chapter  2
43 Pages

Insecurity from entitlement failures in the middle east

ByNorth Africa

Why do people get into conflict? This is a question that is neither well understood nor fully addressed by social scientists. This chapter will focus on this question, at the base of a relatively new and rapidly expanding branch of knowledge, which will be of great value for understanding issues of conflict management, especially from the perspective of the developing world, and help us understand both the sources of conflict and how to mitigate and manage conflict in less developed societies. In this chapter we apply the entitlement failure approach to the specific context of human security: the entitlement set of a household constitutes the goods and services that the household can command, or acquire, by converting its endowments like assets, incomes and labour into through market exchanges (see Sen, 1976 and 1981). In the context of famines, Sen (1976; 1981) and others have employed the entitlement approach to explain why the distribution problems can cause famines and food insecurity in a society, despite the successful operation of various markets including asset markets and food markets (see Edkins, 1996; p.  550). In other words, despite the efficiency of an exchange mechanism like markets, market prices can change in such a fashion that the food entitlements (or, purchasing capacity) of many households can fall below the minimum quantities of foods. As a result, these households either choose to starve (Ravallion, 1986), or are forced to starve (Sen, 1981, p. 176), facing the increased risk of annihilation: certain human securities like famines arise because of an exchange entitlement failure, or exchange entitlement decline, such that many households are exposed to such stark insecurities due mainly to changes in relative prices in otherwise efficient markets. Such changes in relative prices can be brought about by various exogenous shocks. For us, human insecurity from violent collective, or group, conflicts can take place due to entitlement failures:  given the endowments of a household, or an identifiable segment of a population, the household can acquire security from four sources: first and foremost, a typical household can purchase security from private sources like purchasing small arms and personal security networks; second, and most importantly, a typical household receives security from

sub-national governments in the form of public security networks like police forces; third, security is also provided to private households by the national governments in the form of defence networks; and finally, households also receive some forms of security from the international community when the previous three sources fail to guarantee minimum security to human lives and human dignity in a country. Households pay direct and indirect taxes and other prices for ensuring their security. When households face violent conflicts in a society, the possibility arises that the purchasing power of a household is not sufficient to purchase the minimal level of security, due to changes in market prices. Similar to death from famine, ordinary households can now face death and destruction from exchange entitlement failures in physical securities. In other words, if security problems arise because of exchange entitlement failures, one should be able to detect both theoretical and empirical links between vulnerability of the households and market prices – especially prices of primary goods – in a conflict-ridden society like the Middle East. The rest of the chapter is built to develop the theories and the empirics to explain how and why and whether exchange entitlements have triggered the catastrophic conflicts in the Middle East.