I have recently started my PhD studies. My advisor, as member of a program committee, has delegated a the review of a conference paper to me. This is my second peer review.
Since I have not done research in the area of this paper, I find it very hard to review. Not only does it require much effort for me to grasp the content. First and foremost, I do not think that being able to understand the content of a paper is sufficient for reviewing it. Ideally, reviewing would mean judging the paper for its scientific merit as a peer, considering content, presentation, relevance and relation to other work in the area. Especially the latter aspects I feel unable to judge.
I consider declining to review, but this seems like a drastic step with conflict potential. Certainly, there is an incentive to formally complete the assignment and write a review of little value to the authors, the venue and the scientific community in general. Would it be acceptable or prudent to decline?