First Session (click here for a summary of the second session), (third session)

Presenter: Sharon Morris; Democracy Fellow; Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Moderator: Marina Ottaway; Senior Associate and Co-Director of Democracy and Rule of Law Project; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

On December 11, 2001, experts gathered at the Carnegie Endowment for the first meeting of the roundtable, which brings together individuals from the democracy promotion and conflict prevention communities to discuss how the two fields are linked, under what conditions they complement each other, and when they work at cross purposes. Sharon Morris of USAID offered a framework for identifying potential causes of conflict.

Motive, means, and opportunity are prerequisites for conflict, as they are for a criminal act:

1) Structural or root causes (motive), including grievance (ethnic or religious tensions, destabilizing demographic shifts, poverty, stagnant economies, environmental degradation, etc.) and greed ("conflict entrepreneurs" who profit from narco-trafficking, human trafficking, commodity smuggling, and security-for-hire operations, and those who desire to capture political and/or economic power).

2) Access to conflict resources (means). Diaspora communities, sale of commodities, and corruption can provide funding for arms. A high number of unemployed young males increases chances for violence. Finally, organizational structures capable of encouraging individuals who would normally not participate in violence to engage in conflict are dangerous.

3) Institutions (opportunity). Political institutions can either alleviate or exacerbate grievances that can lead to conflict. Also, weak institutions that do not constrain elites' behavior are dangerous.

Other factors influencing conflict include existence of warfare elsewhere in the region and "windows or vulnerability," such as elections, decentralization programs, economic shocks, natural disasters, and "trigger events" (i.e., assassinations, riots, etc.).

Although the international community cannot easily eliminate root causes of conflict, it can have a positive influence on other areas through training of journalists, improving educational systems, working with banking sectors to limit funding of belligerents, implementing anti-corruption programs, improving police and judicial responses to violence, and planning events to keep youths occupied during potentially tense periods, such as elections.