If East Africa were able to prevent conflict, the international community would save up to $70 billion annually in humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping interventions, researchers say.
The researchers from the Canada-based research firm Global Centre for Pluralism, supported by the United Nations and the World Bank, also found that countries bordering a high-intensity conflict area experience an annual decline of 1.4 percentage points in GDP and an increase of 1.7 points in inflation.
“It is cheaper to prevent conflicts than deal with the high costs of a post-conflict scenario,” said Alexander Marc of the World Bank, who led the group.
Dr Marck was speaking recently in Nairobi at the launch of the report, Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventive Conflict.
The international community is currently lobbying for $1.72 billion to continue assisting some six million people in South Sudan.
International donors and humanitarian organisations contributed $3.4 billion between 2014 and mid-2018, while the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley threatened that Washington would review its funding, since Juba has nothing to show for the $11 billion the US has given since 2005.
In Kenya, the business community lost over $800 million in the 2007 post-election-violence, while economic growth shrunk to two per cent from seven per cent. The Kenyan government is yet to pay nearly $50 million to Rwandan and Ugandan traders whose goods were looted or destroyed.
The government has also spent billions of dollars to compensate 500,000 people who were internally displaced. This money, the report says, could have been reinvested in reducing poverty and boosting public welfare.
The report further notes that there is a growing concern that more countries are experiencing internal violent conflict than at any time in nearly 30 years, and that middle income countries are increasingly being sucked in.
“This surge in violence calls into question the long-standing assumption that peace will accompany income growth and the expectations of steady social, economic, and political advancement,” notes the report.
The costs associated with the economic losses caused by conflict, have, for example, put a severe strain on Afghanistan’s per capita income which remains at its 1970s level.
In Somalia, the country’s per capita income has dropped by more than 40 per cent over the same period due to continued war.
Shuvai Busuman Nyoni of the African Leadership Centre — who was one of the panellists at the launch — said inter-generational dialogue and political inclusion are key factors in conflict prevention.
Dr Marck said that global systems for conflict prevention are under stress, especially in Africa, due to lack of institutions that ensure economic, political and social inclusivity, and the tendency to concentrate on politicians without including the private sector, civil society and religious groups.