Putting Environmental Stress (Back) on the Mass Atrocities Agenda

19 October 2016

When and why do environmental stressors play a role in precipitating mass atrocities, and what can the international community do about them?

Research on the direct links between environmental stressors and mass atrocities is still nascent, leaving policymakers without a coherent conceptual model of where demographic and environmental stresses— either real, in the form of land, water, and food scarcity, or imagined and promulgated by political entrepreneurs seeking to capitalize on fears of scarcity—might catalyze mass killings. Thus, policymakers are at a loss to identify those factors that could be monitored to anticipate the outbreak of these events and act to diminish tensions before they boil over into violence.

This policy analysis brief by the Stanley Foundation surveys the state of knowledge in this space, proposing a plausible conceptual model that identifies both structural and actor-contingent factors linking demographic-environmental stress to mass killings, and it recommends both comprehensive testing of the model and various policy interventions that might help the international community be better prepared to stop these tragic events before they start.

The direct link to the policy analysis is here.

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