Fragility and Conflicts

Background paper to the ERD2009


Marta Reynal-Querol – ERD Team member, Universitat Pompeu Fabra


Paper prepared for the Conference on “Moving Towards the European Report on Development 2009”, organised by the European Report of Development in Florence, Italy, 21-23 June, 2009


In this paper, we will derive policy implications for the prevention of conflict from the main results of the most relevant empirical research on conflict. The first thing that we have done is to describe a framework for the study of conflict, which helps to classify the different dimensions of a conflict process, basically shocks and propagation mechanisms, in order to understand why some policies will have a long- or short-term effect, depending on whether they address the factors that act as shocks or as propagation mechanisms. We claim that, if we want to find measures to prevent conflict in the long-term, we need to look for policies that address the propagation mechanisms of conflicts, in other words, policies that make countries resilient to conflict in the presence of shocks. But, what are the most important propagation mechanisms of conflicts that should be targeted in order to reduce the probability of conflict? Most of the attention has focused on the role of poverty. However, the idea that poverty is the main determinant of conflict is based upon weak empirical grounds. Instead, it is institutions, in particular, law and order institutions, which seem to be the driving mechanism, and, thus, policies to prevent conflict should be changed in this direction. To tackle fragility, it is important to concentrate on the institutional design. When the system is affected by shocks, it reacts differently, depending on its resilience. Countries with good institutional frameworks (a high level of law and order) are resilient to shocks. Sub-Saharan African countries are usually countries with poor institutional frameworks.

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