Seitlicher Blick auf das D4 Gebäude.

WU Lecture in Economics 2018

What are the Costs of Violence?

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WU Matters. WU Talks. | Dec 18, 2018 | Keynote Speaker: Anke Hoeffler

This year's keynote speaker Anke Hoeffler, currently working at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, gave a lecture on “What Are the Costs of Violence?”

If you follow the news, you cannot help but get the impression that our world is an extremely violent place. Regular images of devastation from Syrian cities look shockingly similar to computer-​games of post-​apocalyptic worlds -- but this is reality. Terrorist bomb attacks and mass shootings have become routine. Multiple armed conflicts drag on and on, punctuated by sudden escalations that get them back on the front pages for a time, e.g. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Kashmir, Eastern Congo, South Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, Libya.

If you go by the headlines, you would conclude that most human violence against other humans in our world takes the form of civil war and perhaps other lower-​level armed conflicts. You might even conclude that terrorist attacks are a major source of deaths from violence. This lecture will take you behind the headlines and suggest that the impression you get from the news coverage is misleading. Every year the amount of violence due to civil war and terrorism is dwarfed by that due to interpersonal violence - chiefly, homicide; assault and, in particular, assaults against women; and severe physical abuse of children. Thus, the resulting economic and social costs of interpersonal violence are substantially greater than those of civil war and terrorism.

In contrast, aid spending on programs related to civil war violence and terrorism is orders of magnitude greater than spending on programs specifically focused on reducing interpersonal violence. However, there is at present no good reason to think that aid and policy effort to redress the costs of collective violence (basically, civil war and terrorism) are likely to be much more effective than aid and policy effort directed towards reducing interpersonal violence and its costs.

Finally, since so much more international aid and policy focus currently goes to addressing the costs of collective violence, there is a strong case that in this domain the international community is missing the forest for certain trees. Substantially more should be invested in aid and policy focus on reducing homicide, violence against women, and violence against children.

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