Causes of conflict
Conflict management system can manage conflict and channel it into constructive areas.
Many natural resources have strong emotive ties for people relating to their identity, homeland and property, but they are also extremely valuable, tradable and easily lost.
Much of the worlds mineral wealth is exploited in places where poverty is widespread and where conflict has been a feature of society. Experience suggests that mining impacts can become politicized and can lead to conflicts. The Kennedy School of government at Harvard University (2008) describe conflict as both inevitable and avoidable, and considers that a level of suspicion and questioning generally exists in a community about a company from the outset, which at the early stages of a project may be no more serious than a natural wariness of anything new more serious, something which can and should be avoided.
How can companies manage this natural wariness that people have with their companies who manage resources??
Different types of conflict:
There are three types of determinants to conflicts. These are the systemic or structural, the proximate or the enabling factors and the immediate or the triggering factors (Kapelus, Richards, & Sherwin, 2011). The three factors interrelate and overlap in one or more ways.
- Structural/root causes are the pervasive factors that are built into the policies, structures of society and many create the preconditions for violent conflict. Some of these root causes include:-
- Structural factors- These are the factors inherent in a community that precipitate tension and set precedence for future conflict. These factors include ethnic geography, intra-state security concerns and weak structures of governorship.
- Political and economic factors-the presence of weak political and economic institutions. Political factors include exclusionary national ideologies that leave some people embittered, inter-group politics, discriminatory economic policies by those in power among other factors.
- Cultural/perceptual factors- real or misconceived cultural aspects such as artwork, food, dressing, language, religions and cultural differences may cause deep-seated resentment between communities that are culturally different.
- Proximate causes are the factors that are symptomatic of the root causes of conflicts or may lead to further escalation (e.g. human rights abuse, role of Diasporas). The proximate causes are the problems in the political, social and the communication processes and institutions that conjure to mediate the effects of systemic conditions on people’s behaviors and lives. Government policies, economic reform programs, social organization, militarization and external military aid can all be examples of proximate causes of conflicts (Rees, Kemp & Davis, 2012).
- Triggers are single acts, events of violent conflict (e.g. elections, sudden collapse of currency, increased food/water scarcity that precipitate a conflict to a full-blown status rife with armed conflict, bloodshed and displacements of people. Triggers are usually issues that have for long been at the centre of looming conflicts that goes unaddressed. They are usually high profile events such as elections, government crack down on activist groups, commencement of major projects such as mineral exploitation, the scramble for meager natural resources such as water, pasture, food among other needs especially in times of scarcity such as droughts and other natural or man-made disasters (Rees, Kemp & Davis, 2012).
Methods of integrating conflict sensitivity into best practices
This gives companies guidance to help companies identify and engage with the risks and opportunities associated with conflict and to manage conflict to avoid escalation.
7 approaches to establish management systems through impact assessment include:
1. Building on impact assessment processes;
2. Understanding the socioeconomic and political context;
3. Understanding the project impacts on the community;
4. Building trust;
5. Establishing community liaison teams;
6. Setting up grievance mechanisms;
7. Working within the human rights framework'
1. Building on impact assessment processes
When undertaking a conflict-sensitive impact assessment, a project should build on specialist studies carried out as part of an integrated impact assessment using techniques that are sensitive to the conflict-prone environment. This will involve the identification of all potential conflict triggers that the project might induce.
It is particularly important to note that in preparing a conflict assessment, the following should be achieved:
A detailed understanding of the nature of historical, current and potential conflict, including the extent to which the community is prone to conflict; an analysis of the underlying features of conflict; the potential for project activities to trigger conflict the potential for the prevailing conflict dynamics to impact negatively on the project and future investments. This should involve an in-depth analysis of key issues' which through the impact of project activity could become conflict triggers; for example, land access and rights, water, forest reserves and Indigenous peoples. The analysis of these issues should be conducted by specialists.
A detailed assessment of the social impacts of the project that could act as a trigger in causing or exacerbating conflict
These should be in line with the standard impact assessment methodology adopted by the project, and should consider both positive and negative impacts.
A detailed assessment of the social risks that the issue pose of conflict could to the project, over the foreseeable lifespan of the project.
Comprehensive and practical, recommendations that the project can incorporate into project documents and management plans for managing the risks of unintentionally promoting conflict through strategies and interventions that are in line with relevant international norms and expectations.
The identification and analysis of key stakeholders within the context of historical, current and potential conflict
Stakeholder analysis should identify the points of potential conflict between these stakeholders to understand how project-related activity could both cause and exacerbate conflict within these relationships.
2. Understanding the socioeconomic and political context
An effective management approach must be based on addressing the characteristics of relationships in the specific location. The analysis should focus on what triggers conflict as well as how prevailing, conflict might pose a risk to the project. This is particularly important in post-war situations.
Contextual analysis will enable the project to understand historical and current conflict. This should include assessment of the host government’s commitment to the protection of human rights.
It is essential to have a thorough understanding of community dynamics within the project area. This should cover tribal divisions, power structures, ethnic or religious divisions, traditional hierarchies, and in-migration dynamics (Kapelus, Richards, & Sherwin, 2011). Some of this information can be gathered through interviews with selected local representatives before field data is collected.
Contextual analysis should include assessment of:
- Institutions and governance structures
- Vulnerable groups and rights holders, such as women and children, marginalised groups, Indigenous people, refugees or other migrants and whether they’ll develop hostility towards the project
- whether social divisions in society might develop into conflict as a result of the project's presence
- How competition for resources could create conflict, e.g. land, water, gas, oil, mining
- Internal community power relations, e.g. chiefs, tribal leaders, elites, social hierarchies
- Historical background of various conflicts
- Domestic legal frameworks, which may be inadequate or poorly enforced
- International human rights instruments and the extent to which communities are able to access the protection provided by treaties.
- Grievances a community may have with its predecessors
A contextual analysis is not a one off exercise. Community dynamics and project impacts are constantly changing and therefore quickly become out of date. Systems established early in the project should be continuously running throughout the life of the project.
3. Understanding the project impacts on the community
Extractive companies by their very presence will inevitably have an impact on society. Neutrality is not possible for an entity that both symbolizes and represents changes to the local economics, environment and society.
Companies operating in war zones even if it is low-level conflict, run the risk that their activities can intersect with the politics and either exacerbate the conflict or result in the company becoming a victim to that conflict.
The project may impact the community in the following ways (modified from International Alert, 2005; Zandvliet and Anderson, 2009)
- Direct: conflict directly due to problems with relations between the company and the community. The company has direct control over this by managing a better relationship.
- Catalyst: the company’s activities and presence exacerbates existing intergroup conflict
- Proxy: the company is used as a proxy target against the conflict of others.
- Indirect: the company may have potential to accidently get caught up in wider conflict by simply being in that area.
Some project activities can create problems that escalate to: resettlement; severe environmental impacts; recruitment; procurement; distribution of benefits; and security.
4. Building trust
Where trust breaks down or is non-existent, conflict escalates. A system of engagement based on openness and accessibility should underpin all work. Whereas EIA is typically based on static, inanimate receptors, conflict sensitive impact assessment is based on a set of constantly evolving social, economic and political dynamics.
An early warning system should be developed to help predict how a conflict-prone environment might respond. Using local knowledge gained through context analysis the project should develop participatory methodologies for data gathering and take into consideration the needs/context of the local environment.
Interviewing local member of the community (incl. security divisions) should be conducted to gain this local knowledge and needs:
- Conflict affected local residence, e.g. those who’ve experience violence, interracial, intra communal tensions
- Internally displaced persons
- Recently arrived residence
- Local residence who have not been displaced
- Key staff in a project
- Local government officials, e.g. police, politicians, judiciary
- Representatives of aid organisations
- Observations and collection of visual records on the dynamics of internal displacement and in-migration.
It must become a 'live' document with a strategy and implementation plan for acting on indications of conflict identified through the process.
5. Establishing community liaison teams
Having the right team to manage community relations can often be underestimated in a project which is focused on extracting minerals. In some cases, a community liaison team is set up too late, is ill prepared or lacks the necessary skills, or lacks the authority to be credible among all stakeholders.
When establishing a community liaison team the following should be considered:
- Recruit as early as possible
- Involve the community liaison officer (CLO) and team in strategy planning and development of systems.
- Recruit from the local region when possible. Be sensitive to tribal relations/alliances/customs/culture
- Recruit local experts but be careful this selection doesn’t inflame pre-existing tensions/conflict, e.g. land-rights, or resettlement.
- Recruits may need to be selected from certain tribal descent
- Adequate training of the CLO is important to success. Ensure training includes international standards norms and human rights
- Ensure the CLO has sufficient authority to make decisions and manage conflict. If community members see that the CLO has no influence within the project, they will make their concerns known through other channels.
6. Setting up grievance mechanisms
A key element of community engagement must be a community grievance mechanism, Ruggie (2008, p. 24) considers that non-judicial grievance mechanisms must be:
Without a system where stakeholders can communicate their grievances for a solution conflict will escalate compromising the project. Grievance mechanisms respect human rights and are a way to redress project activity and impact.
The project must ensure the community is involved in creating the grievance mechanism process. The CLO should also recognise when a complaint can be managed through dialogue and when it may require external mediation.
The project will need to know how to make the grievance process accessible to all stakeholders. Bearing in mind, the most vulnerable may have the least access to these channels.
Neglecting any grievance, or making a judgement as to its importance without going through the necessary procedures, will undermine the whole process and result in stakeholders taking their grievances elsewhere.
7. Working within the human rights framework
It is vital to place conflict-sensitive impact assessment within the broader human rights framework, since conflict arises as a result of neglected human rights protection by the state and often results in human rights abuses if allowed to escalate.
States are primarily responsible for the protection of human rights. However, the international community has become increasingly aware of the impacts that business can have on this protection by infringing on the rights of affected communities as a result of project activities.
John Ruggie (2008) framework has three- core principles:
1. The state duty to protect human rights, which can be abused by business;
2. The corporate responsibility is to respect human rights;
3. The need for more effective access to remedies
In scenarios where companies fail to uphold human rights in their responsibilities; they increase the risk of conflict. The human rights framework should be added as an additional layer to the analysis to determine project impacts.
In a conflict prone environment transparency can become threatened. Conflict which is low level can have the ability to very quickly become inflamed and escalate dramatically. Conflict sensitivity is increasingly necessary for companies operating in socially/politically fragile environments. In fragile environments it is part of the natural evolution of social impact assessment the underlying premise that communities and human beings are changeable and emotive the traditional approach of impact assessment needs to be rethought because it is quantitative and static. Conflict sensitive impact assessment needs to address human dynamics, relationships power and influences.
International Alert (2005) International Alert Strategic perspectives 2005-9. Retrieved 7 May 2013 from: http://www.international-alert.org/resources/publications/international-alert-strategic-perspective-2005-9
Kapelus, P., Richards, E. & Sherwin, H. (2011) “Conflict-sensitive impact assessment” in Vanclay F. & Esteves M.A. (eds) New Directions in Social Impact Assessment: Conceptual and Methodological Advances. Edward Elgar Press, Cheltenham: 288-305
Rees, C., Kemp, D., & Davis, R. (2012) Conflict Management and Corporate Culture in the Extractive Industries: A Study in Peru. Retrieved 7 May 2013 from: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/CSRI/CSRI_report_50_Rees_Kemp_Davis.pdf
Ruggie, J. G. (2008). Embedding global markets: An enduring challenge. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Zandvliet, L., & Anderson, M. B. (2009). Getting it right: Making corporate-community relations work. Sheffield, U.K: Greenleaf Pub.