Policy recommendations

Global spending on violence containment is currently estimated at 7.16 trillion USD (GPI report, 2015). In countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, this spending represents 30–42% of GDP.

For international organisations and governments, the question of how to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict is extremely pressing and relevant. Yet, research that attempts to understand the causal impacts of different conflict intervention strategies remains relatively scarce. More research is needed to better understand the costs and impacts of different types of peacebuilding approaches and conflict interventions. Studies that focus on how weak and fragile states can escape the negative cycle of conflict and economic downturn would be particularly useful. In addition, preventive measures are dramatically under-researched.

This brief has argued that measuring and understanding the different types of economic costs associated with conflict, alongside its humanitarian toll, is important to help drive strategies and resource allocations toward conflict prevention. Understanding these costs is critically important for informing the approaches used by governments and international agencies to build peace.

To conclude, we summarise a few key recommendations for policymakers:

  1. Preventing violent conflict and addressing its root causes should be a key priority. The risk of recurrent cycles of violence poses the greatest economic threat to conflict-affected countries. The scale and duration of economic repercussions from conflict tends to be much lower where stable peace can be achieved.
  2. Humanitarian relief can play an important role in supporting post-conflict growth, especially efforts targeted at child development, which can have long term effects on the economy. Humanitarian crises on the scale experienced by Afghanistan or Syria can lower labour productivity irreversibly for a whole generation. Targeted interventions to address key points of vulnerability are important.
  3. The end of conflict provides a key opportunity to attract foreign investment. Policies that de-escalate conflict and commit the warring parties to peace in the period right after the violence stops can help to attract investment. Inclusive political institutions and policies that encourage refugees to return to their homes also appear to help support investment and economic regeneration.