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.
A recent article from Raul Caruso and Roberto Ricciuti dove deeper into the economics of peacekeeping by looking at the increase in cereals (grain) production in South Sudan over time, and creating a causal model of the UNMISS mission’s positive impact on food production. While the security peacekeeping missions provide can help things like the agricultural sector, the mission doesn’t directly control cereals production though. We should be equally interested in highlighting the roll that missions can play in investing in durable infrastructure, since this is an area that missions and the UNDPKO have more direct control over.
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.