Defining vulnerability in post conflict environments

Ahmed, Maha and Gassmann, Franziska (2009). Defining vulnerability in post conflict environments.

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  • Author Ahmed, Maha
    Gassmann, Franziska
    Title Defining vulnerability in post conflict environments
    Publication Date 2009
    Abstract In the last two decades, vulnerability has received significant amounts of attention, not just as a distinct component of poverty but also as a concept unto itself. It concerns itself with the situation of poverty faced by households and/or individuals not just today but also over time. Academics and policy makers alike hold consensus over the fact that this dynamic nature of vulnerability requires specific attention so that appropriate responses can be devised for mitigating it. However, this is not an easy task. The very dynamic nature of vulnerability that makes it a special policy concern also makes it a complex concept to define specifically and therefore difficult to measure. There have been many attempts at defining vulnerability but they all end up focusing on uni-dimensional measures such as poverty patterns over time. Vulnerability is inextricably linked to risks and shocks. The occurrence of a shock has two types of impacts. The first is internal defencelessness that results from reduced resources and the second is external defencelessness that results from a fragile environment. Internal defencelessness results from idiosyncratic capacities, which are specific to households and individuals and determine how the impact of the shock is internalised. External defencelessness is the result of new risks that emerge in the environment surrounding the household after the conflict. While the former reinforces poverty, the latter causes uncertainty over time. In a post shock environment, it is the combination of these conditions that causes vulnerability. This paper seeks to conceptualise multi-dimensional vulnerability in a post conflict environment. Such environments are characterised by four types of losses. These include human security, losses of exchange freedom, loss in sense of belonging and loss of access to markets and services. These losses occur because availability of resources is reduced and even when they are available, individuals and households may not be able to convert them into well being. Viewing such losses in a uni-dimensional way, perhaps in terms of income or consumption losses, is restrictive. For a comprehensive analysis therefore, it is necessary to consider vulnerability in terms of multi-dimensional losses. Such an analysis would focus not only on the root causes of vulnerability but also the mechanisms by which a loss is translated into vulnerability. To make an effective analysis therefore, the paper uses Sen�۪s concepts of entitlements, capabilities and functionings to study the impact of resource loss as well as mechanisms whereby vulnerability is created. In what follows this paper expands the concepts introduced above to develop a comprehensive definition of vulnerability that can subsequently be applied to the case of Afghanistan, after the culmination of the conflict in 2002. Section 2 discusses risks and their relation with shocks. Section 3 elaborates the concepts of entitlements, capabilities and functionings, with particular emphasis on post conflict environments. Section 4 formulates a framework for measuring post conflict vulnerability in terms of entitlements. Section 5 presents a brief summary of the caveats and limitations that should be recognised in studying multi-dimensional vulnerability. Section 6 concludes.
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    Created: Fri, 13 Dec 2013, 12:14:10 JST