Context analysis

Context analysis plays a key role in enabling humanitarian actors to operate in environments characterized by complexity, instability, insecurity and (often) foreignness. The purpose of context analysis is to allow humanitarians to better understand the socio-cultural, political, economic and geographic factors that give rise to crisis and will either hamper or enable their response. A range of context analysis tools exist, yet there is a considerable critique that humanitarian action needs to be further contextualized, and that the analysis of needs is far stronger than the analysis of the political situation.

Several UN cars on a crowded street in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Photo: UN Women/Carlos Ngeleka

Tools for the job

Context analysis tool that provides a macro-level analysis of a country or a specific region during or in anticipation of a crisis

Key references

Audit and analysis of existing context analysis tools along the themes of governance and power analysis, vulnerability, social and conflict analysis, and urban systems analysis

Book outlining the rationale and concept, tools, workshops, processes, benefits, and challenges of MSTC, as well as the risks and opportunities of participatory conflict analysis

Organizational perspectives

Briefing explaining the ‘Good Enough Context Analysis for Rapid Response’ (GECARR) tool, some key challenges involved when doing context analysis in fragile and conflict-prone contexts, as well as some of the elements of effective context analysis that have been observed

Evaluation of the IFRC's Better Program Initiative (BPI) methodology, including its context analysis component

Upcoming courses:

29 April-3 May:

24-28 June:

8-12 July: