Opinion article by Melanie Greenberg, President and CEO, Alliance for Peacebuilding. The Alliance for Peacebuilding represents a community of over 100 peace and development organizations that protect the US by eliminating the root causes of violence worldwide.
Recently proposed cuts by the US administration have raised serious concerns in the peacebuilding community.
Investment in peace is so relevant now because the world is becoming increasingly violent. Over the past 15 years, political, criminal, interpersonal, and social violence, along with violent extremism, have all increased dramatically. We now understand that violence spreads like an epidemic, and that people who are exposed to violence are more likely to become violent themselves. Additionally, violent conflict lies at the root of other global threats, such as forced migration, disease, and famine that directly impact national security and the global economy.
A report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace estimated the total economic impact of violence to the world economy in 2015 at $13.6 trillion. This equals 13.3% of world GDP. If violence containment were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the world.
The costs of conflict dwarf the amount that we are spending to prevent it. In fact, peacebuilding and peacekeeping expenditures combined represent just 2% of the cost of conflict. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that for every dollar invested in peacebuilding now, the return could be as high as $16. Doubling the minuscule amount of international investment in the peacebuilding sector could save $2.94 trillion in direct and indirect losses from conflict over ten years.
Despite minimal resources, peacebuilding practitioners have developed a wide range of successful programs that reduce violence by addressing the multiple root causes of conflict. Alliance for Peacebuilding members have proven their ability to reduce violence from the Central African Republic to Chicago. Violence reduction works to address all types of violence: land disputes, religious conflict, ethnic conflict, gang violence, gender-based violence, and violent extremism.
At a time when governments are considering pouring more money into the military, and less into cost-saving foreign assistance, we need to recognize the powerful preventive effect of peacebuilding and invest in these tools. Cutting development assistance in a time of increased violence would severely damage the ability of the US to respond to global threats and would weaken our power to prevent deadly conflict.
An investment in building peace and reducing violence will pay dividends for years to come. If we can pay a dollar for prevention, why pay sixteen times more for violence containment? And if peace can be built so much less expensively than war, we need to invest in the tools that keep us safe at a fraction of the cost.
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps