Peace and Conflict: Raise Awareness
Every aspect of society is affected by conflict. The outbreak of conflict prevents people from earning a living, going to school, and accessing resources one needs to survive, such as food and medical care.
What is the challenge?
Defined by the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research as “clashes of interest (differences of position) concerning national values (territory, autonomy, resources, etc.),” conflict manifests itself in different ways all over the world. Inter-State conflicts occur when one country instigates or attacks another country, often deriving from border dispute or natural resources. Civil war, violence that roots in ethnic or religious tension resulting with groups fighting for autonomy (self-rule) of a region exemplifies intra-state conflict.
How does conflict affect society?
Every aspect of society is affected by conflict. The outbreak of conflict prevents people from earning a living, going to school, and accessing resources one needs to survive, such as food and medical care. People are forced to flee their homes and begin again, often in camps or an unwelcoming environment with difficult living conditions. The psychological scars of war are also evident in society. Large percentage of populations are killed, maimed and sexually assaulted during war, which causes stigma and psychological trauma. Normal life rarely continues normally during conflict.
What causes conflict?
Conflict is caused by one or a combination of many underlying factors. Some of these factors include: competition over natural resources, pressure from marginalized groups or classes who have received few rights, and tension between ethnic or religious groups. Lack of employment opportunities and youth alienation, political tension, regime change or border disputes inevitably result in conflict.
Who does conflict affect?
Nearly 70% of people killed in recent conflict are civilians who are not directly involved in the fighting. Most of those killed are women and children, who like other already vulnerable groups are at a high risk during conflict. While men are often recruited into the army or militias and killed in conflict, women must run their households without protection, take on new roles, and are at a much higher risk of assault. Children in some conflicts are recruited as soldiers or sex slaves, and are also affected by the lack of education available to them along with the psychological stresses of war. (source:http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/violence_against_women/facts_figures.php?page=7)
Over 42 million people have been displaced by conflict or persecution, which means that many more are living in conflict zones. Fighting often forces people to flee their homes or to stay in areas where normal life has been greatly disrupted with violence as a constant threat. 80% of these people are in developing countries. Developing nations also take in about 80% of the world’s refugees, which puts a strain on already struggling nation and affects those populations as well. These burdens can also cause fighting to erupt in host communities and fighting can spill over into other countries or regions. Problems also do not end after the fighting stops, and the effects of conflict can be felt for generations. (source: http://www.unhcr.org/4a2fd52412d.html)
How is conflict linked to poverty?
The vast majority of violent conflicts erupt in the developing world. Conflict can erupt over factors directly related to poverty, such as fighting for control or access to the precious natural resources a region offers, like water. Poverty stricken countries often lack the political stability and resources to react to conflict once it has spread. Poverty is also linked to conflict long after a situation of conflict ends. Conflict decimates food sources, ruins infrastructure, halts social institutions (like schools), kills large percentages of working family members and psychologically scars survivors. Hunger, disease, and other factors related to poverty skyrocket during and after conflict. These conditions make it difficult to re-build after war, forcing survivors into poverty and creating conditions that can start a vicious cycle and allow conflict to erupt again.
What is Mercy Corps doing?
Mercy Corps works with many war-torn communities around the world in an effort to help re-build their countries and negotiate while maintaining peace. Mercy Corps has implemented over 70 peace-building programs in 20 countries, which bring parties together to resolve the underlying causes of the violence, and to help promote peace after the conflict has ended. Many of these programs also help to diffuse violence before it starts. In addition, Mercy Corps helps bring food, shelter, education and other necessities to refugees and those living in conflict zones while helping communities to rebuild after the fighting has ceased. In Nepal, which was ravaged by a decade of civil war, youth violence was a problem in many communities. Mercy Corps began a program that brought together youth from different ethnic backgrounds and communities and taught negotiation skills, which strengthened the youth’s ties to their communities and each other. The program was able to mobilize 32,622 Nepalese youth into 820 multi-ethnic Village Youth Clubs, and these participants were shown to be 94 percent more likely to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means at the end of the program. (Source: http://www.mercycorps.org/topics/conflictampwar/16026)
What actions can you take?
There are many ways you can get involved to help build peace: from engaging in dialogue with youth living in conflict zones through our website to signing a petition.
Mercy Corps www.mercycorps.org
The United Nations Refugee Agency http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home
Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research http://hiik.de/en/index.html