Economic Development Strategies and Averting Violence

June 08, 2009
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Pacific Basin Research Center Workshop
June 8-9, 2009

This workshop is an initial step in a multi-faceted project to determine which development strategies create conditions conducive to large-scale group violence or peaceful coexistence, especially in developing and transitional countries.


One of the very first acknowledgements of the nexus between development and security came from the representatives of 45 countries who gathered in Bretton Woods in 1944. Still amidst the most devastating war in the history of humanity they intended to design foundations for a new world based on principles of “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want.” More than sixty years after this eventful meeting, which laid the moral, legal and institutional foundations of the contemporary international system, the international community is still facing similar challenges. Collective violence in its different forms is wide spread in the world and there is substantial empirical evidence of links between various forms of political violence (including wars) and inadequate economic development. However, though many scholars and practitioners recognize that development and conflict are intertwined, there is much less understanding (or at least consensus) about the mechanism behind these linkages. In many cases the causes of violence can be traced to social and economic conditions that produce frustration and humiliation among disadvantaged social groups. The question, which thus far has stayed outside of research focus, is how to identify strategy of development to reinforce the peaceful coexistence of different elements of the population and to encourage their cooperation.

In the first decade of the 21st century, in the world, where boundaries are blurred, authorities are fragmented and often powerless against non-state actors, when new security threats emerge and metastasize unpredictably, the “development-security” nexus has acquired new meaning and urges a coordinated response. For this reason in December 2005 the United Nations created the United Nations Peacebuilding Infrastructure, which is comprised of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office. In its turn, the World Bank set up the Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Team in its Social Development Department in 2005; similar units were created in regional development banks and some aid agencies. A global conflict syndrome – the sum of factors that work in parallel to undermine the stability of international system and erode the foundations of human security – requires rigorous analysis of multiple linkages between development patterns and conflicts as well as innovative ideas of how to effectively incorporate conflict prevention into the development interventions. Policy interventions based on erroneous theoretical assumptions or inconclusive empirical basis are known to have brought unanticipated negative results. Greater understanding of the links between economic development patterns and predispositions to avoid or engage in such conflicts would be very valuable to policymakers, policy advocates, and officials of agencies providing bilateral and multilateral assistance.

The focus of our project will be both at the national and international levels. Although development strategies play out largely within nation states, or even at sub-national levels, international actors, including inter-governmental financial institutions, national governments of other countries, international non-governmental organizations, and multinational corporations play significant roles in the development initiatives that they recommend, finance, or implement.

In our project we attempt to fill this gap. It is our assumption that sectoral and regional development strategies, strategies that target distribution of general assets as well as state-society interactions and other strategies used in the pursuit of development have been essential in shaping economic development patterns and eventually, in defining particular types of state-society interactions conducive to peace or violence.

Workshop Purpose

The Workshop will bring together scholars and development practitioners with an in-depth knowledge of particular regions of the developing world as well as sectors which are believed particularly closely associated with peace and conflict dynamics: tourism, water use and development assistance. The participants have been commissioned to write working papers on development strategies in the areas of their expertise. The focus on cross-country comparison will offer important opportunities to exchange information and current research findings, to build upon existing knowledge, to debate a number of commonly held perceptions and theories and to identify parallels, if any, between development strategies and their security-relevant results.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of this research initiative;
  • Identification of methodological challenges, some of which are inevitable for such inter-disciplinary project, and the ways how to address these challengers better;
  • Recognition of similarities and differences among cases;
  • Critical analysis of the case evidence in support of the original hypotheses (on the role of development strategies) and availability of alternative explanations;
  • Integrating conclusions from the examined cases and relating them to the overall framework.

Workshop Methodology

From a methodological point of view the focus of the project is on comparative analysis of single case studies (countries, regions within countries, and other political units at different historical stages). Particular case studies were selected on the basis of their similarities in major determinants of development (geography, history, culture, ethnic diversity and resource endowments, etc.) but different choices of development strategies. From our perspective, such multiple-case-study approach is more suitable for an in-depth understanding of conflict-development linkages compared with large-N studies, as it allows to take into account the international, national and local levels of development conflict interaction and examine roles and mutual influences of the different echelons of society. The case studies will lead to inductive learning insofar as different development patterns can be connected through thick description to the avoidance of provocation, the strengthening of deterrence, or social integration models with reinforcing evidence from the more violent comparison countries insofar as they experienced different development patterns.

The methodology of the Workshop will be interactive and participatory with a focus on comparative analysis of case studies. Special emphasis will be placed on the discussion of common methodological and epistemological challenges and an eventual objective of producing comprehensive and consistent analysis of the subject.

Expected Outcome of the Workshop

It is the expectation of the workshop conveners that the meeting will lead to insights that will enable eventual contributions in a proper comparative light for a planned volume that will be truly comparative in nature rather than a simple juxtaposition of different country and sector studies. In particular we expect that we will be able to:

  1. develop a common methodological approach and agreement on how to tackle epistemological challenges;
  2. agree on coherent use of basic concepts in the filed of our research, existing definitions of which in current discourse are surprisingly diverse and politically biased;
  3. gain new insights into development trajectories of various countries and regions;
  4. enrich our understanding of how various combinations of state-society interactions (i.e., development strategies adopted by authoritarian, anocratic and democratic states and their impact on relatively homogenous vs. highly diverse societies) contribute to peace or conflict outcomes
  5. develop common perspectives on policy implications of this research initiative.

Project Collaborators and Workshop Attendees

Ercument Aksoy is Professor of Economics at Los Angeles Valley College and Visiting Professor of Economics at the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance at Claremont McKenna College. Before entering academia, he was an economist in the Central Bank of the Government of Turkey. His research focuses on economic history, history of economic thought, and growth theory. His publications include The Problem of the Multiple Interpretations of Ricardo.*

William Ascher is the Donald C. McKenna Professor of Government and Economics at Claremont McKenna College, and Director of the Pacific Basin Research Center of Soka University of America. He served as the Director of the Duke Center for International Development, and as Academic Vice President of Claremont McKenna College. His research is on the policy sciences of sustainable development, political psychology, and environmental and natural-resource policy, with foci on the United States, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. His most recent books include The Caspian Sea: A Quest for Environmental Security, Guide to Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy, Revitalizing Political Psychology, and Bringing in the Future: Strategies for Farsightedness and Sustainability.

William Barndt is Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department of the University of California, Riverside. His PhD dissertation at Princeton University focused on attempts by elected Latin American presidents to suspend the basic political liberties of certain individuals and groups. His research agenda has centered on the intersection of democratic politics, development, and inequality in Latin America, with a particular focus on Andean countries. His future research interests include questions of democratic instability, business politics, state transformation, and healthcare policy in the developing world.

Charles Becker is Research Professor of Economics at Duke University. His research focuses on social security system forecasting, transition economies, economic demography, computable general equilibrium modeling, and urban economics. He has written books on urbanization in India and sub-Saharan Africa, Kazakh social security reform, economic sanctions on South Africa and neighboring countries, and computable general equilibrium modeling of India. Ongoing projects concern reassessing infant mortality rates, the graying of poverty in developing countries, demographic change in the former USSR, and accidental death and disability in middle-income countries. Prior to joining Duke, he taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado at Denver, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, directing the American Economic Association’s Summer Program and Minority Scholarship Program.*

Nzinga Broussard is Assistant Professor of Economics at Claremont McKenna College’s Robert Day School of Economics and Finance. Her research focuses on development economics and labor economics, particularly on gender issues. Her regional foci are Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. A major part of her University of Michigan PhD dissertation focused on food aid and distributional issues in Ethiopia.