Gilles Carbonnier, 22 July 2017

Economists can help better understand and address some of today’s toughest humanitarian challenges. This column argues that the economics of war and disaster – which includes foreign aid – is largely untapped as a field of study and practice. While humanitarian economics has the potential to improve our knowledge of these problems, and the outcomes for those affected by them, it must take account of the ethical and epistemological issues, and the benefits of interdisciplinary cooperation.

Hannes Mueller, Dominic Rohner, David Schönholzer, 12 July 2017

The nature of military and social conflict has changed in the last three decades, particularly in the way it impacts civilians locally. This column presents new research that models localised conflict based on the spatial configuration of groups, using evidence from conflict in Northern Ireland. The model can help target policies at the origin of attacks and with attempts to change the interaction between local groups, reducing conflict in the short-to-medium term.

Nicolas Berman, Mathieu Couttenier, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, 09 June 2017

Countries that are rich in natural resources do not always prosper economically. This column uses data on conflict and mineral extraction in Africa to argue that recent rises in mineral prices explain up to a quarter of local conflicts between 1997 and 2010. Mining-induced violence is associated with foreign ownership, although corporate social responsibility policies were associated with less violence. This is relevant to the US debate on whether to scrap the legal requirement to disclose whether products contain conflict minerals. 

Michael König, Dominic Rohner, Mathias Thoenig, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 25 June 2017

Debraj Ray, Joan Esteban, 04 July 2016

Travers Child, 21 May 2017

The pervasive ‘hearts and minds’ theory guiding counterinsurgency doctrine contends that military-led reconstruction reduces violence in post-conflict settings. Using rare data from Afghanistan, this column questions the theoretical and empirical basis of that perspective. Military-led projects in the health sector are found to successfully alleviate violence, whereas those in the education sector actually provoke conflict. The destabilising effects of education projects are strongest in conservative areas, where public opinion polls suggest education projects breed antipathy towards international forces.

Roberto Ezcurra, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 12 April 2017

Spatial inequality is understood as a function of geography or administrative planning, but its relation to ethnic segregation is less well understood. This column analyses this relationship using regional data for 71 countries with different levels of economic development. The degree of spatial concentration of ethnic groups is a robust and highly significant predictor of within-country income disparities. More ethnically segregated countries experience higher levels of spatial inequality and are thus more prone to conflict.

Andrea Guariso, Thorsten Rogall, 03 April 2017

There is a lively debate about the role of inequality as a trigger of ethnic conflicts. This column reports groundbreaking research into the effect of the amount of regional rainfall on crops, which is used to measure inequality between ethnic groups. Inequality caused by the weather's effect on crops has a large and significant impact on the prevalence of ethnic conflict. This effect is strongest when a lack of rainfall penalises ethnic groups with no access to power. 

Klaus Desmet, Joseph Flavian Gomes, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, 17 March 2017

Diverse countries tend to have more conflict, lower development, and worse public goods, possibly due to antagonism between groups. Based on recent research mapping local linguistic diversity across the entire globe, this column argues that local interaction with people of other ethnolinguistic groups can mitigate the negative effect of overall diversity on a country’s outcomes in health, education and public goods. This finding lends support to policies that influence the local mixing of ethnolinguistic groups.  

Hannes Mueller, Christopher Rauh, 20 October 2016

Effective forecasting of conflict risk could help prevent civil wars. But resource constraints mean that policymakers rarely act until conflict begins because they fear the number of false positive warnings. This column argues that the policy of reacting to violence instead of preventing it cannot be justified, given the accuracy of simple forecasting models such as news analysis.

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Romain Wacziarg, 31 July 2016

The current refugee crisis has highlighted the importance of understanding how ethnic and cultural differences affect social cohesion. This column investigates the links between ethnicity and culture, and the relationship between diversity and civil conflict. It finds that globally, there appears to be little overlap between ethnic identity and cultural identity. Also, ethnic diversity per se has no effect on civil conflict. It is when differences in culture coincide with differences in ethnicity that conflict becomes more likely.

Debraj Ray, Joan Esteban, 04 July 2016

Since 1950, more than half of the world’s countries have experienced situations of civil war. In this video, Debraj Ray and Joan Esteban discuss their research on the impact of conflict on economic development. In order to design the best possible institutions to cope with conflict, we need to understand the drivers of these conflicts. This video was recorded during the conference on “Economic Development and Institutions” held in Paris in June 2016.

Ruben Durante, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 15 June 2016

Governments involved in conflict are often concerned with how their actions are perceived by the international community. This column uses evidence on the Israel-Palestine conflict and US news reporting between 2000 and 2011 to show how media considerations can impact military strategy. Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out one day before the US news is expected to be dominated by important political or sport events. There is no evidence of a similar pattern to Palestinian attacks. The findings suggest that strategic behaviour could undermine the effectiveness of the mass media as a watchdog, and thus reduce citizens’ ability to keep public officials accountable. 

Eli Berman, Mitch Downey, Joe Felter, 15 February 2016

The bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq have forced the issue of refugees onto the global agenda. However, among the neglected aspects of this discussion are how governance can be restored to conflict regions and the welfare effects that such actions, which are likely to be coercive, will have on local residents. This column examines the impact of a counter-insurgency programme in the Philippines on one development outcome in contested territories – malnutrition of young children. The programme saw a substantial long-term decrease in malnutrition in recaptured areas, but a rise in malnutrition in neighbouring areas. Such efforts may simply displace insurgents and their negative effects, rather than reducing them.

Asha Abdel-Rahim, Dany Jaimovich, Aleksi Ylönen, 13 December 2015

One of the most important effects of armed conflicts is the forced displacement of large numbers of civilians. When conflicts end, many who have left their homes return, facing the challenge of rebuilding their lives in post-conflict areas. This column analyses the outcomes of returning households during a short-lived interwar period in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. Returning households, particularly those that are female-headed, face worse economic conditions. But returnees fare better on various health indicators, likely related to changes in sanitary habits picked up during displacement.

Tommaso Ciarli, Chiara Kofol, Carlo Menon, 27 October 2015

Though some studies propose that entrepreneurial activity increases during conflicts, macro evidence shows that a conflict is damaging to growth. This column argues that the conflict in Afghanistan did not contribute to economic development because it caused regressive structural changes at the micro level. It reduced employment opportunities and increased self-employment in activities that have low returns. To improve the economic resilience, self-employment in activities that are less affected by conflict should be stimulated.

Hannes Mueller, 16 February 2014

A new literature is trying to understand the economic effects of violent conflict through micro studies. This column argues that cooperation between the cross-country literature and micro studies is needed to better assess the economic costs of conflicts and hence inform policymakers on the benefits of a military or diplomatic intervention.

Francesco Caselli, Massimo Morelli, Dominic Rohner, 19 July 2013

Oil has often been linked to interstate wars. This column argues that asymmetries in endowments of natural resources are important determinants of territorial conflict. When one country has oil near its border with an oil-less country, the probability of conflict is between three and four times as large as when neither country has oil. In contrast, when the oil is very far from the border, the probability of conflict is not significantly higher than between countries with no oil.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, Per Wijkman, 04 November 2012

Today, most of Europe is free from dictatorships and conflict. Yet, these spectres loom in neighbouring states and nearby regions. This column suggests that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to the EU, was perhaps a call to action. Can the EU, preoccupied as it is with a growing Eurozone crisis, encourage peace and democracy in its neighbourhood? And what are the lessons we can learn from recent EU policy history?

Robert Aumann, 09 September 2011

Nobel laureate Robert Aumann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his work on ‘rule rationality’, the development of game theory and its potential for understanding conflict – from the Pax Romana to the modern day Middle East. The interview was recorded in August 2011 at the Fourth Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences, which brought together 17 of the 38 living economics laureates with nearly 400 top young economists from around the world. [Also read the transcript]

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