4.1.3. Applying a Conflict Lens throughout the Project Cycle

Value Chain Selection

When selecting value chains for development during or following a conflict, implementers should start with multiple opportunities and seek to strike a balance between critical sectors for economic recovery and sectors that show potential for long-term competitiveness. An examination of early engagement value chain efforts in the staple food crop, construction and transport sectors provides insight into ways to develop sustainable chains that can reach significant scale, have a multiplier effect for others and the potential to deliver on the peace dividend. Early actions also lay the foundation for future programming and it is important to keep the long-term perspective in mind even during emergency interventions. The EMMA tool provides information on early engagement and appropriate value chains to target. Key subsectors or chains to target include the following:

  • Staple foods: The Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) toolkit shows that in a sudden onset crisis, whether conflict-related or not, access to staple foods is a key concern and one that can have an important impact on local markets. Blanket food distributions can depress local markets if done without analysis of pre-crisis systems and food aid can become a bartered commodity. A value chain analysis can provide an in-depth understanding of how markets worked prior to the crisis and how local market actors can contribute to aid solutions, or, at a minimum, avoid doing harm.[1]
  • Shelter materials for short- and longer-term rebuilding are identified as critical needs in nearly all of the recent EMMAs. In post-conflict situations there is often a sudden, increased demand for shelter materials—bricks, wood, thatch, concrete, metal and the skilled and non-skilled laborers who use them. While the manufacture of materials such as bricks can represent an income opportunity for some, using scarce resources such as potable water for production can also cause great deprivation and even spark renewed hostilities. In other cases, a recovery opportunity can be missed if development or relief programs fail to include local entrepreneurs in distribution mechanisms. Businesses, training programs and other interventions built around short-term spikes in demand need to be mindful that this demand is unsustainable. Looking at shelter material value chains can reveal opportunities with growth potential and help ensure the design of responses that address both immediate and longer-term shelter needs.
  • Labor markets: Because of the impact of conflict on stable incomes, livelihoods programs often look for alternative employment options. Analysis of labor markets can provide practitioners with more appropriate program responses and ensure that vocational training and job creation programs are based on market demand. Labor is an input and can be a bottleneck if needed skill sets are not available. Looking at labor through a value chain lens helps practitioners design programs that are more likely to ensure that beneficiaries obtain employment and that potential employers understand the impact of employee training on production quality.[2]
  • Livestock is often a key productive asset and can also be a savings mechanism in certain cultures. The livestock sector, including both small-scale and range animals (and related services), can be decimated by prolonged conflict. Using the value chain approach to understand the markets that affect and the actors who work in the livestock sector can ensure that interventions have a sustainable effect on animal health and sector productivity. This sector is economically complex and a classic flash-point for conflict due to tension between rangeland and farmland needs; cattle rustling and raiding; and tension between nomadic lifestyles and settled populations. Working successfully in this sector requires a clear understanding of economic and social relationships.[3]

In selecting value chains, practitioners should also be aware of ongoing relief efforts such as provision of emergency employment or grants to specific enterprises. While such immediate post-conflict actions may not appear to be directly relevant to the selection of value chains for further development, it will be important to understand how they may have affected the labor market or the attitudes of the private sector toward contributing to their own development.

Conflict Analysis

A conflict analysis and mapping exercise can help a value chain or market development project answer the following questions:

  • What is the conflict profile — the political, economic and socio-cultural context and issues — and what is its history and the areas that are affected?
  • Who are the main actors in the conflict and who are the primary actors in the political, security, economic and socio-cultural spheres? What are their goals and interests,; how do they relate to one another and how can they support peace or further the conflict?
  • What are the major causes of the conflict? What underlying factors in the society create the preconditions for violence and what other factors contribute to violence?
  • What are the dynamics of the conflict? What were the stages and patterns and what are the current and past trends? How are these evolving over time? Are there windows of opportunity for peace or improvements such as a cease-fire or accord? What scenarios can be developed to determine the possible future of the conflict?

The next step is to look at the market using a conflict analysis lens. Program designers now must answer questions about existing connections between the conflict and the market(s) they are analyzing:

  • Is there any overlap between the major market actors and those involved in the conflict?
  • Does the market encourage links between groups separated by conflict, or does it reinforce divisions?
  • Can specific groups affected by the conflict (such as ex-combatants) participate effectively in this market?
  • How is the market affected by, and how does it affect, the conflict? Does it reinforce existing inequalities? Do market trends affect the dynamics of the conflict, either positively or negatively? How do changes in the conflict affect this market?

The answers to these questions allow post-conflict value chain projects to understand and address the reality and details of the conflict. This is similar to how they learn about and work with the reality and details of market demand. While we do not yet have a tool that specifically addresses the market-conflict intersection, the "Conflict-Sensitive Approaches to Value Chain Development" report[4] is a good place to start, and the "Introduction to Conflict-Sensitive Programme Management" guide[5] provides a process and tools for adjusting on-going project activities to erupting conflict situations.

Applying a conflict lens to value chain analysis is likely to reveal more nuanced and concrete findings and recommendations. And, while a conflict lens can enhance a value chain analysis, the inverse is also true. Where conflict analysis highlights the production and trading of a particular good as a conflict driver, analysis of that particular value chain throws light on the different aspects that facilitate and support production, trading and sale into end markets in a way that a standard conflict analysis does not.

Conflict-Sensitive Approaches to Implementation

Practitioners also need to remain aware of how efforts to promote the economy can interact with the dynamics of a conflict. The Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit published a study that warned against efforts to promote formerly functioning, but now collapsed markets. The study found that these policies risked reinforcing the interests of economic elites that held power during the reign of the Taliban regime. These people could control a wide range of trade at both the community and import/export levels and usually had no interest in long-term investments, strategic positioning for the community or their non-elite business partners. They are often connected to powerful political stakeholders at the regional level, and peace-building efforts that overlook these relationships and trade patterns do so at their own peril.[6] This is an especially important consideration in choosing lead firms with which to work.

Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict-Affected Contexts

Conflict-affected environments add additional challenges to the task of collecting reliable and consistent data to monitor and evaluate program performance as well as unintended consequences of interventions. Conflict contexts affect the logistics of an M&E system as well as the content of data and information that should be collected. Logistically, an M&E system must consider the following security challenges:

  • Security precautions may hinder data collectors from reaching data collection sites and senior M&E managers and technical experts from observing data collection and verifying data quality.
  • Ethnic or religious conflicts may limit mobility of certain data collectors of certain ethnic groups from traveling to areas dominated by other ethnic or religious groups.
  • Certain disaggregates or questions may be too sensitive to collect, such as an individual or group’s ethnicity or religious affiliation.
  • In some conflict environments women are less mobile than men and therefore less likely to act as enumerators, weakening the gender balance in your data collection staff.

To address these challenges, an M&E system in conflict environments must be flexible and adaptable.

In addition, conflict contexts require more frequent monitoring, particularly of the unintended consequences of program activities in order to ensure that interventions are not contributing to or sustaining the drivers of conflict. USAID’s Capable Partners Program presents a framework for conflict-sensitive M&E that uses three types of indicators:[8]

  1. Indicators to monitor how conflict factors evolve
  2. Indicators to monitor the project’s efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability
  3. Indicators to measure the interaction between the context and the project

The USAID Foreign Assistance Framework also includes standard indicators for Peace and Security, Conflict Mitigation and Peace and Reconciliation Processes Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation.

Expecting Peace-Building Outcomes from Economic Development

Many donors and implementers want to use the power of the market to drive peace, but there is little evidence on how this can best be accomplished and field work to date reveals mixed results. However, there is some interesting thinking around the question “Is there anything my market development program can do to actually mitigate conflict and promote peace?” Programs are piloting various approaches: bringing together warring groups for trade; targeting conflict instigators such as ex-combatants [9] for job training; or seeking to promote alternative economic activities to coca or opium production or deforestation due to logging or charcoal-making. While some of these initiatives may not be based on real demand and might never be competitive or sustainable, the short to medium-term conflict mitigation outcomes can be compelling and they are worth considering in certain circumstances.

There is some initial work indicating that the economic aim of the market program must remain paramount if the program is to succeed. In their paper "Conflict-Sensitive Approaches to Value Chain Development, Gündüz and Klein suggest that "conflict-sensitive planning and implementation requires a value chain intervention to achieve its objectives in a way that also maximizes peaceful outcomes and mitigates identified conflict issues or risks."[10]

Economic development and conflict practitioners have developed the following list of key questions a project should be able to answer if it expects to achieve the dual goals of economic development and conflict mitigation/peace-building using a market development intervention:[11]

  • Does the program have a clear causal model about how a market intervention can lead to a peace-building outcome?
  • Has it considered other interventions to achieve a peace-building outcome and determined that a market development intervention is the most effective means of mitigating conflict?
  • Does it have clear and logically-selected indicators to measure progress toward both the economic and peace-building goals?
  • Does it have the time and resources to conduct a thorough conflict analysis at the beginning of the project, and to monitor conflict drivers during the project, to account for fluidity and dynamics in the conflict?
  • Is it designed and managed by market development specialists with a conflict specialist either on staff or available for strategic input and advice?
  • Does it have a plan of action if it finds that the market development intervention is not achieving its peace-building aim? Or, if a proposed program activity would be highly beneficial to one goal—such as economic or peace-building—but detrimental to the other?
  • Has it determined if the potential intervention will do no harm, over both the short and long-term, in promoting economic recovery?


  1. See for example, the EMMA analysis of the beans market system in the southeast department of Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake.
  2. See for example, the EMMA analysis of the agricultural labor market system in the southeast department of Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake
  3. For more information, see Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS).
  4. Conflict-Sensitive Approaches to Value Chain Development, Canan Gündüz and Diana Klein, 2008, USAID microREPORT #101
  5. Introduction to Conflict-Sensitive Programme Management (CSPM): Integrating conflict sensitivity and prevention of violence into SDC programmes
  6. Trading in power: The Politics of "Free" markets in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, by Sarah Lister and Adam Paine, 2004
  7. Conflict-Sensitive Monitoring and Evaluation: Keys for Successful Programming, USAID.
  8. Socio-Economic Reintegration of ex-combatants: Understanding and addressing key challenges, Reintegration Briefing Paper 1.2, 2009, International Alert
  9. Conflict-Sensitive Approaches to Value Chain Development, Canan Gündüz and Diana Klein, 2008, USAID microREPORT #101
  10. International Alert: ‘Peacebuilding essentials for economic development practitioners’ Practice note 1: Market development in conflict-affected contexts, T. Gerstle and L. Meissner (2009)