"Peace Economics" authors Jurgen Brauer and J. Paul Dunne discuss their recent book on economic principles in violence-afflicted states.

 

1. What is peace economics?

Peace economics is the branch of economics that studies the design of societies’ political, economic, and cultural institutions and their interacting policies and actions to prevent, mitigate, or resolve any type of latent or actual violent conflict within and between societies.

2. What topics are covered in the volume?

The primer covers economic development, economic growth, macroeconomic stabilization, and global trade and finance in both theory and practice, with a particular focus on the ways in which violence and recovery from violence affect them all. Though the economic effects of violence are difficult to quantify for a variety of reasons, it is clear that war and other violent conflict have almost entirely negative economic effects, both during active fighting and long thereafter. However, carefully crafted peace agreements, well-designed economic policy, and effective aid can alleviate the economic damage done and thus reduce the chance of a relapse into violence.

3. How does this volume assist practitioners in navigating postconflict reconstruction?

In the economics of peace, there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. Practitioners tend to focus on the trees: They are keen to answer the question of what to do when specific problems arise. The answer partly depends, however, on what the desired healthy forest is to look like. The economics of peace can be understood as an ecosystem, and fixing one’s gaze on design principles, rather than context specifics, assists not only postwar reconstruction, but also violence prevention, mitigation, and building immunity and resilience to violence. Thus the purpose of the primer extends beyond pure economics into the wider realm of social reconstitution, social contract, and social capital in the hopes of helping practitioners build a stronger and more stable peace. One might think of this as peace engineering.

4. Why is it important to approach building peace from an economic perspective?

Designing peace from an economic perspective—and creating the institutions that can implement the policies stemming from peace agreements—ultimately calls for practitioners to adhere to that aim to redraw the social contract and reestablish social capital, both among leaders and between the eventual governments and the public. The principles cannot guarantee success, but as both theory and the legacy of negotiated peace treaties since the end of the Cold War have shown, designing policies with these principles in mind can improve the chances of creating a stronger peace.

5. What are the key principles of designing stable peace?

We detail twelve principles that designers of peace agreements should not fail to meet. If followed they should explain the successful making and the resilient keeping of peace. Conversely, their absence or violation may explain the continuance or recurrence of war. The principles—steps toward a choice architecture of peace—should be viewed as a complete and mutually reinforcing package.

Examples include:

  • The Principle of Authentic Authority Peace negotiators derive their authority to speak for others from culturally sanctioned ideas concerning forms of representation, the right to organize and assemble, and the ability of people to address their own problems as well as find indigenous solutions to them.
  • The Principle of Common Value Formation Common preferences transcend differences and produce a voluntary coming-together of like-minded actors who are likely to cooperate for mutual benefit.
  • The Principle of Self-Policing Enforcement It is generally more efficient and effective to supply parties with the ability to monitor each other than to rely on external monitoring although there may be exceptions when, for example, economies of scale make it worthwhile to outsource at least part of the monitoring function.

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