Mass Violence and Atrocities | Analysis and New Insights

Economic Drivers of Mass Atrocities: Implications for Policy and Prevention

Dr. Raymond Gilpin | August 2015


The relationship between economic factors and violent conflict, specifically mass atrocities, is both compelling and complex. However, these issues have received relatively little attention in the development of mass atrocity prevention and response strategy. If economic factors are central to understanding the forces driving mass atrocities, they must feature more prominently in efforts to prevent and respond to atrocity violence.

This brief seeks to unpack key economic drivers of mass atrocities, including entrenched inequality and the natural resource/security nexus, by considering four fundamental questions: To what extent does economic inequality precipitate mass atrocities? What role do natural resources play in explaining the incidence and severity of mass atrocities? Do models of economic governance contribute to understanding the onset and resolution of mass atrocities? How does an understanding of economic drivers help forestall, and effectively respond to, mass atrocities?

This brief recommends the adoption of comprehensive natural resource management compacts, which could prevent violent conflict by rebuilding the social contract involving governments, companies, and communities.