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This paper uses econometric methods and case-study evidence to examine the political economy of complex humanitarian emergencies, multidimensional crises characterized by warfare, state violence, disease, hunger, and displacement. We emphasize that economic variables often become salient through relative deprivation, the actors' perception of social injustice from a growing discrepancy between goods and conditions they expect and those they can get or keep. Tangible factors such as a marked deterioration of living conditions are conducive to socio-political discontent that may be mobilized into political violence. Our econometric analysis indicates that stagnation and decline in real GDP, a high ratio of military expenditures to GNP, a tradition of violent conflict, and less clearly, high income inequality and slow growth in food production per capita, are sources of emergencies. Also inflation and low levels of IMF funding are associated with emergencies, although the direction of causation may be opposite. Two expected variables - commodity terms of trade and official development assistance per capita - are not associated with emergencies. Further elaboration of the findings shows how slow economic growth, the failure of food and agricultural development, high income concentration, rapid inflation, lack of external adjustment, the threat of slow growth and adverse distribution to elites, higher military expenditures, and authoritarian regimes increase the vulnerability of developing countries to humanitarian emergencies.


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