Occasional Paper

Does Food Security Matter for Transition in Arab Countries?

“In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro- and micro-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab world. This “Arab exceptionalism in conflict” suggests that improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition. In particular, the paper uses an updated dataset, better control for country unobserved and observed heterogeneity, and identifies the causal relationship between food security and conflicts by exploiting the high exposure of Arab countries to variations in international food prices. It also offers recommendations on how conflicts may potentially be prevented in the particularly risky transition period by drawing on the relevant literature.”