Economic Causes of Civil War: The Role of ´Global Economic Structures


  • Johan Tejpar

Publish date: 2010-06-11

Report number: FOI-R--2899--SE

Pages: 32

Written in: English


  • civil war
  • economic causes of civil war
  • global economic structures
  • globalization
  • greed
  • grievances


In this report, theories on economic causes of civil war have been reviewed, particularly theories on greed and grievance. These theories are well studied and reflect at large the ongoing debate on different conflict drivers. Here, they are also put in a global economic context. Concerning economic causes of civil war, it is clear that opportunity is identified as the single most significant factor and that it is closely connected to economic growth and development. There are however different views on what the most important opportunity is. While greed-related arguments identify self-interest as the principal conflict driver, grievance-related arguments commonly analyze civil war as part of a conflict process where conflicts transform into different shapes. The main point is that even though, for example, religious or ethnical grievances do not instantly start civil wars, they could very well be the reasons for smaller conflicts that at a later stage escalate into civil war. An important conclusion in this report is that irrespective of the type of cause of civil war, the global economy has a significant impact on whether civil wars occur or not. As nations become closer connected by financial structures, trade flows and migration patterns, the possibilities of financing wars increase and there is a risk that negative effects of civil wars will spread to neighbouring countries, particularly when connected with informal markets. In a 20-year perspective, it is likely that the global economy will be further integrated and its impact on the risk of civil wars will be sustained.