Violent conflict has enormous human, environmental and material costs, affecting those within disputing areas and impacting stability across borders. Once violence breaks out, the chances for successful diplomatic engagement diminish, leaving costly and more unpredictable alternatives. Effective prevention requires early action to address the root and proximate causes of conflict.
Root causes of conflict are the underlying socio-economic, cultural, and institutional factors which create conditions for tensions, group mobilisation and potential violence. Recurring root causes include poor governance, systematic discrimination, lack of political participation, unequal economic opportunity, and grievances over natural resource allocation
Proximate causes contribute to the escalation of tensions and create an immediate enabling environment for violence. They are usually symptoms of deeper (i.e. root) problems. Examples include human rights abuses, small arms proliferation, worsening economic conditions, aggressive rhetoric, and violent incidents. Specific triggers can include elections, military coup, assassination, or legislative reform which negatively affects particular groups.