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The geography of conflict - The impact of conflict on development

The geography of conflict

This lesson focuses on Afghanistan.

Key questions

  • Where is Afghanistan?
  • How has conflict affected the development of Afghanistan?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Environmental interaction
  • Human processes
  • Diversity

Conflict can have a major impact on the level of development of a country.

Development indicators measure different aspects of a countries development. For example, life expectancy gives an idea of how long a person is expected to live in a particular country. The higher the life expectancy, the longer a person is expected to live and consequently conclusions about the countries level of development can be drawn from this i.e. the country is likely to have good medical provision and public health.

It should be noted that a high value does not necessarily indicate a high level of development. For example, a low number of people per doctor actually indicates a more developed country as does a low value for birth rate and death rate.

Conflict can affect the level of development in a country in a number of ways. Firstly, conflict is likely to disrupt the distribution of food and other resources to the population. It is argued that the main cause of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia was not drought or overpopulation, but the fact that the food could not be distributed to the people due to the sheer size of the country and the scale of the war which was going on at the time. Secondly, many services, such as schools, are devastated by conflict which can cause literacy rates to fall - an indicator which is often seen as the key to more widespread development. Also, conflict can cause an imbalance in the population structure, as men of economic age are those most likely to be involved in the fighting.

Afghanistan has seen a reduction in its level of development due to ongoing conflict.

Looking at the evidence it seems that there has been dramatic reduction of development in Afghanistan as a result of the ongoing conflict, the most recent of which has been going on since 2001. Whilst all of the resources provide a part of Afghanistan's development jigsaw perhaps the most helpful resources are those which tell us about Afghanistan's development before 2001 and also after 2001. From looking at the resources it appears that the level of Afghanistan's development has reduced due to the conflict. However, this is too simplistic a picture, as different indicators have been affected by the conflict in different ways. For example, while life expectancy at birth has increased slightly in this time period, form 42.5 to 42.9, the adult literacy rate has fallen dramatically from 36% to 28% and most of this fall will have affected the female population.

This exercise also calls into question the reliability of data. The data comes from a variety of different sources and, in places, there are noticeable differences between figures quoted. Discrepancies may be due to a number of reasons but it should be noted that the collection of meaningful data in a conflict zone is, at best, a challenging task.

A similar enquiry-based exercise (looking at comparisons between the Lynmouth and Boscastle floods) is described in the article ‘Geographers of the future: using the Geography Ambassadors scheme as inspiration' in the Autumn 2007 issue of Teaching Geography, which can be obtained from the Geographical Association website.





Guess the country

Watch the guess the country PowerPoint presentation which will give you clues about the country that you will study during this lesson.

How many clues will it take you to guess the name of the country?



What impact has conflict had on Afghanistan's development?

In this activity, you will be using a selection of resources to decide how much impact conflict has had on development in Afghanistan.

The resource list includes a range of different resources to help you with your enquiry.

You must pick just four of them - the four that you think will be most useful for your enquiry.

Have a look through each of the resources and decide which ones you would like to use.
Why have you chosen these particular resources?

Now you will use them to answer the enquiry question: What impact has conflict had on Afghanistan's development? in the form of a report for the BBC News website. The instruction grid will help you to prepare and structure your writing before you write the report itself. You could also take a look at the BBC News website to get some ideas for the style of your article.

Peer assessment

When the whole class has written their reports, you will assess each other's work through peer assessment.

The peer assessment information sheet will give you some guidelines about how to assess your classmate's work.



The interactive activity shows you a variety of development indicators. Your task is to decide whether the indicator is likely to increase or decrease as a result of conflict, then write down some reasons using your knowledge from this lesson.

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