Tag Archives: urbansation

Gangs, riots and failed states – Climate change fuels urban conflicts

Landless climate migrants move to the capitals and exacerbate conflicts over the allocation of resources in overcrowded urban centers. In some Pacific Island states, the situation already got explosive. Desperate people, who have nothing to lose, chose violence as option of social action. 

Overcrowded paradise

Despite their divine appearance, many Pacific islands are overcrowded. The population density of Kiribati is higher than that of Hong Kong (McAdam, 2009). More than 35% of the people of Pacific Islands life and work in towns. Key drivers of this urbanization trend is the prospect of cash employment and education in towns. In hope for economic opportunities, families send their children to the capitals. 8 of the 22 Pacific countries are today predominantly urban. By 2020, more than the half of the population will live in towns (Russel, 2009). Natural resources in urban areas are already today overexploited and cannot supply enough resources for a growing population. 

The faith of landless people

With growing sea level, small islands get uninhabitable. People of outer islands are forced to move to urban centers in the search for new opportunities. This landless population settles in urban squatter areas and competes with townspeople over the allocation of water, land and food. In contrast to subsistence farmers, landless people rely on opportunities to earn cash money to buy expensive imported food. But outside government services, there are not many opportunities for paid employment in Pacific Island states. Unemployment rates are extremely high. The related emotional stress leads to problems of alcohol abuse and violence (Green, 2009). Frustration and tensions can explode.

 Raskol gangs terrorizing Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, the public degradation is at a level close to the threshold of civil war. Papua New Guinea is a multiethnic state. Loyalty is attributed rather to clans than to fragile governmental authorities. Despite the rich mineral resource, economic inequality is high in the country. Corrupt elites attributed the exploitation of resources to transnational corporates. More than 90% of the youth in Papua New Guinea are unemployed. One third of the population has less than $2 per day for their personal needs (Cauvet et al.,2010). Violence established as mean for survival.

The population is terrorized by armed ‘raskol’ gangs who establish their own law and order. Robbery, rape and murdering is in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby a daily occurrence. Especially foreigner live very dangerous, so that hotels are equipped like fortresses. Gangs transfer traditional tribal structures to the new form of gangster organization. The term ‘raskol’ means in Pidgin English bandits. In their self-conception, ‘raskol’ gang members are Robin Hood like fighters for social justice. (Timoshenko, 2010) In 2004, The Economist elected Port Moresby as the most unlivable capital city on Earth. In the same year, the Australian government was forced send police forces to Papua New Guinea to restore the public order. Australia allocated 1 milliard Australian Dollars for this intervention (Timoshenko, 2010).

Blue-helmet intervention on Solomon Islands

Unfortunately, Papua New Guinea is not the only example of the region how the social order of a state can break down. On Solomon Islands, tensions exploded since 1998 in violent riots. This  cost the life of hundreds of people. Over 50,000 people were displaced. Especially, ethnic Chinese groups became the scapegoat for frustration. In July 2003, the United Nations blue helmet intervention ‘Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands’ (RAMSI) was necessary to calm the armed conflict. (PSIDS, 2009). UN soldiers collected firearms to appease the situation. Over 300 RAMSI police officers helped to restore the public order. Nevertheless, the conflicts re-erupted in 2006: During this riots, Chinatown was burned down. Though increased efforts of the RAMSI mission calmed down the situation, the peace is still fragile on Solomon Islands.

In 2014, both Pacific island states are classed on the Fragile State Index of the Fund for Peace with a very high warning for the risk of state failure.

© 2014 Heike Huntebrinker. All rights reserved.