Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis - Vol. 1

Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis - Vol. 1

Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis - Vol. 1

Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Civil wars around the world since 1945 have killed approximately 20 million people and displaced at least 67 million. Despite this massive scale of human misery associated with civil war, the academic community had not concentrated much attention on the problem of civil war until very recently. A major catalyst for increased academic and policy work aimed at understanding civil war and reducing its prevalence was the World Bank project on the “Economics of Political and Criminal Violence. “The World Bank research team conceptualized civil war as a development problem and applied economic models to explain the occurrence, duration, and consequences of civil war. This approach seemed appropriate, given that civil wars occur disproportionately in poor countries and retard economic development in entire regions. If poor economic conditions cause civil wars, then we may be able to design economic policy interventions that reduce their occurrence, mitigating the human suffering that they cause.

The World Bank project made important strides in understanding civil war. Quantitative studies by the project's researchers identified a set of statistically significant correlates of civil war. The project's flagship article, “The Collier-Hoeffler Model of Civil War Onset,” has been especially prominent in the literature and has inspired much additional research on the relationship between political conflict and economic development. The project's many empirical findings and theoretical arguments were summarized in a Policy Research Report, Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy, written by Paul Collier and his research team.

Collier and Hoeffler have put forward an economic model of civil war, arguing convincingly that it is not political and social grievance per se that leads to civil war, but rather, for given levels of grievance, it is the opportunity to organize and finance a rebellion that determines if a civil war will occur or not. The determinants of such opportunity in their model are mainly economic. Their model identifies conditions that make rebellion financially viable. This analysis was based on . . .

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