NATURAL DISASTERS AND VIOLENT CONFLICT

Ackinarglu, S, DiCicco, J. and E. Radziszewski. 2011. Avalanches and Olive Branches: A Multimethod Analysis of Disasters and Peacemaking in Interstate Rivalries. Political Research Quarterly 64 (2): 260-275.

Multi-method analysis of earthquakes’ effects in two enduring rivalries demonstrates that natural disaster can promote rapprochement, political steps toward warmer relations that make it difficult for interstate rivalry to continue. Public expression of compassion and support for rapprochement create audience costs for leaders who otherwise would maintain hostile policies toward the rival state. However, routine violence, including communal violence, discourages public support for postdisaster cooperation and rapprochement. Content analysis and time-series analysis of rivalry change in two cases, India—Pakistan and Greece—Turkey, demonstrate these phenomena, and comparative case study analysis shows that communal violence helps account for divergent outcomes between the two cases.

 

Arai, T. 2012. Rebuilding Pakistan in the Aftermath of the Floods: Disaster Relief as Conflict Prevention. Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 7 (1): 51-65.

In July and August 2010, Pakistan faced floods on an unprecedented scale that affected some 20 million people. Focus group interviews conducted in severely affected communities demonstrated a decline in the availability of accessible renewable resources to the point of increasing the potential for civil violence. These manifestations of environmental scarcity included strained landlord-tenant relations and other forms of structural inequity that magnified the devastating socio-economic effects of the floods. The article concludes with recommendations for conflict-sensitive measures to facilitate post-disaster recovery and defines humanitarian relief as an integral part of national security and conflict prevention in Pakistan.

 

Bauman, P., M. Ayalew, and G. Paul. 2007. Beyond Disaster: A comparative Analysis of Tsunami Interventions in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 3 (3): 6-21.

This article investigates the impact of the tsunami and the tsunami interventions on the protracted conflicts in Sri Lanka and Indonesia/Aceh. Several variables helped to advance peace in one country and drove the escalation of violence in the other. Natural catastrophe alone did not lead to the mitigation of conflict: where neither side perceived an option for military victory, the tsunami itself, coupled with international support and pressure, offered a way out. However, lessons repeatedly learned during humanitarian interventions were not applied. The tsunami interventions were marked by major shortcomings, among them the failure to reach thousands of people displaced by conflict, a lack of effective coordination, conflict insensitivity, low levels of beneficiary participation, and the undermining of local capacities.

 

Bergholt, D. 2012. Climate-related natural disasters, economic growth, and armed civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 147-162.

Global warming is expected to make the climate warmer, wetter, and wilder. It is predicted that such climate change will increase the severity and frequency of climate- related disasters like flash floods, surges, cyclones, and severe storms. This article uses econometric methods to study the consequences of climate-induced natural disasters on economic growth, and how these disasters are linked to the onset of armed civil conflict either directly or via their impact on economic growth. The results show that climate-related natural disasters have a negative effect on growth and that the impact is considerable. The analysis of conflict onset shows that climate-related natural disasters do not increase the risk of armed conflict. This is also true when we instrument the change in GDP growth by climatic disasters. The result is robust to inclusion of country and time fixed effects, different estimation techniques, and various operationalization of the disasters measure, as well as for conflict incidence and war onset. These findings have two major implications: if climate change increases the frequency or makes weather-related natural disasters more severe, it is an economic concern for countries susceptible to these types of hazards. However, our results suggest – based on historical data – that more frequent and severe climate-related disasters will not lead to more armed conflicts through their effects on GDP growth.

 

Berrebi, C, and J. Ostwald 2011. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorism: do natural disasters incite terror? Public Choice 149 (3/4): 383-403.

A novel and important issue in contemporary security policy is the impact of natural disasters on terrorism. Natural disasters can strain a society and its government, creating vulnerabilities which terrorist groups might exploit. Using a structured methodology and detailed data on terrorism, disasters, and other relevant controls for 167 countries between 1970 and 2007, we find a strong positive impact of disaster- related deaths on subsequent terrorism incidence and fatalities. Furthermore, the effects differ by disaster type and GDP per capita. The results consistently are significant and robust across a multitude of disaster and terrorism measures for a diverse set of model specifications.

 

Brancati, D. 2007. Political Aftershocks: The Impact of Earthquakes on Intrastate Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 (5): 715-743.

Although many scholars, policy makers, and relief organizations suggest that natural disasters bring groups together and dampen conflicts, earthquakes can actually stimulate intrastate conflict by producing scarcities in basic resources, particularly in developing countries where the competition for scarce resources is most intense. Capitalizing on a natural experiment design, this study examines the impact of earthquakes on intrastate conflict through a statistical analysis of 185 countries over the period from 1975 to 2002. The analysis indicates that earthquakes not only increase the likelihood of conflict, but that their effects are greater for higher magnitude earthquakes striking more densely populated areas of countries with lower gross domestic products as well as preexisting conflicts. These results suggest that disaster recovery efforts must pay greater attention to the conflict-producing potential of earthquakes and undertake certain measures, including strengthening security procedures, to prevent this outcome from occurring.

 

Kreutz, J. 2012. From Tremors to Talks: Do Natural Disasters Produce Ripe Moments for Resolving Separatist Conflicts? International Interactions 38 (4): 482-502.

This article suggests that natural disasters can produce a ripe moment for conflict resolution because governments faced with the demand for effective disaster relief have incentives to offer concessions to separatist challengers. An analysis of the prevalence of new negotiations, ceasefires, and peace agreements during 12-month periods before and after natural disasters for separatist dyads 1990–2004 reveal some support for this proposition. Natural disasters increase the likelihood that parties will initiate talks or agree to ceasefires but have less effect on the signing of peace agreements. In line with the proposed mechanism, these results are particularly strong in democracies and following more severe disasters where the need to provide relief is most acute.

 

Le Billion, P and A. Waizenegger. 2007. Peace in the wake of disaster? Secessionist conflicts and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 32 (3): 411- 427.

This paper explores the impact of ‘natural’ disasters on armed conflicts, focusing on the evolution of secessionist conflicts in Aceh and Sri Lanka following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Most studies suggest that ‘natural’ disasters exacerbate pre-existing conflicts. Yet whereas conflict did escalate in Sri Lanka within a year of the tsunami, in Aceh hostilities unexpectedly ended within eight months. Drawing on a comparative analytical framework and semi-structured fieldwork interviews in Aceh, the study points to the importance of spatial dimensions in explaining diverging political outcomes in Aceh and Sri Lanka, focusing on the reshaping of governable spaces following the tsunami.

 

Nardulli, P.F., B. Peyton, and J. Bajjalieh. 2013. Climate change and civil unrest: The impact of rapid onset disasters. Journal of Conflict Resolution DOI: 10.1177/0022002713503809

This article examines the destabilizing impact of rapid-onset, climate-related disasters. It uses a sample of storms and floods in conjunction with two intensity measures of civil unrest to examine two perspectives on human reactions to disasters (conflictual, cooperative). It also uses insights from the contentious politics literature to understand how emotions posited by the conflictual perspective are transformed into destabilizing acts. While the data show that mean levels of unrest are higher in the wake of disasters, the means poorly reflect the data: the vast majority of episodes do not show higher levels of unrest. Moreover, even when higher levels of unrest emerge, they are not a simple reflection of disaster’s human impact; this underscores the importance of the transformational process. Thus, a preliminary model of political violence is investigated; it employs impact, process and institutional variables and it explains three-quarters of the variance in the intensity of violence.

 

Nel, P. and M. Righarts. 2008. Natural Disasters and the Risk of Violent Civil Conflict. International Studies Quarterly 52: 159-185.

Does the occurrence of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami, flood, hurricane, epidemic, heat wave, and/or plague increase the risk of violent civil conflict in a society? This study uses available data for 187 political units for the period 1950–2000 to systematically explore this question that has received remarkably little attention in the voluminous literature on civil war. We find that natural disasters significantly increase the risk of violent civil conflict both in the short and medium term, specifically in low- and middle-income countries that have intermediate to high levels of inequality, mixed political regimes, and sluggish economic growth. Rapid-onset disasters related to geology and climate pose the highest overall risk, but different dynamics apply to minor as compared to major conflicts. The findings are robust in terms of the use of different dependent and independent variables, and a variety of model specifications. Given the likelihood that rapid climate change will increase the incidence of some types of natural disasters, more attention should be given to mitigating the social and political risks posed by these cataclysmic events.

 

Nelson, T. 2010. When disaster strikes: on the relationship between natural disaster and interstate conflict. Global Change, Peace & Security 22 (2): 155-174.

This article asks under what circumstances natural disaster can lead to interstate conflict initiation. Through an analysis of all major earthquakes, floods, storms, and tsunamis between 1950 and 2006, I find that serious disaster increases the general likelihood of conflict initiation, and I reach two key conclusions about the specific causal mechanisms driving post-disaster conflict. First, I show that there is not a single instance of a rival or opponent state taking the opportunity to initiate military conflict in the aftermath of serious disaster. This finding supports the developing literature on ‘disaster diplomacy’. Second, there are, however, cases in which states with a recent history of significant civil disruption initiate such conflicts themselves. In these situations, disaster can contribute to the conflict environment and can make conflict initiation significantly more likely. I find that, counter-intuitively, it is the very states most vulnerable and most weakened by disaster that are likely to initiate conflict in a post-disaster environment.

 

Olson, R.S. and A.C. Drury. 1997. Un-Therapeutic Communities: A Cross-National Analysis of Post-Disaster Political Unrest. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 15 (8): 221-238.

A recurring question in the study of disaster effects involves political instability. A relationship has been posited between disasters and various forms of political unrest, and case evidence exists to support the contention. Statistical testing, however, has been lacking. A pilot study, this paper integrates a worldwide-disaster database with a political-instability database and reports time-series cross-section (pooled time-series) findings for 12 countries struck by rapid-onset natural disaster between 1966 and 1980. The regression results, both strong and significant, indicate a positive relationship between disaster severity and political unrest. The unrest, however, can be dampened if not eliminated by governmental repression, the implications of which are most disturbing.

 

Omelicheva, M. 2011. Natural Disasters: Triggers of Political Instability? International Interactions 37 (4): 441-465.

This study engages with the question: Do different types of natural disasters—droughts, earthquakes, floods, storms, and others—trigger political instability? It revisits an ongoing debate over the nature of association between disasters and conflict and reassesses this relationship using the model of conflict developed by the Political Instability Task Force as well as its data, measures of political instability, and methods of assessment. The study finds only marginal support for the impact of certain types of disasters on the onsets of political instability. The preexisting country-specific conditions, including the resilience of a state’s institutions to crisis, account for most of the variance in the dependent variable. Once the characteristics of a state’s political regime are taken into  account, the effect of disasters weakens or disappears completely, suggesting that natural disasters become catalysts of political instability in only those states which are already prone to conflict.

 

Shefner, J. 1999. Pre- and Post-Disaster Political Instability and Contentious Supporters: A Case Study of Political Ferment. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 17 (2): 137- 160.

Recent statistical confirmation of the link between disasters and political instability has increased interest in exactly how disaster impact political regimes. This case study of the 1992 Guadalajara sewer explosions contributes to this discussion by analyzing political and economic pressures which predisposed a militant response to the 1992 disaster. A new set of political activists aided the disaster victims in their political struggle by contributing resources and by helping to construct the disaster as a political event.

 

Slettebak, R. T. 2012. Don’t blame the weather! Climate-related natural disasters and civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 163-176.

The issue of climate change and security has received much attention in recent years. Still, the results from research on this topic are mixed and the academic community appears to be far from a consensus on how climate change is likely to affect stability and conflict risk in affected countries. This study focuses on how climate-related natural disasters such as storms, floods, and droughts have affected the risk of civil war in the past. The frequency of such disasters has risen sharply over the last decades, and the increase is expected to continue due to both climate change and demographic changes. Using multivariate methods, this study employs a global sample covering 1950 to the present in order to test whether adding climate-related natural disasters to a well- specified model on civil conflict can increase its explanatory power. The results indicate that this is the case, but that the relation is opposite to common perceptions: Countries that are affected by climate-related natural disasters face a lower risk of civil war. One worrying facet of the claims that environmental factors cause conflict is that they may contribute to directing attention away from more important conflict-promoting factors, such as poor governance and poverty. There is a serious risk of misguided policy to prevent civil conflict if the assumption that disasters have a significant effect on war is allowed to overshadow more important causes.

 

Slettebak, R.T. 2013. Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Post-Disaster Unrest in India. India Review 12 (4): 260-279.

This article undertakes an empirical test of the proposition that natural disasters increase the risk of violent conflict. Climate change is expected to increase the risk of natural disasters, and India has been pointed to as being particularly at risk. State-level data from India for the period 1956-2002 are used to assess quantitatively whether climate-related natural disasters in India have contributed to increased rates of riots and politically motivated violence. The results indicate that disasters increase the risk of riots where literacy levels are high, and politically motivated violence where literacy levels are low. However, although statistically significant, the effect in both cases is so weak that it requires exceptional circumstances for disasters to have any substantially important impact.