forest rights for indigenous people.

Members of a third village (village C) are more supportive of the logging operation. Unlike the other two villages, the sale of market produce is a key source of village C's income. It feels that the influx of loggers would reduce the need to travel to distant market areas. The increased sales and reduced costs are perceived as a boost to the local village economy.

Over a six-month period, the conflict has continued to escalate. Increasingly, members of villages A and C have been involved in heated arguments, and there has been threatened violence against forest agency staff. A national training institution with experience in the management of forest conflict has been asked to intervene and assist in meditation. In preparation for meetings among the groups, the mediator has worked with each group to develop a matrix showing stakeholders' forest rights and management responsibilities. The mediator has also recorded the perceived returns of each group from the proposed logging operation. As several of the groups felt that they would be adversely affected, they chose to record returns both as positive (gains) and negative (costs). This was followed by an analysis of the relationships among stakeholders.

Attachment 4b: Sample 3Rs matrix








National forest agency

Supervision Management


Administer timber concession Ensure annual national cut is achieved Implement biodiversity strategy to meet international commitments1


+ Royalties and logging income
+ New road into area
- Weakened biodiversity protection in forest site


National department of international affairs2

None exclusive to forest area (but powerful government office)


National security Immigration control


+ Improved access to the border


Logging company

7-year exclusive lease on 50 000 ha of forest


Road construction3


+ Expected timber sales and profit


Village A

Unrecognized customary forest use rights


Continued role in day-to-day management (fire management, controlling forest entry by migrants)4


- No further access to needed forest products


Village B

Unrecognized customary forest use rights


Continued role in day-to-day management (fire management, controlling forest entry by migrants)


-No further access to needed forest products


Village C

Unrecognized customary forest use rights




+ Increased revenue from sale of produce







- No further access to needed forest products


National research institute5

Research permit


Inform government of biodiversity inventory Assist forest agency with biodiversity management


- Inventory stopped, leaving gaps in national forest database Weakened biodiversity protection


Conservation NGO5

Research permit


Inform government of biodiversity inventory Assist forest agency with biodiversity management


- Inventory stopped, leaving gaps in national forest database Weakened biodiversity protection


Development NGO

None exclusive to forest site (but empowered under government health programme)


Improvement of local livelihoods


- Increased pressures on local livelihood support



1 Despite the national forest agency having a number of formal (legal) responsibilities to manage the forest sustainably, it was given a lower ranking (for responsibility) because of its inability to carry out its duties. The effectiveness of the forest agency in all responsibilities hinged on the support of various partnerships (for example with communities, the research institute, the logging company).

2 Many of the villagers initially saw all the interests of the government as being represented by the national forest agency. In preparing the matrix they realized that they needed to engage the office of international affairs, as well as the national forest agency. These two government departments have quite distinct interests, authority and strategies.

3 In discussion of the matrix, it was pointed out that the company had a low level of responsibility in terms of ensuring that the harvest was sustainable or that it provided for future local needs. It was also feared that constructing the road would open the area up to more settlers from other areas, and would not control the migrants as intended.

4 The forest agency acknowledged that it would continue to need the assistance of local people in forest area management.

5 In discussion of the matrix, the local villages opposing the logging decided to enlist the support of the research institute and conservation NGO, as these two groups had some formal rights to the area and their interests were potentially threatened.

Ranking of stakeholders according to respective 3Rs weight


Greatest rights

Most responsibilities

Most benefits


Forest agency

Villages A and B

Logging company


Logging company

Forest agency

Forest agency


Research institute/conservation NGO

Research institute/conservation NGO

Village C

Attachment 4c: Sample stakeholder relationships map


Issue: Logging company to harvest a forest area that is primary use area of Village A and B.


Alliances with research institute, conservation NGO and village B.
Major conflict with logging company's interest to harvest forest area.
Minor conflict with village C about supporting company's proposal.
Past relationships with forest agency have been good.


Alliances with research institute, conservation NGO and village A.
Strong kinship ties with village C.
Very little interaction with forest agency or logging company.


Company says it will purchase produce from village C in exchange for support of logging proposal.


Good relationship with forest agency through shared work on forest biodiversity strategy.
Partners with all villages in undertaking forest inventory work.
Some contact with logging company, but interaction so far has been poor.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS (to strengthen influence of villages A and B)

Use the alliance to lobby the forest agency and external stakeholders.
Village B acts as intermediary between villages A and C to renew and strengthen ties.
Research institute to present concerns of villages A and B to forest agency.
Research institute to explain concerns about logging impacts to village C.

Complementary tool 5: Conflict time line


To assist stakeholders in examining the history of a conflict and to improve their understanding of the sequence of events that led to the conflict.


The conflict time line is a useful tool for clarifying the dynamics of the conflict and spelling out its key issues. In particular, it may be useful as a warming up exercise to open space and involve stakeholders in the process. Based on the conflict time line, it may then be possible to proceed to root cause analysis and stakeholder analysis.

The conflict time line helps to structure the narratives of the conflict when stakeholders tell their stories of the conflict and enumerate what each party has done, when and how.

The conflict time line is particularly helpful when applied with the conflict stakeholders, during shuttle consultation and/or stakeholder engagement. It shows that mediators take the stories of the stakeholder groups seriously, and helps structure the discussion and complex information flows.


Flip chart.
Coloured pens.
A copy of Sample conflict time line (Attachment 5a) per person.


The time line helps conflict stakeholders to reflect on the different events that triggered the conflict. It helps mediators to clarify the chain of events.


Section 5.4.


1. The conflict time line can be utilized without much prior explanation. When a stakeholder group narrates its story, it may be useful to structure the flow of information. The mediator can suggest writing down the sequence of events on a flip chart so that the stakeholders can verify whether the mediators have correctly understood their stories.

2. On a flip chart, write the name of the conflict. Under the conflict heading, create columns for dates and events. Ask the participants to think of the specific events that led to this conflict, and when those events occurred. Explain that at this stage they should not worry if the dates are wrong, as these will be checked later.

Ask one participant to name one of the events - preferably one of the earlier events or actions in the history of the conflict. Record the date and event on the flip chart.

If some of the participants are illiterate, use symbols on the flip chart. However, precise points still need to be documented in writing.

3. Ask the participants for another event and record it. Continue to do so, explaining that they do not have to name the events in sequence. Check whether the participants can think of something that happened before the first events listed. The events will be recorded in the appropriate chronological order based on date.

Allow each participant to contribute his/her ideas without being questioned.

4. Review and reach agreement on the events, checking the order and dates.

When there is disagreement about the facts (either the date or the event), assess whether this is significant to the analysis. If the participants feel that they need to confirm the information, note this on a separate sheet as an "information need".

5. When participants appear to be satisfied with the time line record, ask them to take a moment and reflect on the history of the conflict.

Start a discussion with the following questions:

Attachment 5a: Sample conflict time line

Malawa people prepared this time line, with the assistance of a conservation NGO, in order to understand rivalries with another clan (the U'afu).





· Head of the Malawa informed that U'afu villagers are cutting trees claimed by the Malawa for canoes (land adjacent to the Ngala river).
· Malawa head and spokesperson go to U'afu, who explain that the cutting was within U'afu boundaries. Malawa head disagrees and asks that cutting stop.


· U'afu cut two more trees.
· Malawa villagers seize three completed canoes as compensation for U'afu stealing of trees.
· U'afu burn garden huts of three Malawa women.
· Malawa youths steal two U'afu pigs.


· Forest officers meet with U'afu to discuss timber concession on the eastern boundary of Ngala river and the overlap of Malawa land. U'afu do not tell forest agency about Malawa land claim.


· U'afu support timber company request for concession.
· Malawa object to concession at timber rights meeting.
· Malawa seek legal advice to stop concession.


· Timber company withdraws. U'afu blame Malawa.
· U'afu cut five more trees on disputed land.


· Conservation NGO working with Malawa discusses proposed watershed catchment management area on Ngala river. Malawa do not inform the NGO of U'afu's interests.
· Malawa receive funds and assistance to set up ecotourist lodge from NGO Water Catchment Protection Project.


· Malawa representative put on Ngala River Management Committee Board.
· U'afu cut three trees on disputed land.


· NGO meets with U'afu villagers on Ngala river project.
· U'afu man burns NGO vehicle. Man arrested and jailed.
· U'afu threaten further damage if their rights to the land are not recognized.


· Forest department and NGO draft Ngala River Catchment Protection legislation.
· U'afu boycott public meeting to discuss legislation.


· U'afu agree to allow use of Baenia river by Senta village people for oilpalm.
· Ngala River Catchment Protection legislation blocked by Senta parliament member.

Note: The names of the clans and locations are fabricated in order to respect the privacy of the people and groups involved.

Complementary tool 6: Mapping conflicts over resource use


To show geographically where land or resource use conflicts exist or may exist in the future.

To determine the primary issues of conflict.


Mapping is always useful for an understanding of the spatial dimension and geographic boundaries of resource conflicts. It is helpful to involve stakeholder groups in the process, structuring discussion about conflict issues and giving stakeholders a more active role in the process of analysis.

The conflict map is most usefully applied with the stakeholders during stakeholder engagement (step 4). Mediators should let the stakeholder group members draw the map themselves and should stimulate the process with questions.

Mapping can be carried out with one stakeholder group alone or, later in the conflict management process, with all primary stakeholders. In the latter case, drawing a conflict map may help to clarify the spatial boundaries of conflict among different stakeholders as a preparation for assessing options.


Flip chart.

Coloured pens.

Maps can be drawn on the ground so that they are easier to correct and change. The final map should then be documented on paper.


Drawing maps with stakeholders can be essential in stimulating discussion and triggering new ideas about how best to solve the conflict. Maps can help clarify the conflict issues.

However, mapping can also lead to tension when disagreement occurs, particularly when maps are drawn in the presence of all the stakeholders.


Sections 4; 5; and 6.


1. Explain the purpose of the activity to the participants, emphasizing that mapping is a useful tool for exploring the resource uses and values of different stakeholders, and for identifying existing or latent conflicts.

2. Ask the participants to begin by preparing a basic sketch map of the area on which the conflict is centred. This map should show the major landscape features and relevant boundaries of tenure.

3. Next, ask them to mark out areas of existing or proposed resource uses for different stakeholders. Resource uses may include food or material collection, protected area boundaries, commercial timber harvest, religious or sacred cultural sites, nesting sites for endangered species and use boundary changes.

4. When participants are satisfied that all the relevant information has been marked on the map, ask them to identify areas where land or resource uses are in conflict. These may include conflicts among existing uses, between existing and proposed uses or among proposed uses.

Record the specific areas of conflict, either by highlighting them on the map or by making a list of specific points of dispute.

5. Review each of the areas of conflict. Initiate a discussion with the following questions:

Note: There are several possible approaches to preparing the map. It can be drawn directly on to flip chart paper with coloured markers. Alternatively, in some rural areas it is more effective to ask the participants to construct the map first on an area of bare ground, possibly in a village centre, using rocks, leaves, seeds, twigs, etc. as symbols for natural and human features. When the map has been completed, a few participants transfer it on to flip chart paper. The advantage of this approach is that it allows many more people to be involved in creating the map and discussing the conflict.

Attachment 6a: Sample conflict map

The map below depicts conflicts in forest use. It identifies three areas of conflict between a forest regeneration area proposed by a watershed management committee and an area of traditional forest used by one local village community. Discussions among the local villagers identified their primary concerns as being lack of access to an important fuelwood collection site (site 1), the presence of two principal sites of carving wood within the proposed regeneration area, and the collection of housing material at an area upstream of the village along the riverbank. During preparation of the map, villagers decided that one of the fuelwood collection areas (site 3) was not crucial, and would not be disputed. In later meetings, the villagers agreed on regeneration of the upstream riverbank material site, as they came to understand that this could improve water quality at the village.

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