Department of Political Science

First comes the river, then comes the conflict? A qualitative comparative analysis of flood-related political unrest

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Disasters triggered by natural hazards will increase in the future due to climate change, population growth, and more valuable assets located in vulnerable areas. The impacts of disasters on political conflict have been the subject of broad academic and public debates. Existing research has paid little attention to the links between climate change, disasters, and small-scale conflicts, such as protests or riots. Floods are particularly relevant in this context as they are the most frequent and most costly contemporary disasters. However, they remain understudied compared to other disasters, specifically, droughts and storms. We address these gaps by focusing on flood-related political unrest between 2015 and 2018 in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Drawing on data from the Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO) and Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED), we find that flood-related political unrest occurs within two months after 24% of the 92 large flooding events recorded in our sample. Subsequently, a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) shows that the simultaneous presence of a large population, a democratic regime, and either the exclusion of ethnic groups from political power or a heavy impact of the flood is an important scope condition for the onset of flood-related political unrest. This indicates that disaster–conflict links are by no means deterministic. Rather, they are contingent on complex interactions between multiple contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Pages (from-to)83-97
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • development, environment, peace, protest, security, violence

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