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Cost of conflict

    Cost of Conflict is a tool which attempts to calculate the price of conflict to the human race The idea is to examine this cost not only in terms of the deaths and casualties and the economic costs borne by the people involved but also the social developmental environmental and strategic costs of conflict In most cases organizations measure and analyze the economic and broader development costs of conflict While this conventional method of assessing the impact of conflict is fairly in-depth it does not provide a comprehensive overview of a country or region embroiled in conflict One of the earliest studies assessing the true cost of conflict on a variety of parameters was commissioned by Saferworld and compiled by Michael Cranna Cranna Michael (1994) The True Cost of Conflict Earthscan Publication A key benefit of using this tool is to encourage people to look at conflict in new ways and to widen public discussion of the subject and to bring new insights to the debate on global security
    In today’s world the cost of conflict tool and analysis can also be used to alert voters to the consequences of their governments’ current positions; these voters can be within the same country for example in the case of India in countries within the same region as in the case of the Middle East or Western voters whose nations are involved in conflicts abroad
    While the study of conflict is not new the use of ‘Cost of Conflict’ as a comprehensive tool is relatively new While engaging in such a study it is also important to identify what is meant by ‘costs’ and to differentiate between measurable costs that have a bearing on resources and costs that have a bearing on living conditions


    The cost of conflict methodology takes into account different costs a conflict generates including economic military environmental social and political costs The approach considers direct costs of conflict for instance human deaths expenditure destruction of land and physical infrastructure; as well as indirect costs that impact a society for instance migration humiliation growth of extremism and lack of civil society The approach also examines the neighboring countries involved and asses the impact on them as well as on the international community Some studies are measured on a thematic basis a recent example of which is the war on terror – though in this case most of the studies are done by the United States and examines the costs borne specifically by them
    These studies follow a similar pattern A brief introduction sets the conflict in context and defines the period of the conflict being studied as is the pattern followed by Michael Cranna in his book The study is based on extensive research inputs from experts within the conflict region and collaboration with policy experts As in the case of the collection by Cranna and a report on the Middle East by Strategic Foresight Group these studies began with workshops involving organizations governments and intellectuals which proved important in setting the priorities and direction of the studies Such endeavors hold no weight without the input from experts of various fields from the conflict region under consideration Each study also serves as an analytical tool and assesses past present and future costs of conflicts using a wide range of parameters
    In most cases there is little attempt by these studies to analyze the causes of these conflicts as they would have been previously documented and do not serve the purpose of the tool of measuring the cost of conflict
    With the use of such a tool and methodology the question arises as to why researchers intellectuals and organizations might look at the cost of conflict as opposed to discussing the benefits of peace While it is important for people to benefit from peace and reconciliation through trade cultural exchange and cooperation it is much more crucial for them to understand and unravel the incentive structure of conflict and rid themselves of cost Thus the use of ‘cost of conflict’ as a new and evolving tool to mobilize public opinion broaden debate and examine new avenues for peace becomes extremely crucial


    Researchers and analysts engaged in using this tool acknowledge that it is highly ambitious to identify the price of war and there are limitations to assessing the total cost of any conflict Conflict is not the only cause of impoverishment diseases and other ills suffered by mankind; as Paul Collier deduces in his study of Africa economics proved to be a major cause of conflict What the cost of conflict tool serves to demonstrate is the impact of conflict above these and other natural factors and how it has sometimes exacerbated them
    In some cases it is difficult to find contemporary data or attribute costs to a specific period when for example in the case of Kashmir where fighting has been going on at different levels of intensity for a long time In such cases it could prove useful to have a significant year or episode in history as a benchmark for calculations For example the ‘Cost of Conflict in the Middle East’ report by Strategic Foresight Group uses 1991 as a basis and explains how they believe that the Madrid Conference provided a historic opportunity for peace The study by David Shave on the Peru Conflict uses 1980 or the first year of Sendero activity as the starting point

    Comprehensive Cost of Conflict Reports

    The True Cost of Conflict

    The True Cost of Conflict is a compilation edited by Michael Cranna from Saferworld in 1994 It comprises studies on the costs of 7 different conflicts The costs entail the effects of conflict on health education civil and political rights trade power supply and transportation amongst others
    In the case of the Internal in Peru] Cranna and David Shave explicate the potential benefits that the country could have accrued if the conflict had not occurred By taking a cross section analysis of Bolivia Chile and Ecuador they conclude that Peru recorded the most significant drop in GDP growth due to international recession and suffered the highest rate of inflation in the 1980’s Hence “while all of Latin America suffered during the 1980’s no main Latin American country fell further…than Peru”

    Strategic Foresight Group’s Cost of Conflict Reports

    Strategic Foresight Group [1] offers 3 separate reports on the cost of conflict in South Asia as well as West Asia published in 2009 (Middle East) 2006 (Sri Lanka) and 2004 (India/Pakistan) respectively The reports take into account a varied number of parameters including military economic socio-political environmental psychological and diplomatic costs among others In other words the report inculcates a comprehensive perspective of the effects of war and its aftermath The documents are presented in a graphical form for easy and quick comprehension by decision makers Apart from measuring the costs that have occurred in the past the reports also includes potential future scenarios for conflict and their consequences

    Cost of Conflict in India/Pakistan

    Strategic Foresight’s first endeavor in the field of cost of conflict studies was received extremely well by the media and political strata http://wwwstrategicforesightcom/Ilmas_insight_cost_of_conflicthtm The report has several interesting findings According to the report at least 100000 families suffered direct human costs on account of the four wars between India and Pakistan In addition troop mobilization in Operation Prakaram (December 2001-October 2002) cost India and Pakistan a combined $3billion A similar mobilization in the future would see a 50% increase in costs on both sides http://wwwstrategicforesightcom/publications_researchhtm#ccip

    Cost of Conflict in Sri Lanka

    This report focuses on the Sri Lankan Civil War a twenty-six year long military conflict between the Tamil insurgents and successive Sri Lankan governments According to the report Sri Lanka was the most militarized among the South Asian countries with 8000 military personnel per million population In terms of military expenditure as percentage of GDP Sri Lanka had the largest expenditure in the region The coutnry’s defense expenditure is also higher than other comparable conflict-ridden countries such as Colombia Myanmar Sierra Leone Sudan the Philippines and Uganda Although the report is sold out the information is readily available on-line [2]

    Cost of Conflict in the Middle East

    Lastly the Cost of Conflict in the Middle East calculates the direct and indirect costs of successive wars in the Middle East It involves all the countries affected Some interesting findings from the report include the following points: 7 out of the 10 highest military spenders in the world are currently from the Middle East and the cumulative military expenditure is expected to double in the next 10 years The region also has the highest number of military personnel per million people in the world The First Gulf War in1990 emitted CO2 that was equivalent to 15% of the world’s annual emissions The report has special chapters dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict [3]

    Opportunity Cost

    The most unique feature in these reports is the opportunity cost of conflict – that is the economic benefits that could have been accrued had there not been conflicts in these countries or regions According to the reports countries in the Middle East that are directly involved in or affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict internal strife in Lebanon and the US invasion of Iraq have lost a whopping $12 trillion dollars (in 2006 dollar value) in opportunity costs from 1991 to 2010 In the case of Sri Lanka SFG stated that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) remained stagnant during periods of civil war and that net FDI increased during periods of ceasefire In 2004 Strategic Foresight Group stated that India and Pakistan could achieve growth rates of 10% and 7% respectively provided there is no major conflict no global recession and effective resource and political management in the future

    Thematic Cost of Conflict Reports

    Africa’s Missing Billions

    A report conducted by 3 international organizations in 2007 highlighted the heavy cost to development in Africa due to ensuing conflicts in various countries The report conducted by Oxfam International the International Action Network on Small Arms and Saferworld stated that 23 African countries were involved in one form of conflict or another between 1990 and 2005
    During these 15 years the cost of conflict in Africa was equivalent to the funds granted by the continent in international aid over the same period – both conflicts and aid from 1990-2005 amounted to $284 billion In other words the money lost in conflict could have been used in more effective ways such as addressing the needs of education clean water and sanitation and the prevention of harmful disease in African countries[4]
    Other facts included in the : On average armed conflict shrinks an African nation's economy by 15 per cent Conflicts are costing African economies an average of $18bn a year Conflicts in countries like Burundi and Rwanda have cost their governments an annual economic loss of 37% and 32% of their GDP respectively [5]

    US War on Terror

    Several studies have been conducted on the economic costs of the US war on terror which began in 2001 These include studies by William Nordhaus in 2002 Wallsten & Kosec in 2005 and successive studies by the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO)[6] A majority of these reports focus on the 2003 war in Iraq but the costs also involve the Bush administration’s wider global war on terror as well
    The reports contain the cost of occupation – reconstruction & security diplomatic and military expenditure The findings are compared to previous US wars in Vietnam and Korea The studies also contain other areas where this money could have been spent more efficiently[7]
    Perhaps the most famous study is one conducted by Harvard professor Linda Bilmes and Nobel Prize winner Jospeh Stiglitz While conventional estimates mark the economic cost for the US at $400 billion in 2007 the Stiglitz study on the ‘War on Terror’ estimates the total cost by 2015 at $1 trillion This is because the report takes indirect costs such as disability pensions and the price of oil[8]

    Phillipines: Shattered Peace in Mindanao: the human cost of conflict in the Phillipines

    This study conducted by Amnesty International in 2008 measures the cost of conflict on a humanitarian scale The report estimates a total of 120000 deaths and a further 2 million displaced from the conflict over a period of 40 years The report features individual accounts by some of the survivors of the conflict as well as aid workers and human rights activists and hence it takes a more qualitative approach to the costs[9]

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