Introduction to Conflict Sensitivity

Welcome to our Introduction to Conflict Sensitivity course!

This course is designed to help aid workers in Sudan to better understand the theory and basic concepts of conflict sensitivity.

For Who
  • Conflict sensitivity
  • 10 Lectures
  • 7 Videos
  • 10 Hours
Material Supply
  • Video lectures
  • Textbooks
  • Quizzes
  • Online

Who is this course for?

People who have no experience with the concept, and want to get the basics down.
People who have a working understanding of what is meant by conflict sensitivity, but want to better understand the theory and how it looks in practical terms.

In this course, you will learn...

  • Why conflict sensitivity is important when designing or implementing aid programmes.
  • How basic concepts like ‘conflict’, ‘violence’, and ‘peace’ interact with aid programming – especially when working in conflict areas.
  • A theoretical and working definition of ‘conflict sensitivity’.
  • How conflict sensitivity interacts with other concepts such as social cohesion and gender sensitivity.
  • Types of conflict and contextual analysis that help us be conflict sensitive.
  • The role of adaptation in conflict sensitivity.
  • The role of conflict sensitivity in navigating dilemmas.

Course agenda

Section 1. Introduction

Lecture 1
Motivation and Context
1 Hour

During this course, you’ll learn about the history of conflict sensitivity, some of the basic theories and ideas behind it, what it looks like in practice, and why it is useful. 

The course consists of 3 sections, each with a number of lectures.  Each section concludes with a short quiz that you must pass before beginning the next section.  We’ll be using video and audio in this course, but all of the content will also be provided in text lectures as well, so that if you don’t have very good internet you can still access the content without watching the videos

Section 1 test
Please take this test in order to complete the first section of this course.

Section 2. Basic Concepts

Lecture 1
1 Hour

The word ‘conflict’ is one of those words that everyone knows, and uses all the time, but that can mean something a bit different for everyone. So the first step in this course is to both recognise that fact, as well as establish the working definition that we will use for the remainder of this course.  Here it is:

“Conflict exists in all societies at all times and need not necessarily be negative or destructive. Conflict is the pursuit of contrary or seemingly incompatible interests – whether between individuals, groups or countries. It can be a major force for positive social change.”

(DfID, Preventing Violent Conflict,  2008)

Lecture 2
1 Hour

So if we know what conflict means, how do you understand violence? What’s the first word or image that comes to mind when you hear the term? How does it differ or align with the term ‘conflict?
Violence is one response to conflict, but far from the only one. Yet often we conflate the two, which obscures the ways conflicts are most often managed i.e. without violence.
Unlike conflict, which is not necessarily harmful, violence refers to: “Actions, words, attitudes, structures or systems that cause physical, psychological, social or environmental damage, and/or prevent people from reaching their human potential”.

Lecture 3
1 Hour

The capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively; a never-ending process.
Peace, is a ‘capacity’ or an ability, something you can do. It’s a way of managing conflict – one that relies on creativity and empathy, and a willingness to collaborate for solutions to conflict.
Peace is a “never ending process”.  No society is ever totally at peace. An impossible but integral ideal that will always require work.

Section 2 test
Please take this test in order to complete the second section of this course.

Section 3. Conflict Sensitivity in Theory

Lecture 1
Explanation of Conflict Sensitivity: What does it mean?
1 Hour
  • Conflict Sensitivity means:
    • Understanding the context: This is the first step of conflict sensitivity – to not operate blindly. This 1st step is deceptively difficult. It sounds simple but in any country, there are many different contexts that are changing all of the time and interacting with one another. How much do we really know the social, economic, political and conflict dynamics happening in each the areas where we work? Do we know who is in conflict with whom, and where there are visible or invisible violence forms of being committed?
    • Understanding how our work interacts with conflict dynamics: The next step is to try to understand how our work and even our very presence is interacting with the conflict dynamics in the communities where we work. This is difficult as understanding our impact generally can be time-intensive and complicated. At the same time, any project is likely to have both positive and negative impacts on conflict at different levels. Short term and long term. Direct and indirect. This means that efforts to then use that understanding to avoid negative and maximise positive impacts on peace and conflict can involve tricky trade-offs between opportunities and risks.
    • Minimising negative impacts of interventions and maximising positive impacts on conflict dynamics: This is the sharp end of conflict sensitivity that makes it more than just analysis and awareness. This is where we makes sure we are willing and able to adapt our work to have the best impact possible on conflict and are contributing to a healthy society.

But it doesn’t end here! After this, we need to continue monitoring for any unintended consequences, learning from them, and adapting the way that we work. This is not so much a final step, as the central way that conflict sensitivity works.  It’s a way of designing and delivering aid that is smart, principled, and context-driven, underpinned by ongoing observation, analysis, learning and adaptation.

Lecture 2
Gender and Conflict Sensitivity
1 Hour

Socially constructed gender roles and relations do impact how men/boys/girls/women experience conflict, that we shouldn’t fall into the same assumptions and traps without more thorough interrogation.

In Sudan, like most places, gender and conflicts interact in countless ways, many of which will have implications for the conflict sensitivity of aid programs.

  • Women played an integral role in 2019 revolution, protesting in the streets, through art, poetry and social media despite facing arrest, sexual assault, teargas, live bullets and harassment by security agents. Also active in uprisings October 1964 and in May 1985. What does this mean for gender equality and conflict? Why do women play this role? What does it tell us about conflict dynamics? What opportunities and risks does it pose for those dynamics?
  • Many Sudanese communities have their own Hakamat, a woman who traditionally sings to encourage men into battle, using the kinds of conflict narratives mentioned previously. Also deter men from behaving in ways that do not benefit the community e.g. looting/stealing. They are very influential in Sudanese communities but rely on donations from community members. Recently, some peacebuilding organisations have begun engaging with Hakamats to sing songs in praise of peace and dialogue instead. What might be the risks and opportunities here?
  • Since conflict has a gender dimension, any approach to conflict sensitivity worth its salt will also aim to be gender sensitive.
  • This means that conflict sensitivity involves:
    • Understanding the context (including gender roles and conflict)
    • Understanding how our work interacts with conflict dynamics in the context (including gender roles and interactions)
    • Minimising negative impacts of interventions and maximising positive impacts on conflict dynamics; (including for men, women, boys and girls)
Lecture 3
Aid and Social Cohesion: What’s the link?
1 Hour

Some humanitarian and development workers might be initially skeptical when we suggest that their WASH, shelter, livelihoods, or food aid programs should care about social tensions and cohesion. With that in mind, let’s take a few minutes to highlight why social cohesion is so pivotal.  Social cohesion is a vital humanitarian resource and one we should nurture. This is because in contexts characterised by social tensions rather than cohesion, violence and the humanitarian needs they fuel are FAR more likely to emerge and increase. At the same time social tensions make it far more difficult for such societies and the aid actors working among them to address those needs.

While socially cohesive communities might pool and share resources in hard times to help others, communities affected by tensions might see competition over resources and the exploitation of the most vulnerable. At the same time, the trust held by socially cohesive communities allows for the smoother resolution of conflicts, preventing escalation and retaliation.

  • The main point is that by developing social cohesion in the way that we provide aid and development assistance, we can ensure communities are well equipped to deal with hard times, well positioned to receive and distribute aid and reduce the chances that marginalisation of violence with result.
Section 3 test
Please take this test in order to complete the third section of this course.

Section 4. Conflict Sensitivity in Practice

Lecture 1
Types of Analysis
1 Hour

What does conflict analysis look like in practice? From using third party experts and robust data collection to using participatory processes like institutional analysis and informal & unstructured analysis we look at the characteristics and advantages of using all these analysis tools

Lecture 2
1 Hour

Much of our conflict sensitivity impact hinges on the unintended consequences of the way we operate. A lack of flexibility in our operational approaches may push us to do things that are not responsive to contextual dynamics.

Lecture 3
Dilemmas: How does conflict sensitivity help us navigate them?
1 Hour

When we’re aware of the context and gather regular information across various channels and with different approaches, we are in a better place to know the options, and their consequences.
Good analysis will help us navigate these dilemmas. The point of conflict sensitivity is not to prevent necessary action, but to take all available measures and analysis into consideration to minimize harm.

Section 4 test
Please take this test in order to complete the fourth section of this course.
Final test
Final test


Audrey Bottjen

Head of CSF

Dorette Besser

Dorette provides strategic leadership for and manage the operations of the facility. As our main representative, Dorette also represents the facility in engagements with partners and donors while also being involved in our capacity building sessions, our analysis and our engagements with the broader aid sector in Sudan.

Dorette has 14 years of experience working in a range of management, operational and strategic positions for NGOs and businesses in Sudan, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Caribbean. Over the years, she has worked tirelessly to build conflict sensitivity within aid programs through advocacy and advisory work to UN agencies and the wider donor community.

Louise Walker

Basil Daffalla

Sarra Majdoub

Mohd Asim Amin

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