Ethnic conflict

Other Names:
Violence against ethnic minorities
Minority unrest
Ethnic tensions
Inter-communal ethnic violence
Ethnic killings
Ethnic feuding

Conflict of a physical nature or in the form of overt discrimination on ethnic grounds (which may be interpreted to include racial, religious, linguistic or national dimensions). Ethnic conflict may be caused by cultural invasion and a lack of assimilation, maintaining ethnic and social differences and discrimination, by social inequality and by exploitation. Ethnic conflict is constantly exacerbated by mass poverty, limited access to resources, denial of human rights, lack of national integration and issues of international peace and security. It is at once the instrument of national integration and the darkhorse of internal disharmony and discord. Strikes, boycotts and other forms of disruption by minority groups in nations where there are a large number of different ethnic or minority groups threatens the stability of the nation. The national government is faced with the choice of ignoring the unrest which can result in the escalation of disruption and the discrediting of the party in power. It could use force to suppress the turmoil. In this case the source of the turmoil may go underground. In any case the disruption of the larger society by minorities is a detriment to the whole nation.


Ethnic battlefields are found in the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and in the USA, Sri Lanka, Burma, Northern Ireland, Spain, South Africa and elsewhere. Fewer than 10 of the 165 nation states of the world are ethnically homogenous, the rest are potential ethnic powder kegs.

The tension between Gypsies and Slovaks has increased due to reports in the Slovak media on the situation following the flash floods in Jarovnice in June 1998. In the flooded communities, the mayors' co-ordinated aid and soldiers helped to clear away the damage. Approximately 600 Roma from Jarovnice lost their homes and had to be accommodated in military tents. Humanitarian aid, in particular drinking water, preserved foodstuffs, sanitary products, fabric, shoes and children toys were brought in by a number of Slovak as well as Czech foundations. The Roma, according to the press and television, only reluctantly and unwillingly helped in clearing away the damage and were waiting apathetically for a help from the state. According to the media, the Roma not only didn't want to work, but they were drinking their state benefits away in the pub, burning or selling the clothing they received from humanitarian aid, and when they realised that those who lost their property and roof over their heads would receive financial compensation from the state, they started to destroy what still remained of their homes. The other inhabitants accused the authorities of concentrating aid only on the Gypsies.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST