The impact of conflict on poverty

Question

Provide an overview of the latest evidence since 2010 on the impact of conflict on poverty.

Summary

There is consensus in the literature that conflict impacts on poverty, but evidence on how this impact occurs is often limited, unsystematic, and sometimes contradictory. Much of the literature also discusses how poverty can contribute to conflict and the possibility of cycles of poverty and conflict as a result.

Overall the latest evidence suggests that violent conflict causes and intensifies poverty and its persistence but that context is very important. Literature published since 2010 discusses the following themes and issues:

  • Violent conflict contributes to poverty in a number of ways, including causing: damage to infrastructure, institutions and production; the destruction of assets; the breakup of communities and social networks; forced displacement and increased unemployment and inflation.
  • Displaced households and households with widows, orphans, elderly and disabled individuals are most vulnerable to falling into poverty as a result of conflict. Households which are already poor risk falling further into poverty.
  • Vulnerability to being targeted by violence (for example, due to ethnicity) can also make even well-off households vulnerable to poverty, as was the case in Rwanda.
  • Individual’s or household’s ability to respond to economic shocks can determine the impact of conflict on their poverty levels in the short and long term.
  • Changes to the social and institutional environment as a result of conflict can affect people’s vulnerability and ability to respond to poverty.
  • The most conflict-affected provinces and districts have the highest levels of poverty within affected countries such as Columbia, Syria, Rwanda, and Uganda.
  • The least developed countries struggle most to escape and recover from conflict related poverty.
  • The long-term country wide and individual effects of conflict on poverty are not clear.
  • Recovery time from conflict can take upwards of 14 years and often longer. Recovery at the macro level appears to be quicker than at the micro level.

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