Environment and Security

Environment and Security 10 /


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When looking at the processes behind conflict it is es- sential to identify players with an incentive for violence. They need to access resources that facilitate mobilization and expansion of violence. What is critical is not whether people actually have a reason to commit violence, but what enables them to carry it out under particular circum- stances . In their research, Collier and Hoeffler (2001) argue that conflict may be explained either by grievance or by greed . They conclude that if we want to understand the causes of contemporary civil wars we should focus less on explanations based on grievances and look instead at the greed of those who have an interest in using violence to achieve their goals. Even when people have reasons to be unhappy about their situation, this does not mean that their discontent escalates into violence. There should

be someone able to extract ‘economic’ profit in order for violence to occur. Access to specific natural resources is a factor that can motivate actors to use violence as means of control (diamonds, oil, timber wars). But society is not powerless when confronted with con- flict. It has ways of dealing with it. Institutions, particularly political institutions and civil society, can work to defuse conflict situations or they can fuel discontent through poor governance, corruption and inefficiency. Finally, regional and global factors can increase or decrease the possibility of conflict. When a variety of these factors are at work, there will be windows of vulnerability, moments when events such as elections, or even natural disasters, can trigger hostility or even full-scale violence.

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