The economics of peacekeeping are difficult to unpack but there are signs that when a mission has a strategy that includes long-range economic planning, it can have positive long term effects on the host country’s economy. This could help us understand the strategic value of communication technology as not just a tool for good governance and transparency, but also as an economic stimulant in the aftermath of a conflict.
Carnahan, Durch and Gilmore (CD&G) have made the most comprehensive effort to fully address the ways that a peacekeeping mission can have a positive economic impact. Like other authors, CD&G discuss the negative impacts of peacekeeping operations on local economies, but also develop an argument for the ways that peacekeeping operations can provide stimulus for local and national economies. The keys areas include modifications in the acquisition process to focus on acquiring good and services locally, encouraging peacekeepers to spend their mission subsistence allowances in-country, and being aware of brain drain if host country nationals leave their civil services to work with the UN mission. CD&G focus their recommendations both on short term issues like local procurement and managing wage disparities between local and international staff to prevent price spikes, but also discuss issues such as doing long-term analysis of infrastructure projects beyond the timeframe of the mission mandate, so that mission spending is designed to meet the strategic economic needs of the host country.
This brings us back to the long-term value of missions using civilian communication infrastructure as part of the mission strategy. Communication infrastructure could be low hanging fruit as a durable investment, is useful tactically to the mission, and is good in the long term for the host country’s economy at large. Because of this ICTs could play both a Keynesian role, stimulating the economy through immediate multilateral and mission spending on airtime and bandwidth, while also having a Solowian long term effect as local populations make use of mobile phones and internet that the peacekeeping mission paid for initially as the economy stabilizes. Given what we know about the positive effects of ICT infrastructure on developing economies, pushing for an ICT strategy when a peacekeeping mission is deployed could support the mission’s tactical needs while also investing in a sector that is good for the economy after the peacekeepers have left.
As I’ve been following story of the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and the resulting moves to prepare for military strikes, I’ve felt like the U.N. has been an under-utilized resource for dealing with the crisis. A few friends mention that President Obama’s ‘red line’ could be defined as something other than a military strike, and I would posit that alternative ‘red lines’ could exist at the United Nations. This would require a rethink of how the U.S. uses diplomacy at the U.N. though.
I often get questions about the veracity of using statistics to understand conflict and political behavior, especially when using predictive or confirmatory analytic methods. The questions are well founded, since a recent article found that potentially up to 54% of statistical results in the medical field are spurious. This should give social scientists pause, since medical researchers are working with a far more stable set of variables, in controlled experiments. Conflict researchers by comparison are analyzing human behavior, not in a lab, in highly stressful environments. If medical researchers are potentially getting spurious results over half the time in highly controlled settings, what does that tell us about the results conflict researchers get? Are the statistical models even useful?
General H.R. McMaster recently published an op-ed in the New York Times on the folly of thinking war can be easily won, and the intellectual gymnastics policy makers will do to maintain that illusion. As I read his analysis, many of his observations are germane when thinking about the drive to “tech-up” peacekeeping operations. McMaster’s critique focuses on the U.S. defense establishment’s recent failure to account for the political and human dynamics of warfare, wrongly assuming that technological superiority would win the day. While the peacekeeping community has realized that local human and political dynamics do affect mission success, there is a similar trend toward focusing on mission efficiency through technology acquisition and application.
One thing I’m working on in my doctoral research is understanding why crowdsourcing works in conflict management and resolution…or should at least logically work based on the various theories of conflict management and resolution developed and refined over the last 40 or so years. In this post, I’m going to use Kenyan election violence as the tangible example, and propose using the term “crowdsharing” instead of “crowdsourcing” since we’re talking about a process through which a local population shares and responds to information laterally. This is going to be a math-y one, but bear with me.
This past Thursday and Friday (May 8 & 9) I participated in the ICTs and Violence Prevention workshop hosted by the World Bank’s Social Development Office. We had an excellent collection of experts from across academia, NGOs, and government who discussed the complexities of using technology for violence prevention. One of the key takeaways from the event was the analytic challenge of identifying where violence was likely to happen and how to encourage rapid response.
So with the new year starting Tuesday, I will be continuing to blog into 2013. The past year has mostly focused on my interest areas, political science, conflict and technology. But I’ve also mused on things that are not my “core expertise”, such as gun control and domestic politics. Since I’ll be finishing coursework this spring and starting my dissertation in earnest, I’ll be doing a lot of writing this year. So dear readers I would like to know: what kind of content would you like to see in the coming year? If you get a chance, fill out the poll and at the end of January I’ll check the tally and write to please! Many thanks for a fun 2012 and looking forward to more writing and conversation in 2013–