05 October 2012

Metrics for peace

Middle East Peace Bonds, or Conflict Reduction Bonds, are all very well, but how are we to define what we mean by 'peace'? The conventional definition  doesn't necessarily mean human well-being, or the absence of the threat of war. There was no open conflict during the Cold War, for instance, but it wasn't exactly a stable, beneficial state of existence.

Fortunately, Social Policy Bonds are versatile, in that they can target an array of goals, each of which has to be satisfied if the bonds are to be achieved. Furthermore of these goals can take the form of a range of values, within which an outcome must fall for the bonds to be redeemed. Moreover, since our goal is for a sustained period of peace, that condition can also be embedded in the targeted outcome.

Experts and the public could come up with the necessary and sufficient conditions for a benign peace. Here are some suggested starting points:
  • Numbers of people killed in armed conflict
  • Spending and military strength
Military strength is an estimate of both military personnel and military equipment. The rationale for including this measure is similar to that for including military expenditure: it represents both the opportunity cost of resources lost to the life-enhancing parts of the world economy, and it is an indicator also of the potential for violence, and so an indicator of human insecurity or anxiety. While estimates of materiel could be subject to the same imprecision as spending on armaments, numbers of military personnel might be easier to quantify for targeting purposes in some regions of actual or potential conflict.
  • Mass media indicators of impending conflict
Social Policy Bonds aiming at peace could also target events that are likely to lead to war, such as efforts to gain public support. There appears to be strong evidence (see Getting to war: predicting international conflict with mass media indicators, W. Ben Hunt, University of Michigan Press, 1997) that the underlying intentions of governments can be accurately gauged by a systematic analysis of opinion-leading articles in the mass media, regardless of the relative openness of the media in question. Such analysis allows the prediction of both the likelihood of conflict and what form of conflict - military, diplomatic or economic - will occur.  This sort of indicator could be useful as a target where military conflict has not begun, but appears possible, and where other data are scarce.
There are going to be problems with accurate assessment of all these measures, but they are unlikely to be insurmountable. 

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