Thematic Note: Cross-Cutting Theme: Conflict and Violence

This research was funded as part of the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge programme


Conflicts are not necessarily violent, nor inherently bad. They are an inevitable part of living in society, and are a result of the differences and tensions between people and between groups. Conflicts play an important role in driving social change; and social change itself can generate conflict.

International Alert uses the definition from the Conflict-Sensitivity Consortium, of which it was a member: “Conflict occurs when two or more parties believe that their interests are incompatible, express hostile attitudes or take action that damages other parties’ ability to pursue their interests. It becomes violent when parties no longer seek to attain their goals peacefully, but resort instead to violence in one form or another.” In other words, conflict is the result of (perceived) incompatible aims, perceptions or behaviours of at least two actors (Scheffran et al., 2012).

This allows Urban ARK to distinguish between conflict and violence. Conflict is a dynamic process, can be violent or non-violent and can go through various stages of escalation and de-escalation. In violent conflict however, at least one actor uses force to pursue their aim (Scheffran et al. 2012). Not surprisingly, the threat, fear or actual experience of conflict and violence has an impact across almost any area of privately and publicly experienced life. For example in terms of people’s status and levels of confidence, their degree of agency and voice, their access to livelihoods and assets, the availability of and access to resources, services and infrastructure and local capacities to respond to circumstances. These dynamics have a bearing – often a very significant one – on how effective external interventions in vulnerable urban settings will be whether risk management, development, humanitarian or peacebuilding.

This is an output from the Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) programme


Mitra, S., Schilling, J., Thematic Note: Cross-Cutting Theme: Conflict and Violence

Thematic Note: Cross-Cutting Theme: Conflict and Violence

Published 1 January 2018