Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Poverty and Conflict: The Inequality Link

Ravi Kanbur

June 2007

International Peace Institute


The focus of this paper is on conflicts within states. These range from the full scale armed conflict of a civil war (between two “states within states”), through relatively isolated and contained low intensity insurrection against the state, to regular bouts of communal violence in a “well functioning” state. I wish to ask how poverty and inequality causally interact with these phenomena. The causality from conflict to poverty is not much in doubt and stands to reason—conflict destroys or impairs incentives for productive economic investment and innovation at all levels.