So what are risk-factors?

If you’ve already been through a few introductory posts, you will have heard about conflict risk-factors. Simply put, they are the variety of factors that increase a community’s vulnerability to conflict. Of course, risk-factors do not guarantee that a war will occur, because war does not have a simple, linear cause—­­ but they do make war more likely. This is in the same way that smoking, not exercising and a poor diet do not guarantee that you will become unwell, however they are all health risk-factors that make getting unwell more likely. Because of this, public health measures aim to address these health risk-factors, before people become unwell, as a means of preventing disease and enhancing health. Similarly, by addressing the risk-factors for violent-conflict, Proactive Peace Work seeks to prevent violent-conflict from starting, and enhance peace.

There’s lots of research on these risk-factors, and there is a rough consensus about the types of things that constitute them. I should mention here though, that there isn’t much agreement on exactly what risk-factors should be called. The main reason that I use the term risk-factors, is because it’s the one I’m more familiar with.

I categorise these conflict risk-factors into 5 key (overlapping) types. These types are meant to be ‘evidence informed prompts’. That is, a way of thinking about common risk-factors in other places and times, in order to reflect on what they might look like in your own community. They aim to strike a balance between learning from previous conflicts and existing research, and acknowledging the uniqueness of each community.

Types of conflict risk-factors:

Inequality of political access: Anything which disadvantages a group’s ability to engage in the governance and change mechanisms of their society.

Inequality of economic access: Unequal distribution of resources, and an unequal process of distribution of resources.

Resource scarcity: A shortage of resources.

Unstable economy and lack of opportunity: Those things which lessen people’s ability to met their basic needs, and a lack of things giving people the ability to live life and address problems without violence.

Factors encouraging violence: Anything which increases the ease of desirability of violent responses.

Now, exactly what risk-factors look like in a community varies greatly across time, place and culture. Within each of these key types, communities will have different, locally specific risk-factors, and it is these specific risk-factors that Proactive Peace Work addresses.

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