Using the ‘horizontal inequalities’ concept to improve development policy in fragile states
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Unit of AssessmentAnthropology and Development Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science, Other Studies In Human Society
Summary of the impact
Research at Oxford funded by the UK Department for International
Development (DFID) showed that countries with highly unequal resource
distribution between culturally defined groups (`horizontal inequality')
are more likely to experience conflict. This key insight contributed to
changes in: DFID strategy towards conflict-affected areas; UNDP policy on
post-conflict reconstruction; the work of the World Bank towards conflict;
and OECD guidance on state-building in fragile states. The research also
made a contribution to national policy discussions in a number of
developing countries, including Nepal, Malaysia and Kenya.
The research was conducted in the framework of a DFID-funded Development
Research Centre (DRC) at the Oxford Department of International
Development (ODID) between 2003 and 2010. The Centre for Research on
Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) comprised:
- Professor Frances Stewart (Director of CRISE and Professor of
Development Economics, first employed at Oxford 1972; retired 2010)
- Mrs Rosemary Thorp (Reader in Latin American Political Economy, first
employed at Oxford 1971; retired 2010)
- Dr Abdul Raufu Mustapha (University Lecturer in African Politics -
still in post)
- Dr Graham Brown (Research Officer, 2003-08)
- Dr Corinne Caumartin (Research Officer, 2003-10)
- Dr Rachael Diprose (Researcher, 2008-09)
- Professor Valpy FitzGerald (Professor of International Development
Finance - still in post)
- Dr Matthew Gibney (University Lecturer in Forced Migration - still in
- Dr Yvan Guichaoua (Research Officer 2004-09)
- Dr Arnim Langer (Research Officer, 2006-10)
- Dr Gudrun Østby (Visiting Fellow, January-March 2006)
- Dr Rajesh Venugopal (Research Officer 2001-03; 2003-04; 2008-09)
This research was conducted in collaboration with partners in Latin
America, Southeast Asia and West Africa. The Oxford researchers were
responsible for the analytical framework, research design, comparative
data analysis and most of the research publications.
This research started from the premise that inequalities between groups -
which Stewart [see Section 3: R1] termed `horizontal inequalities'
(HIs) - played a greater role in provoking conflict than had previously
been recognised. This insight resulted from pioneering work carried out at
ODID in the 1990s on the relationship between war and underdevelopment.
Stewart and FitzGerald [R2] opened a new field of enquiry by
exploring the workings of economies during conflict and suggesting
policies to protect well-being while conflict was ongoing. Subsequent work
indicated that the conventional `vertical' measure of inequality (between
households) was not a good predictor of conflict and nor were individual
economic interests (`greed'). In contrast, horizontal inequalities -
inequalities between culturally defined groups (eg. religious or ethnic
groups) in different dimensions (eg political, socioeconomic or cultural
dimensions) - were strongly associated with potential conflict [R3].
Researchers at CRISE compared three areas of the world to understand why
some multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries are peaceful while others
succumb to violence. Using a multidisciplinary approach combining
economics, political science, sociology and anthropology, the team
compared sets of countries that had followed different trajectories:
Indonesia and Malaysia in Southeast Asia; Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire
in West Africa; and Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala in Latin America. The team
analysed each country's history of conflict or stability and gathered
qualitative and quantitative data on horizontal inequalities. `Perceptions
surveys' were carried out to clarify how people approached questions of
ethnicity, religion, discrimination and inequality and how these attitudes
affected their actions [R3, Part III]. Cross-country and
within-country regression analyses of quantitative data were also
conducted [R3, Part II].
The research clearly showed that where horizontal inequality is high, the
probability of conflict increases, and that:
- Conflict is more likely where political and socioeconomic HIs are both
high and correlated; where they are not correlated between groups,
conflict is less likely [R3, Part I, II and III];
- Inclusive (or power-sharing) government tends to reduce the likelihood
of conflict [R3, Ch 7 and Part III];
- Inequality of cultural recognition is an additional motive for
conflict and cultural `events' can act as a trigger [R3, Ch 3];
- Mobilisation depends on people's personal circumstances: political
exclusion is especially important for leaders, while individuals'
feelings of economic and physical insecurity play a major role for those
who are mobilised [R3, Part III];
- The dominance of natural resource exports can be a significant cause
of conflict, due to their fiscal and locational effects on horizontal
Policy implications were developed for fragile states generally [R3],
in relation to post-conflict development [R5] and towards
international trade [R6].
References to the research
[R1] Stewart, F (2002) WIDER Annual Lectures 5: Horizontal
Inequalities: A Neglected Dimension of Development. Helsinki: United
Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research
(citations on Google Scholar: 398). Also published as CRISE Working
Paper No. 1.
[R2] Stewart, F, V FitzGerald and Associates (2000) War and
Underdevelopment, Volume 1: The Economic and Social Consequences of
Conflict; Volume 2: Country Experiences. Oxford: Oxford University Press
(citations on Google Scholar: 237).
[R3] Stewart, F (ed) (2008) Horizontal Inequalities and
Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. First book in new series. Reviewed in Journal
of Peace Research (2009, 46 (1): 154-5): `high-quality, innovative
empirical research'. (citations on Google Scholar: 133).
[R4] Thorp, R, S Battistelli, Y Guichaoua, J C Orihuela and M
Paredes (2012) The Developmental Challenges of Mining and Oil: Lessons
from Africa and Latin America. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Stewart and R
Venugopal (eds) (2011) Horizontal Inequalities and Post-Conflict
Development. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
[R6] Langer, A, and F Stewart (eds) (2012) `Horizontal
Inequalities and International Trade'. Special section of the European
Journal of Development Research 24 (5). (Impact factor: 0.679).
[R7] Brown, G, and A Langer (2010) `Conceptualizing and Measuring
Ethnicity'. Oxford Development Studies 38 (4): 411-36.
These outputs were supported by the following research grants:
• Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity,
Department for International Development grant R8230, 2003-10, £3,181,700
• The Impact of Humanitarian Aid Distribution on Horizontal
Inequalities and Conflict Management, AusAID grant HUM05, 2007-10,
• Horizontal Inequalities. Trade and Natural Resources, Ford
Foundation grant 1085-0888, 2008-10, $200,000
Details of the impact
The prevention of conflict has become one of the most important
imperatives of development policy - not only because insecurity threatens
well-being but also because it is a major cause of poverty. As a result of
ODID research led by CRISE, horizontal inequality is widely cited as one
of the key causes of conflict, and thus its reduction has become part of
policy towards fragile states at the major development agencies. The
concept has also influenced a number of governments and is reflected in a
range of policy documents.
DFID: CRISE research was funded by DFID in order to provide the
evidence base for policy. It contributed to a shift in DFID development
strategy towards a recognition that existing approaches were not always
appropriate in fragile and conflict-affected states and donor policy
needed to tackle disparities. As DFID stated in a news item on its website
on 5 January 2012, `by turning the focus of policy towards inequality and
the neglected dimensions of political, social and economic inclusivity,
CRISE's research has had a significant impact on policy making and
development strategy' (see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/dfid-research-strengthening-work-in-conflict-affected-countries-through-research).
The new DFID emphasis was apparent in a series of policy papers,
including the 2006 DFID White Paper Preventing Violent Conflict
which notes that exclusion of social groups and inequality can lead to
conflict (p 14) and cites a 2005 paper on social exclusion prepared by
CRISE for DFID. The 2010 DFID Practice Paper Building Peaceful States
and Societies [see Section 5: C1] has a new emphasis on
inclusivity, influenced by the research by CRISE among others, and the
first theory on the causes of conflict listed in this paper (Table 1, p
19) is the HI approach. The ractice paper was supported by a number of
briefings designed to aid implementation of new OECD-DAC Principles
for Good International Engagement in Fragile States & Situations.
Of these, Briefing Paper D: Promoting Non-discrimination [C2]
draws extensively on the CRISE research [R1, R3] (see, for
example, pp 2-5).
OECD: CRISE was involved in helping develop the new OECD-DAC Principles
through a DFID- commissioned consultancy paper on fragile states with the
result that non-discrimination, inclusive development and avoiding social
exclusion formed part of the principles (Principle 6) [C3]. A 2011
OECD publication exploring how far the Principles had been carried out [C4]
found that Principle 6 in particular was on track. In 2010, Stewart was
asked by the OECD to advise on HIs, and the OECD's 2011 policy guidance Supporting
Statebuilding in Situations of Conflict and Fragility [C5]
makes a number of references to HIs (citing [R3]) and the need to
take them into account (pp 31, 46, 47, 52, 60, 67).
World Bank: CRISE research influenced the work of the World Bank's
Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit, encouraging a shift in focus
from income inequality towards HIs and their link to conflict. According
to the then-manager of the unit, speaking in an interview about the
research: `[t]he insight from the CRISE work was that we were measuring
the wrong thing' (see http://www.ox.ac.uk/research/social_sciences/projects/investigating.html)
Stewart was asked to contribute a background paper to the World Bank's
2011 World Development Report [C6] and had several
discussions with the main authors in London and Washington. The report
cites `Horizontal Inequalities and Identity' as one of the theoretical
strands in the literature on conflict on which it draws (p. 75) and notes
HIs among the economic and political stresses that can lead to conflict
(p. 79). It cites (p. 82) Østby's regression analysis of 55 countries [R3,
Ch 7] and Langer's research on Côte d'Ivoire [R3, Ch. 8],
among other references to the research (eg pp 6, 17, 168, 260).
Stewart was also invited to be a lead speaker at a 2010 World Bank
Headline Seminar entitled Promoting Inclusive Growth and Employment in
Fragile Situations. The World Bank-prepared report of this meeting [C7]
lists the link between HIs and conflict as the first `key finding'.
Subsequent policy guidance has included `justice' as a critical objective.
United Nations: CRISE was contracted by the UNDP Bureau of Crisis
Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) to co-edit a report on policy in
post-conflict countries [C8]. One of the report's six `key
conclusions' was that sustained post-conflict recovery requires economic
growth that addresses horizontal inequalities (p. xxiii). The UNDP's 2009
guidance note on Governance in Conflict Prevention and Recovery [C9]
cites [R1] and [R3] and notes that `[a]s Stewart
convincingly argues, the likelihood of social unrest and violent conflict
is higher in contexts with significant political or economic horizontal
inequalities - especially when both types are combined' (p. 3).
CRISE research has also been taken up by the Human Development Report
Office (HDRO) and is drawn on in a number of its flagship global Human
Development Reports. The 2010 Human Development Report, The
Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, includes
discussion of HIs in its review of human development challenges (pp.
75-6). The 2011 Human Development Report, Sustainability and
Equity: A Better Future for All, notes the role HIs can play
in the link between natural resources and conflict (p. 76) [C10].
Impact at the national level: Stewart was commissioned by UNDP
Malaysia to review Malaysian policies towards HIs and make recommendations
for future policy. She reported on her results to government planners in
2011. She put forward the view that Malaysia should move from an emphasis
on direct to indirect policies towards HIs, but should monitor HIs with
the aim of a continued reduction, while also focusing on regional and
political inequalities. Her input was `instrumental in framing the
situational analysis and the areas for priorities for the inclusive growth
agenda' to be pursued by the Malaysian government in cooperation with the
UNDP in 2013-15, according to the Assistant Resident Representative
(Programme), UNDP Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. [C11].
Langer and Stewart were also invited to Kenya for discussions with the
prime minister and his chief economic adviser on policies towards
horizontal inequalities and social cohesion [C12]. Ex- Ghanaian
President John Kufuor, who gave the 52nd Anniversary of Nigerian
Independence lecture in Abuja in September 2012, cited `imbalanced
development involving horizontal inequalities' as an important source of
conflict that was impeding Nigerian progress (see http://allafrica.com/stories/201209190753.html).
This followed a public meeting and media appearances in Ghana by CRISE in
DFID commissioned a special study to ascertain the extent and
significance of horizontal inequalities in Nepal, and subsequently
designed its development programme to target particularly the poorest
regions and poorest groups [C1]. This approach continues in the
World Bank's Poverty Alleviation Fund, which is directed towards targeting
excluded and vulnerable groups. The lead author of the 2009 Nepal Human
Development Report, State Transformation and Human Development,
stated that the ideas of social exclusion and HIs had `guided the
conceptual framework of the report' (email to Frances Stewart, 2 April
Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga, former president of Sri Lanka, and now a
prominent member of the opposition, uses the concept of horizontal
inequalities (and cites CRISE work) in her speeches: eg the Thirteenth
Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Lecture `Unity in diversity;
Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Peace and Prosperity', 29
November 2012 (see http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2012/11/30/unity-diversity-building-shared-and-inclusive-societies-peace-and-prosperity%E2%80%9D-former).
Sources to corroborate the impact
[C1] Personal corroboration: Former Permanent Secretary, DFID.
[C2] Department for International Development (DFID) (2010) Building
Peaceful States and Societies and Briefing Paper D: Promoting
Non-discrimination. London: DFID.
[C3] Personal corroboration: Senior Social Development Adviser,
Asia Regional Team, DFID.
[C4] OECD (2011a) International Engagement in Fragile
States. Can't we do better? Paris: OECD.
[C5] OECD (2011b) Supporting Statebuilding in Situations of
Conflict and Fragility: Policy Guidance, DAC Guidelines and
Reference Series. Paris: OECD.
[C6] World Bank (2011) World Development Report 2011:
Conflict, Security, and Development. Washington DC: World Bank.
[C8] UNDP (2008) Crisis Prevention and Recovery Report 2008:
Post-Conflict Economic Recovery New York: UNDP Bureau for Crisis
Prevention and Recovery.
[C9] UNDP (2009) Governance in Conflict Prevention and
Recovery: A Guidance Note. New York: UNDP.
[C10] Personal corroboration: Former Director, Human Development
Report Office, UNDP.
[C11] Personal corroboration: Assistant Resident Representative
(Programme), UNDP Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam (held on
[C12] Personal corroboration: Former Chief Economic Adviser, Prime
Minister's Office, Kenya.