Economists on Conflict
(Authors: Jurgen Brauer, Daniel Montolia and Elisa Trujillo) Virtually every major conflict in the world today is underpinned by the use of the gun. It is true that, in Rwanda in 1994, machetes were an important instrument of violence, and in Libya and Syria today major conventional weapon systems are used. In Nigeria, Boko Haram creates headlines with its frequent use of market bombings. Elsewhere, suicide bombings and public beheadings are in vogue. However, the firearm is also present in all of these conflicts. Despite this fact, relatively little is known about the firearm industry itself.
(Author: Neil Ferguson) I’m going to let you in on a little secret. My life as an economist would be much easier if I had the ability to observe an infinite number of parallel universes. Think about it: if I want to understand how X affects Y—say, the impact of a peacebuilding programme on the perceptions of those who received the ‘treatment’—all I need to do is to find a universe identical to our own in every other way, and compare the outcomes in our universe to the outcomes in theirs. Unfortunately, such technologies are, as yet, beyond the reach of economists. We therefore need to be more creative in our research methodologies, if not in our flights of imagination.
(Author: Thomas Flores) When voters around the world cast ballots, it is often with bullets on their minds. Voting during civil conflict is sadly frequent and elections can also prompt violence. Despite this, elections are still seen as a means to bolster the peace after war ends, hinting at a deeper trend: elections and violence seem inextricably connected.
(Author: Esteban F. Klor) Terrorism is an important but complex issue that affects many countries. While we have a good understanding of the determinants behind terror campaigns, very little attention has been paid to the question of whether terrorism is an effective strategy for coercing the targeted country to grant political and territorial concessions. The lack of research is surprising, given that the answer to this question is critical to understanding why terror exists at all, and why it appears to be increasing in many parts of the world.
(Author: Michael Brzoska) A recently published report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the first to address the question of whether climate change is a causal factor for violent conflict. While earlier IPCC assessments only touched on this issue briefly—for instance by indicating the risk of future water wars—a number of sections of the new report deal with the consequences of climate change for the incidence of violence. However, not all sections of the new report give the same message.