Horizontal inequalities as a cause of conflict: a review of CRISE findings.


One important hypothesis concerning the causes of violent conflict focuses on the presence of major ’horizontal inequalities or inequalities among culturally defined groups. The concept of HIs and its relationship with conflict has formed the central hypothesis of the work of CRISE, a DFID-funded centre, based at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with partners in Latin America (Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru), Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia) and West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria). In each region, one of these countries has avoided serious national conflict (Bolivia, Malaysia and Ghana, respectively) while the remainder have experienced severe violent conflict in the recent, or relatively recent, past.

The aim of this paper is to review the main findings and conclusions of CRISE research. It suggests policies, based on the research findings, that could help to reduce the frequency of violent conflict and prevent its recurrence.

The paper is structured as follows: section 1 defines the concept of HIs in more detail and elaborates on their connection with conflict. Section 2 reviews the 10 major findings of CRISE research. Given that the evidence implies that HIs are an important cause of conflict, policies to reduce such inequalities need to be identified and introduced where they are acute. Section 3 identifies relevant policies and discusses some advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. Section 4 briefly looks at data and measurement. Section 5 draws some conclusions and highlights further research needs arising from the work.


Oxford, UK: Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE). CRISE Overview No. 1, 41 pp.

Horizontal inequalities as a cause of conflict: a review of CRISE findings.

Published 1 January 2010