Conflicts are an integral component of social processes. When dealt with peacefully, they can promote positive change. However, if they develop violently, they threaten the security and welfare of people. An outbreak of violent conflict prevents development and poverty reduction. At the same time, conflicts create new poverty; they destabilize governments and societies by undermining development successes, damaging natural live foundations, and leading to flight and expulsion.
On the one hand conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality, environmental destruction, and resource shortage in connection with population growth. In their wake, the disintegration, fragmentation, and fall of governmental and social structures may follow. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity, and the disregard of human rights.
Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources. The main aim focus currently lies on attaining the Millennium Development Goals. For this purpose, national "Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers" (PRSP) are created as operative frameworks and to systematically track the reduction of poverty.
An important component of the livelihoods of poor population groups is the sustainable use of natural resources. For this reason it is indispensable to consider environmental aspects in national PRSPs. A cross-sector concept is necessary in order to address poverty and environmental degradation as an interrelated problem. Corresponding approaches have to focus on such resources that are used by poor population groups or, respectively, are located within their reach. For example, supporting organic production methods can both help the environment and especially the income of the population working in agriculture.