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Centre of African Studies: Research


Poverty and Conflict

Full title: ‘A Comparative Analysis of Combatants' Economic and Social-Political, Economic and Social-Political Power during and after War’

This project is a three-year multicountry study, which aims to examine the mechanisms underpinning individuals’ different trajectories during and after armed conflict. The project began in July 2015, is led by Dr Zoe Marks, with support from Professor Paul Nugent and funded by the ESRC-DFID fund for poverty alleviation research.

Peacekeeper patrols, Beni region. Credit: UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

Why this project?

Where there is armed conflict, there is often persistent poverty, under-development and political instability. These are both causes and effects of violence, as individuals are caught in cycles of economic and political marginalization, which allegedly spur violent mobilization. When fighting de-escalates, former armed group participants are often vulnerable to retrenched social and economic marginality, without the schooling or structures necessary for peacetime livelihoods. However, some ex-combatants leverage wartime resources into political power and opportunity. The project thus focuses on three case studies that have experienced extreme violence and civil war over the last two decades, with a view to inform policy for breaking the poverty-conflict trap.

Where and how will the project work?

The research examines both male and female participants’ wartime experiences in LiberiaSierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have experienced extreme violence with mixed results for post-conflict peace and development. The project explores people’s motives and experiences in armed groups, and their strategies and challenges securing post-conflict livelihoods and reintegration. The research aims are thus two-fold:

1. To understand systematically the economic and social-organizational dynamics and implications of participating in war

2. To apply that knowledge to understanding post-conflict poverty, particularly for ex-combatants at risk of remobilization, to improve peacebuilding and poverty alleviation.

The researchers utilise ex-combatant and civilian surveys, social network analysis (SNA), in-depth interviews, ethnography and historical analysis to unpack the complexity of these issues. Data collection and analysis is supported by country experts, local stakeholders, an international advisory board and, at Edinburgh, Drs Jan Eichhorn (an expert on wellbeing, survey design, and social policy) and Patrycja Stys (expert on repatriation and displacement in Central Africa and CAS postdoctoral fellow).

The project relates to ongoing work on poverty, conflict and security at the University, including Dr Marks’ on the role of armed actors and gender inclusion and Drs Tom Molony and Maggie Dwyer’s on Social Media and Security in Africa.ESRC DFID

Policeman patrols Mugunga IDP camp during the TSC field visit near Goma, May 2014. UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti