Assessing the risk of pre-existing grievances in non-democracies: The conditional effect of natural disasters on repression

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International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Volume 42 January 2020
https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/international-journal-of-disaster-risk-reduction/vol/42/suppl/C
Research article   Open access
Assessing the risk of pre-existing grievances in non-democracies: The conditional effect of natural disasters on repression
Katharina Pfaff
Article 101337
Abstract
Every disaster carries the risk of destruction but not every disaster prompts violent political process in a country. This article examines the popular argument that natural disasters can lead to higher state violence if resulting shocks caused by a disaster add to pre-existing grievances. If economic inequality or political instability is prevalent before a disaster occurs, disasters are expected to exacerbate the perceived threat to government’s survival in office. Consequently, repression is expected to be higher in the aftermath of a disaster. I test the existence of the expected conditional effect of pre-disaster stability and disasters using cross-national data on natural rapid-onset disasters in non-democracies between 1976 and 2013. As indicators for pre-existing grievances this article focuses on ex ante economic inequality and political dissent. While a natural disaster as such is not associated with a violation of human rights, empirical evidence suggests that the probability of an increase in post-disaster repression is higher when a country has previously experienced grievances.