No Development, No Peace

When a war erupts, as in Darfur, most policymakers look for a political explanation and a political solution. This is understandable, but it misses a basic point: by understanding the role of geography, climate, and population growth in the conflict, we can find more realistic solutions than if we stick with politics alone.

Anyone interested in peacemaking, poverty reduction, and Africa’s future should read the new United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report Sudan: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment . This may sound like a technical report on Sudan’s environment, but it is much more. It is a vivid study of how the natural environment, poverty, and population growth can interact to provoke terrible human-made disasters like the violence in Darfur.

When a war erupts, as in Darfur, most policymakers look for a political explanation and a political solution. This is understandable, but it misses a basic point. By understanding the role of geography, climate, and population growth in the conflict, we can find more realistic solutions than if we stick with politics alone.

Extreme poverty is a major cause, and predictor, of violence. The world’s poorest places, like Darfur, are much more likely to go to war than richer places. This is not only common sense, but has been verified by studies and statistical analyses. In the UNEP’s words, “There is a very strong link between land degradation, desertification, and conflict in Darfur.”

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