Poverty is the single greatest risk factor for conflict. Research conducted over the past decade has demonstrated that low per capita income and slow economic growth drastically increase the chances that a country will experience violence and political instability.
Little is known, however, about the causal mechanisms that link poverty and conflict. Is poverty linked to conflict because deeply impoverished groups compete over scarce economic resources? Does poverty cause state failure by weakening the ability of state institutions to provide basic services and respond to threats? Does poverty cause violence because young men have no viable economic options other than joining an insurgency? In order to design effective, locally appropriate poverty alleviation and peacebuilding programs it is necessary to better understand the relationship between poverty and conflict.
However, peacebuilding programmes have suffered from a lack of tools for collecting data systematically and rigorously and a lack of indicators for measuring impact across programmes and contexts. To address this ‘gap’, the authors of this paper offer lessons learned about developing and using indicators and data collection tools, to measure the impact of interventions designed to reduce both poverty and conflict.
- Focus on a limited number of more precise, less nuanced questions in both survey and focus group data to simplify data analysis and minimize ambiguous results
- While the development of indicators and data collection tools are crucial first steps in impact evaluation, they are not sufficient alone. The ability to measure impact depends on the design of the research methodology and particularly the use of control groups
- Better tools are needed to assess underlying tensions and risk of future conflict in locations where there is an absence of overt violence.
In addition, the document presents preliminary conclusions about the role of economic development programming in promoting peace. Recommendations include:
- Economic development interventions should be designed to promote mutually beneficial cooperation rather than increasing competition between adversarial groups
- Economic development interventions designed to promote peace should specifically target the underlying economic causes of conflict (e.g., natural resource competition) rather than aiming to increase general economic interactions between adversarial groups
- “Deep” economic interactions (such as participation in economic associations or business partnerships) may build stronger relationships between adversarial groups and provide a stronger incentive for peace than “thin” economic interactions (such as trading at a local market).