THE BLOG

Understanding Conflict Displacements

10/11/2015 11:54 GMT | Updated 09/11/2016 10:12 GMT

A phenomenal number of people have been displaced as a result of conflict. It is now estimated by the UN that almost 60 million plus people have been displaced, making it the highest since 1945 (World Humanitarian Summit). On top of this, it is now estimated that it will take about 17 years on average for people to be displaced, which means that the refugee crisis becomes prolonged putting a strain on humanitarian financing. Already this is beginning to show for example out of total $19.5bn pledged by the UN in 2014, less than 70% UN funding requirement were met last year, leaving $7.5bn in unmet funding gap.

Underlying some of the causes for current conflicts are some cross-cutting characteristics including: the rise of violent non-state actors and the prevalence of civil wars; deep socio-political and ethno-religious cleavages; huge levels of mistrust and intolerance; constantly changing alliances, loyalties and relationships; changing frontlines and territorial control; destruction of social infrastructures and services; and links to natural resources. In many cases where there has been a cessation of violence and hostilities, peace agreements and the accompanying international apparatus to support their implementation have suppressed the violence but not addressed the causes of conflict. Accordingly, the risk of a re-eruption remains. One of the best indicators of where there is risk of future violent conflict is simply identifying where there was violent conflict before.

Whilst politics, faith, identity and rights are often the foreground factors for any conflict (i.e. these are the issues that people fight for and against), it is important to pay attention to the long-term systemic issues that increase conflict. In a nutshell there are possibly three strategic issues that will affect long term conflict dynamics (International Alert 2015) :

1)The world's population passed the 1 billion mark in 1810, doubled in the next hundred years, and by 2010 was about 7 billion. The projection for 2030 is 9 billion. But the issue here is not pure numbers - it is resources. When the global total reached one billion, just 3% - 30 million people - lived in cities. Today the world is 50% urbanised - that is 3.5 billion people live in cities. Projections put the percentage in 2030 at between 60 and 70% - over 5 billion. Urbanisation per se is by no means bad. Cities have many problems, but their emergence and growth is strongly and directly associated with growing literacy, a deepening culture, increased cooperation and social mobilisation for progress on political rights. However, growing urbanisation is also associated with increased output: economically, urban concentration is much more efficiently productive than rural decentralisation, which means increased consumption of natural resources. In addition, growing urbanisation provides a different set of issues with regards conflict. The Global Status Report on violence prevention 2014 shows that within low- and middle income countries, the highest estimated rates of homicide occur in the Americas , followed by Africa . The lowest estimated rate of homicide is in the low- and middle income countries of the Western Pacific .

2) Extreme poverty is conventionally defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day (in 2005 prices). According to the World Bank, 1.22 billion people were living below that line in 2010, down from 1.9 billion in 1990 - a major improvement, especially since the world's total population increased in the meantime. But 2.6 billion people live on less than US$2 a day and a total of 3.5 billion - half the world's population - on less than US$3 a day. Thus, while natural resources are consumed in abundance, half the world has very little. The problem is not just economic inequality but the unequal opportunities and access to what should be common goods, such as education, health services, clean water and safety, which flow from the economic facts. Further, the problem is not just inequality in all its dimensions, but the fact that today's information and communications technologies make relative wealth, status and prestige highly visible to those at or near the bottom of the pile. This is where the seeds of resentment lie that create fertile grounds for conflict entrepreneurs of all kinds. Countries where inequality is sharpest are often countries where inequality both fuels and is fuelled by the root and branch corruption of the governing system. Inequality is not a natural accident; it is a system of wealth and privilege that has been constructed, and is actively defended.

3) The consequent changes in our natural environment as a result of climate change has social, economic and, in many places, political effects. It thus offers new challenges to human security. Climate change is bringing more slow-onset pressures such as droughts, shifts in the timing of the monsoon in parts of south and Southeast Asia, and hotter summers and wetter winters in temperate zones. There will also likely be an increasing frequency and severity of sudden shocks - the extreme weather events such as hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. These will put pressure on four strategic systems that are essential for the way we live:

• water supply;

• food security;

• energy supply; and

• natural resource supply chains.

These systems are also under pressure from other human-impelled changes in nature, such as the loss of biodiversity and the effects of different kinds of pollution. These changes combine to create many unknowns in the natural environment; in the long-term, economic progress is pushing up against the planetary boundaries of sustainability. It is not that life will become impossible, though some habitats will become functionally uninhabitable. Rather, these four strategic systems will become more vulnerable, more costly and more complex with conflict as one of the consequences.

Thus addressing the long term displacement means we need serious movement to tackle these three phenomenon.