Civil wars are devastating to a country’s development perspectives. What’s more, they often spread across borders. But this column argues that only ethnic civil wars pose a significant threat to neighbouring countries’ stability. Countries with ethnic links to a neighbouring ethnic conflict see their chances of experiencing civil conflict increase by six percentage points.
With the publication of last year’s World Bank Development Report (2011) that focuses entirely on the role of conflict in the development process, the World Bank has put conflict at centre stage in the international economic development debate.
Recent research shows that anti-violence informational campaigns can increase voter turnout, suggesting that voter intimidation has large effects on turnout. This column summarises results from a nationwide field experiment during the 2007 elections in Nigeria revealing that illicit tactics were rife. Incumbent politicians often used vote buying and fraud, while opposition candidates used intimidation and violence.
Elections are supposed to provide both accountability and legitimacy. Yet recent African elections have ranged from the grotesque (Zimbabwe), through the dirty (Nigeria and Kenya), to a clean change of regime (Ghana). Does the conduct of elections matter and, if so, what is going on?
This column suggests that in Africa an income drop of 5%—a large but altogether common deterioration in economic conditions—increases the risk of civil conflict in the following year to nearly 30%. This suggests that aid agencies could help prevent war by targeting short-term emergency aid towards countries hard-hit by adverse commodity price movements or weather shocks.
Ray Fisman of Columbia University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book, Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations, written with Ted Miguel. They discuss witch-killing in Tanzania, parking violations by United Nations diplomats, and the value of political connections in both the developing and developed world. The interview was recorded at the Centre for Economic Performance in London in November 2008.
Simeon Djankov , Marta Reynal-Querol29 October 2008
Would reducing poverty reduce the risk of civil war in poor countries? This column explains that the relationship between poverty and civil conflicts is probably driven by other factors omitted from previous econometric specifications, such as colonial history. To reduce the probability of civil war, policies need to address other structural problems.