IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

Conflict? Maybe. Violence? Not necessarily

Here’s something from Craig Selizer’s site:

Does water scarcity induce conflict? Evidence from Tanzania?

Does water scarcity induce conflict? And who would engage in a water scarcity conflict? A new paper from MICROCONlooks for evidence of the relation between water scarcity and conflictive behavior. With a field experiment conducted with smallholder irrigators from semi-arid Tanzania it assess what ‘type’ of water user is more inclined to react in a conflictive way to scarcity.

It finds that on average, water scarcity induces selfish appropriation behavior, which is regarded as conflictive in the Tanzanian irrigator communities where strong noncompetition norms regulate irrigation water distribution. But not all react to water scarcity in the same way. Poor, marginalized, dissocialized irrigators with low human capital and with higher stakes are most likely to react with conflictive appropriation behavior to water scarcity.

Using a political ecology perspective the authors conclude that circumstances in Tanzania are conducive to resource scarcity conflicts. Water scarcity and water values are increasing, and water governance institutions have exclusionary aspects. Moreover, a higher likelihood to react in a conflictive way to water scarcity coincides with real economic and political inequalities which could form a basis for mobilization for more violent ways of competing for scarce resources.

You can download the paper here: http://www.microconflict.eu/publications/RWP31_EL_BD_BVC.pdf


This caught my eye because it is a topic (ie resource scarcity) that I cover in my class on conflict management.  Apart from the very real issue area of resource scarcity, there are important conceptual points to clarify here.  First, there is hardly any doubt that resource scarcity will and does give rise to various (and, at times, quite intense) social tensions.  These may indeed take the form of conflict.  However, and I would like to put this in very large bold letters, this does not mean that such conflicts will lead to violence.  That is a related, but different issue.  Certainly, in many cases they have led to violence and in others they will.  But it is essential to grasp that this is not necessarily the case.  There are always things that can be done before, during and after these conflicts arise to minimize the possibility that they will (ever) turn violent.  So, if they do–or if our expectation is that they will–this indicates to what extent the elaboration and application of non-violent ways of dealing with these very real tensions has been neglected.  Remember:  Galtung (I think) defined “peace” as dealing creatively with conflict.  Again, we see that words matter.


August 18, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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