Conflict Mapping Tool for Multi-stakeholder Conflict

Brief Description (including a definition if possible)

The Mediators’ Network for Sustainable Peace (MedNet), a Philippine-based NGO has been applying the Conflict-Mapping tool for Multi-stakeholder conflicts for analyzing various community conflicts around the Philippines. Using a Conflict-Mapping tool inspired by the Consensus-Building Institute (CBI) model, the organization has succeeded in bridging the divide caused by various ‘boundaries’ that create complications already in the analysis of the conflict and more so at the efforts for its resolution. The MedNet experience can be seen as a model of how one can learn from such a situation where various stakeholders in a conflict with oftentimes competing interests can be brought together and learn from an analysis of the situation.

When to use
The Conflict-Mapping tool for Multi-stakeholder conflicts can be use to analyze various community conflicts that involve multiple stakeholders.

How to use

In its newsletter The Mediator, MedNet describes the various steps in the process:
  1. initiating the process
  2. conducting key interviews and focus discussions
  3. analyzing the views
  4. designing the draft conflict map
  5. presenting the conflict mapping to the concerned parties in a validation meeting and a multi-stakeholder conference. (The Mediator, Vol. 1, issue 4, March 2007).

The last step is very important as oftentimes, it is not easy to bring together people of various persuasions, yet it is crucial for the consensus-building process and such a successful process is a key towards determining which conflict resolution process would be most effective.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

Caroliza Tulod-Peteros, mediation specialist at MedNet who was a facilitator of the conflict mapping exercise shares the following thoughts on the learning process facilitated by the activity:

  1. The people learned that there is a systematic way of understanding their conflicts. The conflict map, when presented to them helped them realize the dimensions of their conflicts and the areas where they can possibly work together to lessen their problems.
  2. The validation and multi-stakeholders meetings provided a venue for them to express their thoughts and feelings. It helped diffuse a tight situation. It was an opportunity for them to meet together for the first time in one where all stakeholders were represented; they listened to each other and exchanged their ideas. There were heightened debates but through skillful facilitation and constant reminder of the ground rules, the discussions proceeded and agreements were achieved. It was also a chance to clarify the actions or messages of any of the stakeholders. The meetings helped them realize that despite their conflicts, they were still living together in one community (barangay or town) and all of them were affected directly or indirectly by this conflict and they have to do something about it.
  3. For people who were used to one-sided discussions of the issue, the multi-stakeholders meeting gave them an opportunity to learn that it is possible to talk about their conflicts with inputs from various points of view and find acceptable decisions through the help of a third party facilitator.
  4. The validation meetings provided an avenue for the conflict assessors to be updated of changes of positions of stakeholders, get hold of new developments on the ground that might affect the dynamics of the conflict and sharpen the analysis of the conflict and improve the conflict map. Further, it was an opportunity to get a sense of the openness of stakeholders to a possible agreement on priority issues.
  5. For the conflict assessors, the whole experience helped us stretch our limits in terms of patience and flexibility. We constantly reminded ourselves of our ethics. The process provided an avenue to understand more about the meanings and symbols of the conflicts to the various groups especially the indigenous peoples. Lastly, it reinforced the value of talking to one another as facilitators, of the need to really listen to the people’s thoughts and feelings, of jointly exploring opportunities to discover possible solutions to complex problems but mindful that the decisions are theirs and our role was only to facilitate, to help them see possible options; to help them understand these options….in the end we can only have control of the process but not the decisions.

Examples & Stories

The Pulangi River, winding thru the Maapag Plain. Seen from Mount Musuan between the boundaries of Valencia City and Maramag in Bukidnon province, Philippines

A clear example of the conflict mapping done by MedNet is on the case of the community conflict around the proposed 300-Megawatt Pulangi hydroelectric power project in the Bukidnon and Cotabato provinces in southern Philippines.

Conflict mapping around the Pulangi power project issue
In 2010, Mednet was asked to do conflict mapping on the issue that has galvanized various positions from the various stakeholders after the power plant project was announced. Communities who would be affected and displaced by the mega-dam project voiced their opposition. Proponents and their supporters, including from the local government units expressed the need for the project and it was a complicated situation. Through a tedious process of gathering data, organizing a series of Key Informant Interviews, Focus Group Discussions, analyzing the information validation meetings and finally validation meetings and a multi-stakeholders conference where the findings of the conflict mapping was presented to around 500 people who represented the various interest groups, the organization tried to map the conflict around the proposed project.
As a result of the mapping, below is a table of the various stakeholders and their level of involvement in the conflict. The field is blank on the result of the process to ensure confidentiality.
table of multistakeholder.png

How did this experience, particularly the validation and multi-stakeholder meetings help the people learn from one another?

At the outset, it was normal for some of the stakeholders to have very strong views on the issue as they considered mainly their own interests as a group which they would want to defend vigorously. The other group or groups were considered the ‘adversary’ and had to be opposed at all costs. It’s normal that the affected households would be vehemently opposed to the proponents. The proponents would see the opposition to their projects in a negative light, knowing that these could block their project for which they stand to gain a lot in terms of returns. The Government officials would see the great ‘progress’ that the mega-dam project could possibly bring in terms of power generation. The various people’s organizations and coalitions would think of their interests as Indigenous peoples, as a faith community or as advocate groups and could be strong in their position on the issue. It’s a very complex issue which could remain intractable if no process of consensus-building is done. The boundaries were quite clear and it was a very conflictual situation. But with the conflict mapping process, the proponents, the stakeholders and the mediator were able to learn a lot about one another and of the situation. The validation processes and the multi-stakeholder conference brought the ‘adversaries’ on the same place and these events greatly diffused the tension and latent conflict evident in the issue. They were very useful in helping the various groups understand the point of view of the others. At the least, the conflict mapping exercise was very useful for them to identify what form of dispute resolution process could ensue. In a sense, the process helped the stakeholders see beyond their own boundaries.

Who can tell me more?

  • MedNet ([email protected]) (For more information, MedNet can be contacted at Units 315-316, Llanar Bldg. Xavierville Ave., Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines with tel. +632 926 30 60.)

Keywords, Tags
conlict mapping, peace building

Photo or image credits

Pulangi River Photo: originally posted to Flickr as pulangi river in valencia of arcibald

Page Authors

Benedict Rimando, former Executive Director at MedNet, with input from Jeamma Santiago and Caroliza Tulod-Peteros MedNet members