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Research Report

The Origins of Contemporary Conflict: A Comparison of Violence in Three World Regions

P.S. Douma
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2003
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 240
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 7-19)

    This book results from the research project ‘Causes of Conflict in the Third World’ by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, which analyses conflict in so-called developing countries. The rationale of this publication is to reach a better understanding of the causes that lead to the emergence of violent conflict in a number of countries and regions.

    In general, most people use labels when they try to designate specific conflicts and how they have originated. Such labels mostly refer to characteristics of the protagonists involved, and, more precisely, the major differences between them. As a result, labels such as...

  2. (pp. 21-43)

    This study on causes of conflict in the Third World has been carried out in South Asia, West Africa and Central America. In this way a certain degree of variety was reached, namely:

    Each region shows different stages in the life cycle of conflict. West Africa seems to be at the start of a conflict cycle; Central America seems to have arrived at the end of a long conflict cycle; and South Asia is characterized by protracted conflicts that have lasted for several decades.

    The regions also have different colonial histories.

    Some general characteristics of the different regions are presented...

  3. (pp. 45-90)

    A socio-economic perspective will be presented in this chapter based on the various conflict case studies that have been elaborated in West Africa, South Asia and Central America. This chapter thus deals with an analysis of socio-economic factors that may lead to violent conflict. Within academic circles, as well as within policy circles, there is a strong conviction that poverty and socio-economic inequality are so-called root causes leading to the emergence of violent conflicts. It is imperative to understand the way in which resources are generated and shared among and between groups of people in order to be able to...

  4. (pp. 91-145)

    A separate analysis of political factors is needed in order to ascertain the relative importance of individual factors regarding the genesis of violent conflicts. This chapter presents an analysis of the three working hypotheses identified on the basis of major findings from contemporary conflict studies (see chapter I).

    This study of political factors postulates that the institutions and policies of state elites are of vital importance. State elite groups to a large extent determine the course and direction of political processes within states. It seems likely that the way in which such elite groups entertain political relations with subservient sub-state...

  5. (pp. 147-176)

    It is often assumed that the existence of unstable security settings has had a detrimental impact on the internal security situation of countries located in such settings. In this section the assumption will be tested that if a regional security setting becomes unstable, conflict is more likely to break out and vice versa. Again, the premise underlying this research hypothesis is based on the idea that either some undefined diffusion effects materialize from adjoining regional unstable areas or as a result of deliberate actions by neighbouring states, as was the case in the first section analysing the role of individual...

  6. (pp. 177-195)

    When one compares all of the country chapters and regional analysis, it becomes clear that the ideal type model of conflict dynamics adopted from Bloomfield and Leiss¹ (1997) does not apply to all conflict cases. First, the implicit contention that the four phases follow each other time-wise in a logical order and that each conflict follows such a sequence by necessity cannot be upheld. In fact, in some cases conflict does not cross the threshold of violence, as defined in our definition of conflict. In Honduras, Bangladesh and Ghana many violent incidents have materialized throughout the period of investigation, but...

  7. (pp. 197-209)

    Different colonial histories and the relatively short period of independence of the countries investigated proved to be important factors for the institutional capacity of states and their capacity to contain conflict. Many of the conflicts studied centred around the political problem of creating or sustaining new states with plural ethnic, religious or cultural societies. They nearly always result from the colonial state systems, which had also been transformed by the post-colonial domestic elite. It was found that incumbent elite groups had in many cases failed to adapt the inherited state structure in order to promote state legitimacy effectively among the...