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“The cost of interpersonal violence in the USA added to the cost of US military involvement in violent conflict amounts to at least $1.1 trillion per year. If one percent of that were spent on prevention strategies and the benefits re-invested in continuing improvements to human security, how many years would it take to create a “peace dividend” of $1.1 trillion?….”
Author: David Hazen, Oregon State Coordinator for campaign to establish a U.S. Department of Peace
Published in: The PeaceWorker in Portland, Oregon
Date: December, 2007
Read the full article:
The Peace Dividend, or Peace = Economic Power
by David Hazen
The cost of interpersonal violence in the USA added to the cost of US military involvement in violent conflict amounts to at least $1.1 trillion per year. If one percent of that were spent on prevention strategies and the benefits re-invested in continuing improvements to human security, how many years would it take to create a “peace dividend” of $1.1 trillion?
The 2005 Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st Century, published by Oxford University Press, shows that most forms of political violence have declined significantly since the end of the Cold Warâ€“â€“and finds that the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.
Traditional security policy emphasizes military muscle. The proponents of human security have focused on preventive diplomacy, conflict management, postâ€“conflict peace-building, building state capacity, and promoting equitable economic development.
There are strong similarities between the supportive strategies for promoting peace on the international scene to the strategies for prevention of interpersonal violence. Both are heavily dependent on communication and education, as well as on inclusion into economic markets.
Violence is now seen as a learned behavior and therefore can be “unlearned.” Supportive interventions on aggression are far more cost-effective at promoting human security than punitive, after-the-fact crisis management. Research indicates that the economic benefits of well-designed interpersonal violence prevention programs are in several orders of magnitude greater than the costs, and that early interventions on youth have the greatest benefits. $7 to $1 is a low benefit-to-cost ratio for interventions on violent behavior of youth, and one of the high ratios for adults.
Let’s assume that ratio as a starting point for a hypothetical investment in combined international and domestic peace-building. Imagine 1% of $1.1 trillion, or $11 billion, returning a $77 billion benefit. Reinvestment would create an upward spiral of economic benefits. $59 billion per year for 10 years would provide shelter, health care, AIDS control, eliminate starvation and malnutrition for EVERYONE on the planet. The need for a huge military would evaporate as desperation, the root cause of violent conflict, subsides.
Imagine in the near future $200 billion being spent on violence prevention, creating a benefit of $1.4 trillion. Subtracting expenses from the benefit, the peace dividend equals $1.1 trillion, the cost of our violence crises today.
It should not be too surprising that there is legislation currently in Congress, HR 808, to create a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. A citizen lobbying effort is being organized by The Peace Alliance. Approximately two-thirds of the focus of this bill is on reducing violence in American homes, schools, streets, and prisons. The other third of the focus is preventing international violence. Increasing U.S. State Department funding for diplomacy and development is certainly worthwhile, but it would not address violence within the USA or terrorist groups since the State Department only deals with recognized foreign states.
It makes “cents” to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace.