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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > International Relations > Conflict Resolution in an Asymmetric Multi Lateral World > Causes of Conflict in the Developing World - Francis Stewart

Conflict Resolution
in aN ASYMMETRIC Multi Lateral World

" ...Man's illusions are of all sorts and kinds... The greatest of them all are those which cluster round the hope of a perfected society, a perfected race, a terrestrial millennium... One of the illusions incidental to this great hope is the expectation of the passing of war. This grand event in human progress is always being confidently expected, and since we are now all scientific minds and rational beings, we no longer expect it by a divine intervention, but assign sound physical and economical reasons for the faith that is in us... " Sri Aurobindo on the Passing of War

Causes of Conflict in the Developing World

Francis Stewart, Director, Development Studies,
Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford 2002
Full Text in PDF


"Poverty and political, social, and economic inequalities between groups predispose to conflict; policies to tackle them will reduce this risk. Eight out of 10 of the world's poorest countries are suffering, or have recently suffered, from large scale violent conflict. Wars in developing countries have heavy human, economic, and social costs and are a major cause of poverty and underdevelopment. This article reviews the evidence on the root causes of conflict and suggests some policy responses that should be adopted to reduce the likelihood of future war....Many groups of people who fight together perceive themselves as belonging to a common culture (ethnic or religious), and part of the reason that they are fighting may be to maintain their cultural autonomy. For this reason, there is a tendency to attribute wars to "primordial" ethnic passions, which makes them seem intractable. This view is not correct, however, and diverts attention from important underlying economic and political factors. Although a person's culture is partly inherited it is also constructed and chosen, and many people have multiple identities...In wars political leaders may deliberately "rework historical memories" to engender or strengthen this identity in the competition for power and resources...

Although this article has concentrated on the causes of conflict within countries, much of the analysis is relevant to the international situation. The sharp economic and social differences between Western societies and the Muslim world are a clear example of international horizontal inequalities. These, together with the widespread impoverishment in many Muslim countries, permit leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein to mobilise support only too effectively along religious lines."

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