FAST Methodology

Swisspeace, in collaboration with Virtual Research Associates

Primary purpose

Risk assessments and early warning

Intended users

Development agencies, especially at desk officer level, Foreign Ministries and international organisations and NGOs.

Levels of application

FAST provides country-focused real-time monitoring of social, economic and political developments, by way of continuous collection of events data, with an emphasis on political stability and instability. The methodology can also be used for regions or sub-regions and be modified for other thematic focuses (e.g. migration, health, human rights, etc.).

Conceptual assumptions

The objective of FAST is the recognition of impending or potential crisis situations for the purpose of early action and the prevention of violent conflict. FAST aims to enhance the ability of political decision makers to identify critical developments in a timely manner, in order to formulate coherent political strategies to prevent or limit destructive effects of violent conflicts.

FAST uses a comprehensive combination of qualitative and quantitative analytical methods to produce risk assessments. The concept that forms the foundation of the FAST early warning methodology is event data analysis – i.e. the ongoing information collection of daily events and its quantitative analysis. This is supplemented by the qualitative analysis provided by international experts as well as the in-house analysis carried out by the desk officers.

Main steps and suggested process

The conflict analysis is carried out along two principles:

  • The qualitative conflict analysis of a given country is conducted by applying the FAST analytical framework, which aims to determine root, proximate, and intervening factors that can lead to the outbreak of a violent conflict or shape an existing conflict.
  • The quantitative analysis follows the logic of event data analysis, meaning the ongoing collection of daily events that are relevant for our focus of increasing/decreasing stability in a country. This data set is then analysed statistically and the results are displayed in graphs. The information collection is carried out by local information networks on the ground in order to have a set of data that is independent from Western newswires but also to gain higher frequency and dispersion throughout the country.

Guiding questions / indicators

The analytical framework looks at root and proximate causes, as well as intervening factors, along a timeline. Thereby, various indicators are identified, following a set of topics, including historic, political / institutional, economic, societal / socio demographic, ecological, and international issues. These indicators, however, have to be applied in a flexible manner and need to be adjusted according to the context.

The indicators that are identified in the analytical framework are used for the ongoing monitoring that is carried out. Besides, these issues correlate with the indicators that are used in the quantitative system used by FAST.


  • FAST currently covers 22 countries in Central Asia, South Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. The coverage can be expanded according to clients’ needs.
  • The Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN), initiated by IGAD, has adapted the FAST methodology focusing on cross-border, pastoral conflicts in the IGAD member states.

Lessons Learnt

  • Real-time monitoring of 186 event types – conflict / cooperation – using event data analysis
  • System can be tailored to meet the end-user’s needs
  • Combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis
  • The analytical framework tool has proven an effective analysis tool that has also been effectively used at several early warning training workshops.

Commentary on the tool

FAST is an early warning tool based on conflict analysis, and not an early response mechanism, as the responses to be taken, on the basis of the forecasting provided by FAST, remain with the end users.

The analytical framework – FAST’s qualitative analysis tool – can easily be applied by other institutions. Besides, FAST has used this tool in several training workshops (held in collaboration with the FEWER network) and has received positive response to its application. The framework allows for a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of a region / country and gives an excellent overview of the causes and the development of a conflictive environment over time, while highlighting positive intervening factors that can be useful for peace-building initiatives.

The complex FAST methodology can be modified and adjusted to different regions and focuses. The set-up and application, however, is cost-intensive due to the different components needed for information collection and quality control, analysis, and report writing. Nevertheless, the advantage of having local networks for information collection and data that is independent from Western newswires clearly outweighs the higher overall costs.

For more information contact Swisspeace.