Conflict in the developing world can range from political civil war to gang violence and violent extremism to everyday crime, such as land grabbing or human trafficking. So how does the development community define conflict and conflict state?
Academics and data collectors tend to define conflict with numbers. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program and Peace Research Institute Oslo’s Armed Conflict Dataset defines minor conflicts as those having caused at least 25 deaths but less than 1,000 deaths per calendar year. And it defines major conflicts as those which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths in a calendar year.
But while numbers and definitions can be useful when establishing priorities or developing strategies in the field, often development practitioners have to be ready to encounter conflict in a variety of forms and contexts.
However, defining conflict can be a challenge in the development sector, according to Elizabeth Martin, director of the conflict and crisis practice at Chemonics.
“The impact of any level of violence has a negative trajectory, particularly on relationships and trust within a society,” Martin said.
The conflict and crisis specialist said violent extremism is one such form of violence that might be countered by development assistance, but that it’s a “sticky issue” and something the development community is “actively trying to learn.”
While continuing to focus on traditionally defined political armed conflict, Martin and her team are also working to understand the “pull factors” that draw individuals to join extremist movements as well as the “push factors” in an individual’s environment that contribute to their decision to become an extremist.
Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.
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