Tool 3: Needs and fears mapping | Media and conflict | DW | 30.03.2021
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Media and Conflict

Tool 3: Needs and fears mapping

Example: Colombia. By Mona Naggar

This conflict analysis tool focuses on the needs, interests and fears of the actors involved in the conflict. All these factors influence the course of the conflict.

Our example here is the social divide in Colombian society after decades of armed conflict between armed groups like the FARC, local militias supported by the government, government forces and victims of the different sides. And in some way the journalists are concerned as well.

The interests are what the actors want to achieve in the conflict. Sometimes they are hidden or can change in the course of a conflict.

The interest of the relatives of the victims is vindicating the memories and dignity of family members. They ask for justice, and they might also look for revenge or reparations and return of stolen property, especially land.

The journalists want to cover relevant topics, become known, and give a voice to the voiceless. They might also have a personal interest in defending a specific case.

The needs are essential for everyone and are not negotiable. The peace researcher Johan Galtung defines four needs: security, welfare, freedom and identity. A conflict cannot be solved if the actors' needs are not acknowledged and satisfied.

In our example, the relatives of the victims and the survivors need assurance that the same events will not be repeated. They need their grief to be publicly recognized, and feel that they are understood.

The needs of the journalists are to earn money and perhaps in some cases to come to terms with a personal story.

It is important to evaluate the fears of the actors as well, as they may influence the behavior of the actor.

In our example, the relatives of the victims fear that their tragedy will be overheard or forgotten. They are afraid that the same thing might happen again to them or that the other side(s) will disrespect them.

Journalists may fear that their topic is not deemed to be interesting or that they will face accusations of being biased.

This tool digs deeper, it goes beyond what the conflict parties say in public. It enables the journalists to:

  • better understand the conflict and the motivations of the different sides involved
  • identify differences and commonalities
  • integrate these findings into the coverage or to choose specific angles. In our example this might mean reporting on how the relatives of victims who belong to different political sides have become closer to each other thanks to certain initiatives, or how neighbors have begun to accept the grievances of the other side.

It’s best to start with conflict mapping and the identification of the actors, then move on to the needs, interests and fears mapping of the actors. Fill in the table for interests, needs and fears for each conflict side, as you can see in the table.

How close should we get - Media and Conflict | needs and fears mapping

Mona Naggar has been working for DW Akademie as a project manager and trainer for journalism, conflict-sensitive journalism and media literacy since 2011 — mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. 

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