Social conflict occurs wherever social groups are in opposition to each other and blame each other for economic hardship or lack of political representation or intellectual freedom, or discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion, political ideology, sex, nationality, age, language and class. Conflict occurs particularly where different social groups lack contact with one another, either through physical segregation or through general lack of communication. The quality of leadership given to the opposing factions is crucial. Those leaders who are self-serving wish to appear strong, and so move directly from dissent to conflict without any attempt at persuasive negotiation or positive motivation of the other side with contingent rewards. In some instances of conflict there is a common transcending interest or problem, such as national economic recovery or national defence during war time, that effects a reconciliation. Usually, however, this is but a temporary state and the last four decades have seen numerous alliances of convenience degenerate into deadly rivalry and ensuing violent conflict. If prejudices run very high, conflict can result in genocide, or a campaign of mass extermination.
Over half Oxfam's overseas expenditure in the early 1990s was conflict related.