Non-conflict armed violence: Rethinking models of conflict and conflict resolution

Non-conflict armed violence: Rethinking models of conflict and conflict resolution

Tackling non-conflict armed violence requires new strategies

Significant unrest that falls outside the scope of civil conflict or rebel insurgency is becoming more common. Predictive research directs us to rethink the scale and impact of what are currently considered ‘low-intensity’ patterns of conflict. The second issue of Horizon synthesises the latest research on non-conflict armed violence – focusing on its drivers, implications for development, and proposed policy responses.

Well over half of the 740,000 plus people who die every year as a result of violence die in non-conflict settings. The global cost of non-conflict armed violence (NCAV) is estimated at US$163 billion annually. These heavy costs demand a more nuanced understanding of the causes of this violence, and the implications for policy.

Defined as small- or large-scale, criminally- or politically-motivated armed violence, drivers of non-state armed conflict include:

  • state fragility and lack of public security 
  • social, political and economic inequalities and grievances 
  • resource scarcity and competition 
  •  a legacy of conflict 
  • criminality 
  •  unregulated and rapid urbanisation.

Its impacts on development prospects are numerous and varied; it:

  • destroys livelihoods, infrastructure and property 
  • hampers prospects for human development 
  • drains government resources 
  • destroys social relations 
  • endangers political stability.

Traditional approaches to large-scale conflicts, such as security sector reform or demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration have their limitations in this context. Approaches to NCAV need to be more tailored, which will require more disaggregated data. They also need to focus on conflict and violence prevention, for instance through addressing structural factors and the root causes of conflict. This will be facilitated by improved understanding of how violence forms part of the economic, social and political change processes that accompany development and understanding the dynamics of power at play.

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