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Economic and Political Causes of Genocidal Violence: A comparison with findings on the causes of civil war

Frances Stewart

No 46, Research Working Papers from MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict

Abstract: Genocide is different from civil war: it usually involves deaths on a much larger scale and targets particular groups – mostly civilians - often with the aim of exterminating them. The violence is one-sided, and, fortunately, genocides are much rarer than civil wars. Although with genocide, as with civil wars, it is possible to identify underlying political and economic patterns that make genocide more likely, there have been two distinct strands of investigation by social scientists: studies of the economic and political causes of ‘normal’ civil war; and those studying genocide. This paper contrasts the findings of the two strands of investigation, focussing on quantitative investigations, exploring the main differences in findings, and pointing to policy conclusions that emerge. It finds that civil wars tend to be higher in low income countries and in intermediate regimes, whereas genocides tend to be higher in low and middle income countries and in authoritarian regimes. Both, however, are more common during political upheaval and transition. In the case of genocides, civil wars themselves are one important predisposing condition. Hence policies to prevent civil wars may also contribute to preventing genocide. Once a situation has evolved in which there are high risks or actual episodes, any policy advice about preventative action is likely to fall on deaf ears. What is important is that appropriate policies should be in place in every multiethnic society to avoid a high risk situation emerging.

Pages: 39 pages
Date: 2011
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev and nep-pol
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