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Monday, January 29, 2007

Jeffrey Sachs: Economic Development is the Key to "Winning the Peace"

Jeff Sachs explains the steps that must be taken to promote economic development and end conflict in impoverished, war-torn countries:

Winning the Peace, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Commentary, Project Syndicate: Afghanistan’s future hangs in the balance as its weak national government struggles ... in the face of a widening insurgency … and a disappointed populace. ...[V]iolence now also surges in Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and ... Sudan’s Darfur region. ... Stability will come only when economic opportunities exist, when ... young men can find jobs and support families, rather than seeking their fortune in violence.

We are seeing again and again that a foreign army ... may win a battle, or even a war, but never the peace. Peace is about dignity and hope for the future. Military occupation saps dignity, and grinding poverty and economic disarray sap hope. Peace can be achieved only with a withdrawal of foreign troops, and the arrival of jobs, productive farms and factories, ... health care, and schools. Without these, military victory and occupation quickly turn to ashes. ...

The scenario has become painfully familiar. A war ends. An international donors’ conference is called. Pledges of billions of dollars are announced. A smiling new head of state graciously thanks the international community, including the occupying power. Months pass. World Bank teams from Washington start to arrive.

But ... Crony businesses from the US and Europe, which are utterly unfamiliar with local conditions, squander time, aid funds, and opportunities. Two or three years pass. The grand pronouncements become a pile of out-of-date World Bank studies. Recriminations fly, the occupying army remains, and a new insurgency spreads.

Many factors contribute to this disarray, beginning with the shocking inability of the US, Europe, and the international organizations to understand things from the perspective of poor and displaced people. ... The international agencies ... have ... failed to understand how to start or restart economic development in a low-income setting.

It’s important to distinguish four distinct phases of outside help to end a conflict. In the first phase, during the war itself, aid is for humanitarian relief... In the second phase, at the war’s end, aid remains mainly humanitarian relief, but now directed towards displaced people returning home, and to decommissioned soldiers. In the third phase, lasting three to five years, aid supports the first phase of post-war economic development, including restoration of schools, clinics, farms, factories, and ports. In the fourth phase, which can last a generation or more, assistance is directed to long-term investments and the strengthening of institutions such as courts.

The international community, and the US in particular, is dreadful at the third stage. ... There is often a lag of years before moving from humanitarian relief to real economic development. By the time such help actually arrives, it is often too late: war has been re-ignited.

In fact, it is possible to restart economic development through targeted “quick-impact” initiatives. Since the economies of most impoverished post-conflict countries are based on agriculture, restarting farm output is vital. Impoverished farmers should receive a free package of seeds, fertilizers, and low-cost equipment (such as pumps for irrigation). When such aid is made available quickly, former soldiers will return to their farms...

Similar quick-impact measures should be undertaken to control disease. Small rural clinics can be built ... very quickly... Wells and cisterns can be put in place to ensure safe drinking water. These and similar efforts can mean the difference...

Quick-impact economic development is exactly what is needed now to help end the horrific violence and suffering in Darfur. ... The same applies in Somalia. But the window of opportunity closes quickly in these and other post-conflict regions. Only by taking quick, meaningful action to fight hunger, poverty, and disease can there be a chance of creating conditions for long-term peace.

    Posted by on Monday, January 29, 2007 at 12:01 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (16)

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