The root causes of humanitarian emergencies

The root causes of humanitarian emergencies

Economic differences, power inequalities and politically produced cultural differences are primary determinants of war

This article aims identify the 'root causes' of complex humanitarian emergencies and means of avoiding such emergencies.

What conditions cause such emergencies? Firstly, the article indicates that leaders must see the creation or enhancement of group identity as helpful to the realization of their political ambitions and work actively to achieve this, using a variety of strategies, including education and progaganda. In many cases, it has been shown that political leaders set out to create group consciousness in order to achieve a basis for power. Secondly, economic and political differentiation among groups is of fundamental importance to group mobilisaton. For this reason it is relative rather than absolute differences between groups/people that is the underlying determinant of conflict.

The article makes the following recommendations with respect to avoiding complex humanitarian emergencies:

  • as there is a connection between the predisposition to conflict and levels and growth of per capita incomes, economic growth would be likely to reduce the propensity to conflict, if it is equitably distributed
  • policies designed to reduce horizontal inequality (such as: policies promoting wider education; new credit institutions to extend credit to the low-income; measures to encourage the informal sector; land reform and support for small farmers. Policies such as these would reduce conflict propensity
  • there needs to be a sophisticated means of determining which countries are conflict-prone. According to the article conflict-proneness is reflected in the following characteristics: serious past conflict at some time over the last twenty years; evidence of considerable degree of horizontal inequality; low incomes; economic stagnation; political conditions, including exclusionary political systems and arbitrary rule

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