Working Paper

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

Published on 1 January 2006

This paper assesses the usefulness of emerging evidence-based studies in advancing the current understanding of the relationship between violent conflict and chronic poverty. Following a discussion of some key concepts, recent empirical research is reviewed. Both the transmission mechanisms from violent conflict through to chronic poverty and the impact of chronic poverty on conflict are considered. The paper concludes by identifying gaps in the current state of knowledge on this subject and proposes an ambitious future research agenda. This paper focuses on violent mass conflict, taking a dynamic view of both violent conflict and chronic poverty. A micro-level perspective is adopted, whereby impacts on individual and household poverty, exclusion and deprivation are considered. The approach is considered well-suited to uncover the links and dependencies of chronic poverty as both a cause and a consequence of conflict. It is felt that understanding how conflict develops at the micro-level will impact on how policies are designed and how incentives to prevent conflicts and maintain peace are structured. Three key questions are addressed: – Who are the chronically poor affected by/affecting violent conflict? – How are the chronically poor affected by violent conflict? – Do persistent levels of poverty impact on the likelihood of an individual, household or group participating in violent conflict? The review reveals that hard micro-level evidence on the relationship between violent conflict and (chronic) poverty is scarce and at times contradictory. However, this field of research is growing and some conclusions can be drawn. Violent conflict can cause chronic poverty and contribute to the creation of poverty traps, the chronically poor are likely to suffer disproportionately from violent conflict, and violent conflict can bring benefits to some groups (including the chronically poor) which may counterbalance the negative impacts. In turn persistent poverty can create the grounds for increased social discontent which can lead to violent conflict and chronic poverty may lead individuals to become fighters as a form of coping with poverty itself. In conclusion three main research gaps are identified: – Further research is needed on transmission mechanisms – for both violent conflict to chronic poverty and vice versa; – There is an absence of sufficient and adequate datasets for the analysis of both violent conflict and chronic poverty; – There is a large gap in knowledge between dominant macro-level policy interventions and the new emerging field of micro-level analysis of violent conflict. Each of these is considered and a research agenda thus proposed.


Image of Patricia Justino

Patricia Justino

Professorial Fellow

Publication details

published by
University of Manchester
Justino, P.
Chronic Poverty Research Centre Working Paper


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