Engaged Economists Writing About Conflict
(Author: Michael Brzoska) Difficult times can lead to all kinds of ideas, both good and bad. The European Union (EU) has resurrected one idea that seemed to have been buried some time ago: that of fighting an economic crisis by shifting research money to the defence sector. However, recent studies have shown that the positive economic spin-offs of military research are questionable. Is it wise for the EU to be taking such a course? Beyond arms companies themselves, who will benefit from this change in direction?
(Authors: Olaf de Groot and Neil Ferguson) A world where traffic lights never turn green would be a strange and dystopian place, and yet this is the world created by the United States’ recently-retired ‘traffic light’ security indicator—a five-stage indicator of threat that never went green. Rather, it spent its entire life fluctuating between amber (‘elevated’ threat) and red (‘severe’ threat). In essence, this suggested that the USA was permanently under a higher-than-average threat—not just a mathematical impossibility but also, ultimately, an entirely useless source of information.
(Author: Jurgen Brauer) Neighbours can be a boon or a bane. Cooperative neighbours strengthen and assist each other. Non-cooperative neighbours can drain and impose burdens on each other. In the interests of long-term, sustainable peace, it is important for countries to pre-plan for the likelihood of a neighbour requiring assistance, and to help prevent conflict by committing resources to such assistance.
(Author: Anja Shortland) Last week I was asked by the BBC to preview the film 'Captain Phillips', the true story of the failed hijack of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. Critics had pointed out that, although brilliantly villainous, the Somali pirates were also portrayed as 'victims' of their circumstances, perhaps 'pawns' in a game not of their choosing. Did I think this was a fair depiction?
(Author: Partha Gangopadhyay) An arms race is an interstate competition that motivates states to innovate, design and deploy the most lethal war technology in order to gain the upper hand against their rival states. However, arms races also create the looming danger of mutual destruction as an unintended by-product of both states striving to gain the upper hand in the battlefield.
(Author: Ana María Ibáñez Londoño) On 4 September 2012 the Colombian Government initiated peace talks with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the oldest guerilla group in the country. The agenda, negotiated before the official launch of the process, covers five topics: access to land and rural development; the political participation of guerrilla members; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; the illicit drug trade; and truth and compensation for the victims of the conflict. Recent events suggest that Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the other large guerrilla group, will join the peace negotiations in a parallel process. However, the possibility of peace has created new tensions and unleashed pressure from interest groups.
(Author: Anja Shortland) When we look at images of civil war such as the recent images from Syria, our gut response is that such destruction and suffering cannot and should not last. Surely war is a ‘means to an end’—and once that end is reached, civil society and the economy will rise from the ashes? Not necessarily so, says the literature on war economies: war can be 'economics by other means'. We test this proposition by using satellite images to reconstruct the unwritten economic history of the Somali civil war.
(Author: Charles H. Anderton) On 29 February 1704 an allied force of 250–300 French soldiers and native peoples launched a surprise attack against Deerfield, Massachusetts’ 275 English colonists and 20 garrison soldiers. About 50 inhabitants were killed in the raid, while many of the over 100 more who were led on a forced march to New France (Canada) were killed or perished along the way. The raid was systematically planned, and its tactical execution and strategic consequences were considered great successes. In August 2012 I spent a day in Deerfield in an attempt to better understand this episode of violence against civilians that happened over 300 years ago.
(Author: Thomas Edward Flores) Representatives of the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continue to negotiate in the sweltering Havana summer to end a civil war that has taken 220 000 lives. May 2013 brought word of a dramatic breakthrough—after six months of talks, the two sides agreed to a land reform that they described in a joint statement as ‘the start of a radical transformation of rural Colombia’. However, to paraphrase the title of Gabriel García Márquez’s famous book, the question remains as to whether the reforms can end 200 years of landlessness in Colombia.
(Author: Michele Di Maio) In the past two decades, the literature on the economics of conflict has grown significantly in both quantity and quality due to the increasing availability of micro-level data sets. As a consequence, we now know much more about the effects of conflict on health, education and employment and about how, for instance, extremely poor health conditions or ethnic differences may facilitate the beginning and the persistence of conflict. Yet, very few contributions in the literature have focused on how a violent conflict may have an impact on firm dynamics and how firms’ activities may favor the onset of conflict. This is paradoxical given the centrality of firms’ performance in the process of economic development. In this sense, the economics of conflict literature seems to still lack a good understanding of the economic part of the story.
(Author: Patricia Justino) The economic security of individuals and households is a major challenge for development interventions in conflict-affected countries. Once the conflict is over and humanitarian aid leaves, how do you feed people, secure livelihoods and improve markets and market access? An important finding from a major EU-funded research program on conflict analysis is that the answer to this question is closely linked to processes of institutional change that take place during violent conflict.
(Authors: Leopoldo Fergusson & Juan Fernando Vargas) By providing information, mass media can help voters make better decisions and hold politicians accountable. Often, journalists also help uncover corruption scandals and undue influence of special interest groups. Many argue that the active, informative press in the United States during the so-called Progressive Era reduced corruption and mobilized the population against the power and abuses of robber barons.
(Author: Michael Brzoska) The United Nations Security Council recently mandated additional sanctions against North Korea. In Washington and Brussels new sanctions against Iran are under discussion should negotiations with the new administration fail. Further tightening the screws, however, is unlikely to be successful in changing these regimes’ policies and, in the case of Iran, has become dangerous.
(Author: Jurgen Brauer) In the 1960s a slogan from the anti-Vietnam war movement in the United States urged people to ‘make love, not war’. In 2006—half a century later—Amos Oz published a book, How to Cure a Fanatic, in which he introduces an alternative phrase: ‘make peace, not love’.
(Author: Olaf De Groot) Pirates have traditionally been viewed as terrorists and criminals who threaten regional security and global trade. However, are they actually rational actors trying to make the best of a difficult situation? In this post, I will argue that piracy is a response to the incentives provided to pirates. When you accept that pirates are rational actors who respond to incentives, the solution becomes clear: create incentives to disengage from piracy activities.
(Authors: Raul Caruso & Roberto Ricciuti) The debate about the role and effectiveness of peacekeeping forces around the world is never-ending. The primary stated goal of United Nations peace operations is to enforce peace amongst fighting groups. It might also be claimed that the presence of UN troops—or ‘blue helmets’—leads to a ‘security spillover’ which has a benign impact on productive activities. In general, insecurity discourages economic growth and actual wars are extremely detrimental for economic development. Furthermore, we know that post-conflict economic recovery is actually a fundamental driver of stable peacefulness. Therefore, the possible effect of UN peacekeeping troops on economic recovery is a crucial issue for both scholars and policymakers.