Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Poverty and Conflict

A question comes to mind: does poverty breed conflict? The Global Peace Index shows us that poverty does not actually have a direct impact on the peacefulness of a country. For example, while the United States is often hailed as one of the most rich countries in the world (despite their enormous deficit) they are 82nd on the list. To put this into perspective, Canada is 8th. 

So why do we always hear that common tale, that where there is poverty there will be crime? 

We can always look back to Thomas Hobbes who claimed that without the protections of society human beings would revert to the state of nature - doomed to live a nasty, poor short and brutish life. But surely, even this is not evidence enough to support the claim. Hobbes was talking not about poverty breeding conflict; rather, he thought that lack of government produced violence. 

Thomas Homer Dixon sheds a little more light on this subject. He claimed that environmental scarcity has the potential to cause great conflict. Lack of agricultural land, water scarcity and the depletion of ozone all factored into his argument. He claimed that decreasing supplies of physically controllable resources might provoke inter-state "simple-scarcity" conflicts or "resource wars". Further,  large population movements caused by environment stress might induce "group-identity" conflicts such as ethnic clashes and finally, scarcity could simultaneously increase economic deprivation and disrupt social institutions, causing "deprivation conflicts" reflected in civil strife and insurgency.

Some might cite the uprisings in North Africa as an example of poverty and scarcity leading to conflict, but where successful, the goals and the means to attaining that goals were peaceful. So what is the answer? What is the relationship between poverty and conflict.

Here is what Gordon Teti says:

What do you think? 

Visit our youtube page for more interviews like this one. 

No comments:

Post a Comment