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Understanding the Security, Aid and Development Nexus in Civil Conflict: Balancing Belligerents or Feeding the Beast?

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Recurring civil conflicts are the dominant form of violent armed conflict in the world today. The international community has responded with increased levels of peacekeeping and aid interventions. However, the research and policy communities lack robust understanding of causal mechanisms for how these interventions affect conflict recurrence and persistence. Empirically derived reference behaviors for persistent conflict suggest that feedback loops between peacekeeping, aid, and development interventions that have been largely ignored by the research community may, in fact, dominate system behaviors that perpetuate conflict. A simple model structure is presented that integrates theories of conflict and peace building with crosscountry statistical analysis of structural conflict risk factors and with insights from field interviews with military peacekeeping troops and humanitarian aid workers in the Somali conflict. In the model, balancing loops involving peace operations and belligerents interact with reinforcing loops involving humanitarian interventions and local capacity to generate distinct archetypes of conflict persistence. While suggestive of causal mechanisms, this analysis demonstrates the need for finer-grained (e.g., micro-level) data over longer time periods to fully understand how resources inserted into conflict by external actors exacerbate security and conflict risk and when they contribute to peace and stability.

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