Waylaid Dialectic

May 28, 2010

I know this is a blog not a note pad…

Filed under: Conflict — terence @ 1:14 pm
Tags: ,

…but I’ve just been to a seminar on conflict and development and wanted to jot this down.

The causes of conflict in developing countries seem complex and case specific, but are they? I’d hazard a guess that a simple model can explain the occurrence of at least 90% of conflicts.

To get conflict you need:

1. Tension over resources. Either there’s not enough to go around or their distribution is unequal enough to offend people’s sense of fairness.

2. Overarching institutions which are either absent, or of insufficient strength and/or legitimacy to mediate the tension. Strength is required to bring parties to the table and enforce agreements. Legitimacy is required to ensure buy-in to the solution. Overarching institutions which very strong may be able to quash conflict even if they are illegitimate – however, the results with be despotic. Overarching institutions which are viewed by all parties as having real legitimacy may not need to be that strong to effectively mitigate conflict.

3. A pre-existing social cleavage. Not essential but it certainly helps. If people are from different ethnic groups, or tribes, or geographic areas, humanity’s innate suspicion of the other will make it much easier for items one and two to contribute to conflict.

Of course, even if explaining conflict is simple, resolving it remains very, very difficult.

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