Thursday, 13 October 2016

Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy

This chapter presents an economic perspective on the causes of civil war, based on
empirical patterns globally over the period 1965-99. During this period, the risk of civil
war has been systematically related to a few economic conditions, such as dependence
upon primary commodity exports and low national income. Conversely, and
astonishingly, objective measures of social grievance, such as inequality, a lack of
democracy, and ethnic and religious divisions, have had little systematic effect on risk. I
argue that this is because civil wars occur where rebel organizations are financially
viable. The Michigan Militia, which briefly threatened to menace peace in the USA, was
unable to grow beyond a handful of part-time volunteers, whereas the FARC in Colombia
has grown to employ around 12,000 people. The factors which account for this difference
between failure and success are to be found not in the `causesí which these two rebel
organizations claimed to espouse, but in their radically different opportunities to raise
revenue. The FARC earns around $700m per year from drugs and kidnapping, whereas
the Michigan Militia was probably broke. The central importance of the financial
viability of the rebel organization as the cause of civil war, is why civil wars are so unlike
international wars. Governments can always finance an army out of taxation and so
governments can always fight each other. The circumstances in which a rebel
organization can finance an army are quite unusual. This is why my analysis is entirely
confined to civil war: what I have to say has little or no bearing on inter-government war.
Because the results are so counter-intuitive, I start by arguing why social scientists should
be distrustful of the loud public discourse on conflict. I then turn to the evidence,
describing each of the risk factors in civil war. I then try to explain the observed pattern,
focusing on the circumstances in which rebel organizations are viable. Finally, I turn to
the policy implications. I argue that because the economic dimensions of civil war have
been largely neglected, both governments and the international community have missed
substantial opportunities for promoting peace

No comments: