How do natural disasters affect the treatment of civilians by non-state actors? On the one hand, conflict literature argues that adverse shocks influence the strategic interplay between rebel groups and the government, potentially increasing the level of violence against civilians. On the other hand, sociological research on natural disasters argues that they increase social integration and cooperation and are thus expected to reduce the risk of violent behaviour. In this study, we contend that the dynamics of violence against civilians are different in the short term and long term after a disaster strikes. We argue that natural disasters lead to a decrease in violence against civilians perpetrated by rebel groups in the short run. However, over time this temporary improvement in social integration starts to decline, increasing the level of civilian victimization. To examine this potential temporal dynamic, we combine georeferenced information on one-sided violence (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data; ACLED) and data on disasters (Emergency Event Database; EM-DAT). Our results confirm the expected dynamic effects. This research has important implications for our understanding of how disasters can influence the relationship between civilians, rebel groups, and governments.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.