The current neoliberal preoccupation with the benefits of globalisation, which have been hailed as the great panacea for all the world's economic problems, has done little for the 1.3 billion people whose economic circumstances have stagnated or deteriorated in poverty over the last ten years. The neoliberal idea that somehow the benefits of global economic growth will ‘trickle down’ to the world's poor, has been challenged by the stark reality of the experience in the world's poorest societies.
Deep polarisation of wealth that has become a structural feature of the global economy has been identified as one of the major threats to future peace and security in the coming millennium. Conflict theorists have for some time been at pains to point out that the unequal distribution of wealth and the failure to meet basic human needs constitute a source of structural violence that lies at the heart of the many conflicts. Endemic poverty is a basic factor that undermines human security. It not only leaves basic needs unmet, but creates the conditions for conflict and violence, as groups compete for access to scarce and often diminishing resources. Facing extremes of economic deprivation and threats to basic human security (life, food, shelter, income), the widespread resort to arms within a growing number of least developed economies can be understood as a Darwinian bid for survival.