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domingo, maio 29, 2005

Failed states

The chief reason why the world should worry about state failure is that it is contagious. Liberia's civil war, for example, infected all three of its neighbours, thus destabilising a broad slice of West Africa. Congo's did the same for Central Africa.

Lisa Chauvet and Paul Collier of Oxford University have tried to measure the cost of a typical poor country becoming a LICUS, ie, as unstable as Nigeria or Indonesia, but nowhere near as bad as Liberia. They added together an estimate of growth forgone because of instability and an estimate of the spillover effect on neighbouring countries, and arrived at the startling figure of $82 billion.

Since this is more than the world's entire annual aid budget, it suggests that even costly interventions, if they help to stabilise a failing state, are likely to be worthwhile. Looking only at war-torn states, Mr Collier and Anke Hoeffler, also of Oxford, found that three types of intervention were highly cost-effective, even before one considers the value of saving lives.
By far the most cost-effective way of stabilising a failed state, however, is to send peacekeepers. Mr Collier and Ms Hoeffler calculated that $4.8 billion of peacekeeping yields nearly $400 billion in benefits. This figure should be treated with caution, since it is extrapolated from one successful example. In 2000, a small contingent of British troops smashed a vicious rebel army in Sierra Leone, secured the capital and rescued a UN peacekeeping mission from disaster.

Not all interventions go so well. But a study by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, suggests that the UN, despite its well-publicised blunders, is quite good at peacekeeping. Of the eight UN-led missions it examined, seven brought sustained peace (Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Eastern Slavonia, Sierra Leone and East Timor), while one (in Congo) did not. An earlier RAND study had looked at eight American-led missions and found that only four of the nations involved (Germany, Japan, Bosnia and Kosovo), were now at peace, while the other four (Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq) were not, or at any rate, not yet.

The comparison is not entirely fair. The Americans took on tougher targets: Iraq has more suicide-bombers than East Timor. On the other hand, the UN had punier forces and budgets at its disposal. The annual cost of all 11 UN peacekeeping operations today is less than America spends in a month in Iraq.

Economist.com | Rebuilding failed states


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