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The geographic basis of conflict

The geographical basis of conflict

Conflict Bleasdale_M_ConflictMinerals_00031-1024x682

Conflict can be defined as a disagreement caused by the actual or perceptual opposition of needs, values and interests between people. It does not necessarily mean fighting: it can simply be an expression of different opinions. (AQA Geography – Ross & Digby)


The geographical basis of conflict
Nature and origin of conflict: identity (nationalism, regionalism, localism), ethnicity, culture; resources including territory; ideology.
Patterns of conflict: national, regional, local.
Expression of conflict: non-violent, political activity, debate, terrorism, insurrection, war.
Conflict resolution.

What you need to know:


Key Terms

Challenge: A task or issue that is perceived as being provocative, threatening, stimulating or a matter open to debate. The issues that arise from challenges can often cause alternative views to be expressed, usually in a peaceful manner, but some issues may be extreme or polarised

Conflict: A state of disagreement caused by the perceived or actual opposition of needs, values and interests between people. Geographically, it is often about opposing views about the ways in which a resource may be developed or used. The result is negative tension between the parties involved. A conflict can result in disagreement, harsh words, armed conflict or even war.

Nature and origin of Conflict

Conflict 640x392_65096_209917

Identity: This is a sense of belonging to a particular group or geographical area where there are the same generic characteristics, often characterised by ethnicity, language and/or religion. Identity can be found at different scales:
– Nationalism: loyalty and devotion to a nation. This can range from promotion of national interests above that of other countries to ultra-nationalism (e.g. North Korea) where the needs of other countries are ignored altogether.
– Regionalism: loyalty and devotion to a distinct region where the people share similarities. These regions are often based on former administrative units (e.g. the former kingdoms of Germany [Prussia, Bavaria etc] ) or areas with common history, culture, language/dialect e.g. Cornwall.
Localism: an affection for a particular place that is rarely political. This can be seen at present in the debate over the HS2 high speed rail route from London to Birmingham. The line, which will go straight through the Chilterns and rural Warwickshire, has met with huge opposition from high-profile figures such as Lord Rothschild, whose Buckinghamshire estate would be within a mile of the track, and Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh secretary, whose constituencies are on the route. Even the Queen is reported to be worried about the proposed route, with Prince Andrew said to have raised the issue with Treasury officials last year on account of his mother’s concern that passing trains would upset her horses at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, which hosts the Royal Show.

Surfing - locals only!

Surfing – locals only!

Ethnicity: The grouping of people according to their ethnic origins or characteristics. Originally this term referred to the racial make-up of a population (e.g. Caucasoid, Negroid, Polynesian, Melanesian etc.). In recent years it has been changed in scale to include national, tribal, religious, linguistic or cultural origins or background. Ethnic conflicts in Bosnia and Herzogovina were between its three ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

conflict help-bosnia-now

While each has their own standard language they can understand one another. The question of standard language of Bosnia and Herzegovina is resolved in such a way that the three constituent ethnic groups have their educational and cultural institutions in their respective native or mother tongue languages: Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. This causes a feeling of separation from the other groups at a very young age.

The most easily recognisable feature that distinguishes the three ethnic groups is their religion, with Bosniaks predominantly Muslim, Serbs predominantly Orthodox Christians, and Croats Catholic Christians.

Culture: Culture is the customary beliefs, social norms and traits of racial, religious or social groups and the set of shared attitudes and values they follow. Many groups hold this idea of culture very dear and will resist all efforts to destroy or change it.

Territory: A geographical area under the jurisdiction of a governmental authority. This area may be an administrative sub-division of a country or possibly a colonial possession. Conflict can occur over who has authority over the area (e.g. The Falklands Islands [Las Malvinas] is a territory disputed by the UK and Argentina).



Ideology: Systematic body of concepts regarding human life or culture. The western view of Democracy and the alternative views of the Taliban, could both be described as ideologies.

Wealth: having more or less wealth than others.

The "haves" and the "have not's" !

The “haves” and the “have not’s” !

Patterns of Conflict:

International: Involves the participation of more than one country. Gaza strip, Afghanistan

National: Conflict that takes place within a country. E.g. Syria 2011

Regional: Conflict that takes place within an area of one country or across the borders of one or more countries. This could include the civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan or the general range of troubles that affect many countries right across the Middle East.



Local (localism) – conflict is restricted to a small part of one region of a country. Where issues or values bring local people together, such as against government closure of local services.

Expression of Conflict

Umbrella revolution - Hong Kong

Umbrella revolution – Hong Kong

Non violent: Conflict of this nature does not involve force or armed struggle. Points are made by word, sign, marching or silent protests. E.g. The ‘Orange’ revolution in the Ukraine in 2004/5. This followed a widespread belief that the presidential election had been fixed. Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement’s campaign of civil resistance, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organised by the opposition movement.

Political Activity: This involves groups within a country who seek to acquire and exert political power through government. Groups (parties) have a certain ideology and agenda to win elected office. In the UK there are a wide range of political parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru etc) who seek to apply their own ideas and beliefs to the administration of the UK. This could be at national, regional, county, metropolitan or parish level. In the UK parliament, there are 650 seats available. The party that holds an overall majority (i.e. 326) forms the government. Where there is no overall majority (such as in the 2010 election) then two or more parties can get together to form a coalition government.

Terrorism: Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property for the purpose of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. This systematic use of fear is a way to try to force the authorities into action for a political, or more often ideological, end. Terrorists often use violence and threats to create fear among the public, to try to convince people that their government is powerless to prevent acts of terrorism, and to get immediate publicity for their causes.



Acts of terrorism can range from threats to actual assassinations, kidnappings, aeroplane hijackings, bomb scares, suicide bombers, car bombs, building explosions, mailings of dangerous materials, agro-terrorism, computer-based attacks, and the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons—weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Insurrection: An act or instance of revolt against civil authority or an established government. Usually involving a rebellion against the rules of that government. People who take part are called insurgents and armed conflict against the armed forces of the regime is common. This differs from a civil war, because the insurgents are not recognised by the international community as having legitimate claims.

War: Declared armed conflict between states or nations. Armed forces are usually involved.




Conflict Resolution

Sometimes this can involve the removal of the causes of conflict, but more than often it can involve negotiating to allow all parties to lie with some sort of compromise over the problem. Conflict resolution usually consists of a gradual process of talking and building trust, which in turn, tends to require an outside mediator. Conflict resolution is the means by which conflict at a variety of scales can be brought to an end. The expression of conflict –debate, political activity, war – can sometimes lead to its resolution. Different forms of conflict can be resolved by differing means.



Tools of Conflict Resolution

• Negotiation (i.e. ‘making a deal’)

• Mediation is a confidential and informal way to resolve a dispute with the help of a neutral third party (mediator). The mediator works with both parties to help them reach a mutually agreeable solution to their differences. Mediation proceedings are confidential and informal. E.g. U.S. Senator George Mitchell acted as a mediator in the Northern Ireland peace process.

• Diplomacy: professional diplomats often meet their counterparts to discuss how best to end conflicts. They are often able to take the heat out of a situation that politicians are unable to do.

• Education: much conflict is driven by ignorance. The more that people become aware of those with whom they are in conflict, the greater the chance of the conflict being resolved.

• Prayer

• Counselling: the giving of advice.

In the real world, a combination of some or all of the above might be used.


1 What is conflict? 2 What is meant by nationalism? 3 Give an example of regionalism. 4  Give an example of ethnic conflict. 5 What is ideology?

6 Describe how resources can be a cause of conflict? [8]

7 What is a national level conflict? 8 Give three examples of how a non-violent conflict can be expressed. 9 What is insurrection? 10 What is a win-win outcome when a conflict is resolved?

11 Outline the different ways to resolve a conflict. [8]

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