Events

Spatial Effects of Civil Wars in Africa and Around the World

July 25, 2001 // 12:00am

It has been said that the 21st Century will be recorded as the bloodiest of all centuries to date. “Since 1960, almost all civil wars have been in developing countries, whose economic growth and development are apt to be impeded by resulting human capital losses, reduced investments, infrastructure destruction, and market-activity disruptions,” stated Todd Sandler. These statements give incentive to assess the past and work on a plan to prevent outbreaks of conflict in the future. The focus of Professor Sandler’s discussion was on the negative spillover effects of civil war on neighboring countries. His study uses econometrics to measure these effects by utilizing the neoclassical growth model for the long and short-term period effects on economic growth; therefore, the results are used to make policy suggestions.

Considering this evidence, we must acknowledge the countries that are caught in this vicious cycle of civil war resulting in destruction of all sorts, as well as the spatial effects to other countries. The thinking is that the effects will spillover into the neighboring country in the form of instability, collateral damage, disruption to trade and imports, diversion of foreign investment, and influx of refugees into neighboring countries. Sandler’s model includes the factors of investment, human capital, GDP, population growth, and beginning level of income. He looks at neighboring countries based on the contiguity, border lengths, and how many are within a specific mile radius.

Sandler concludes that in Africa, neighboring countries are affected more severely than the host country. Currently, many African countries are experiencing conflicts; therefore, a neighboring country can experience spillover effects from several host countries at once. Sandler also noted the causes of the conflict in Africa as being “more greed and territorial differences.”

One can draw some conclusions for foreign policy prescriptions. First, relief organizations should be concerned with where the conflict is occurring (locus), neighboring states (overspill) including the distance measure, and whether or not the assistance should be contracted or expanded depending on the impact. Second, the peacekeeping organizations should concern themselves with the question of how long to assist the host country. Third, the neighboring states need to decide whether to isolate or insulate against the negative spillover effects of civil wars.

Although Sandler’s working paper and model give us compelling evidence, they do leave out some significant variables. He noted that the spillover effects of Apartheid are not shown and that some factors were left out. Missing variables include types of civil war, foreign aid, and trade. As with most studies there are faults, but the feedback and improvement process is ongoing.

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