On the Links between Violent Conflict and Chronic Poverty: How Much Do We Really Know?


A large proportion of the world population is affected by widespread violence and instability. The majority lives in poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (Fearon and Laitin, 2003; Stewart et al., 2001a, 2001b), under circumstances of extreme destitution, poverty and misery. Furthermore, conflict, once initiated, helps to perpetuate poverty, low growth rates and the underdeveloped status of low income countries: violence kills, injures and displaces people and increases poverty, hunger and deprivation. Regardless of these facts, there is remarkably little empirical evidence on the direct impact of conflict on poverty or on the consequences of conflict on people’s own agency to escape poverty. Much less is available on the conceptualisation, measurement and analysis of the possible links between chronic levels of poverty and violent conflict. In an earlier paper published by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre, Jonathan Goodhand (2001) writes: “To date […], there has been limited empirical research, which examines the nature of the relationship between poverty and conflict (and virtually no research, which focuses on chronic poverty and conflict” (pp. 4). This is still very much the current state- of-the-art, though significant, even if infrequent, evidence-based studies have slowly started to surface.

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