Preventing War Is Cheaper than Fighting It
Research has indicated that investing early to prevent conflicts from escalating into violent crises is, on average, 60 times more cost effective than intervening after violence erupts. Still, the world spends just $1 on conflict prevention for every $1,885 it spends on military budgets.
Here in the U.S., less than 2% of income tax goes to civilian foreign affairs agencies; meanwhile, 39% goes to the military. And though taxpayers provide almost $1 billion per year for military academies, they pay only about $40 million for the United States Institute of Peace—the only U.S. agency dedicated to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
The World Bank’s 2011 Development Report notes that one quarter of the world’s population now lives in a conflict-affected or violence-ridden country, highlighting that cycles of poverty and disease cannot be broken without also breaking cycles of deadly conflict. With the cost of global violence reaching $8 trillion in 2010 alone—having a negative impact equal to 13% of global GDP—the need to invest in effective conflict prevention and peacebuilding is only growing.
*From Dr. Lisa Schirch and Dr. Michael S. Lund’s May 2009 Statement to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities. The average is based on research found in the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict’s The Cost of Conflict: Prevention and Cure in the Global Arena (Ed. Michael E. Brown and Richard N. Rosecrance, 1999).
Is preventing war possible?
Following a devastating electoral crisis in late 2007, Kenya was concerned about the potential for renewed violence during its constitutional referendum in August of 2010. Efforts to prevent violent conflict were made both nationally and internationally, including U.S. initiatives made possible through the Complex Crises Fund. Investment in prevention proved successful—as well as cost-effective. While the economic cost of Kenya’s crisis in 2007 was $3.6 billion, the cost of preventive action supported by the U.N. during the peaceful referendum was just $5 million.
What about job creation?
Believe it or not, military spending is not only costly when it comes to hardware and intervention—it’s also less effective than non-military funding at creating jobs. Investing in education results in two and a half times more employment opportunities than investing in the military, while investing in clean energy production creates one and a half times more.