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Option One: Aid
Post-conflict aid designed to stop violence recurring is much more politically acceptable than the use of force.
If it proves just as cost-effective—or more so—than military intervention, then it is clearly a more attractive option.
In a nation recovering from violence, each additional percentage point of national growth lowers the risk of conflict re-emerging by around 1.5 percentage points. In a typical case, achieving a one percentage point lift in national growth requires annual aid of $400 million: Aid is very expensive.
This investment doesn't just reduce the risk of civil war, but also boosts growth. The overall benefits are worth nearly three times more than the costs.
Post-conflict aid therefore looks to be a good use for aid money, but not so spectacular that it would trump most other calls on scarce international public resources.
Option Two: Military intervention
Four new civil wars are expected to break out in the next decade in low-income nations.
The real problem with most peacekeeping interventions is that they are too short—the risk of renewed civil war in post-conflict situations declines slowly with time.
The degree of risk reduction depends, not surprisingly, on the scale of deployment.
Compared with no deployment, spending $850 million on a peacekeeping initiative reduces the ten-year risk of conflict re-emerging from around 38 percent to 7 percent. A smaller military intervention would reduce the risk by a smaller amount.
Because of war's horrendous and lasting costs, each percentage point of risk reduction is worth around $2.5 billion to the world.
The economic benefits to the world from spending $1 billion each year to reduce the risk of conflict add up to $12.6 billion: Each dollar achieves $12.60 of good.
Life expectancy is decreasing in some parts of the world. Ten million children will die this year in poor nations; this figure would be just 1 million if rates were the same as in rich countries.