“How can we build a safer world?” is the question Paul Collier of the World Bank tried to answer yesterday More specifically, he addressed the issue of civil war and what can be done to reduce its incidence internationally.

Paul Wong

Today’s post-Sept. 11 atmosphere made Collier’s keynote especially relevant, as he noted the link between civil war, poverty and the incidence of global terrorism.

“Why did the al-Qaida choose Afghanistan?” he asked. Collier said Afghanistan is a “civil war environment in which there is large chunks of territory outside the control of the recognized government,” which provides a safe haven for international terrorists.

Collier first outlined the economic, social, political and historical causes of civil war, which he deduced from a statistical analysis of past civil wars in history. From these causes, he pinpointed several risk factors involved in the incidence of civil war.

More important than a group’s motive to rebel is whether it has the means to do so, Collier said. He noted that civil wars are difficult to organize and require massive amounts of revenue to sustain employees and expensive equipment.

Collier proposed several angles of reform that address his risk factors for the incidence of civil war. “Over five years of sustained policy reform, aid, and better market access will bring down those risks by about a third,” he said.

His suggested reforms centered on addressing aid and trade policy both during and after civil conflicts. He also suggested increased governance of primary commodities, a major source of revenue for many rebels and better regulation of international armaments.

“We’ve got a massive misalignment of international policy,” he said about the current state of affairs. Collier said there has been too much emphasis on military deterrence.

“We’re at a point where the international policy discourse needs to be better informed, and the places that will provide that elevated discourse is the universities,” he said.

Collier’s keynote was a part of an ongoing series at the University titled “Globalization’s Challenge to the Research University: Engaging Multilateral Institutions.”

Sioban Harlow, associate director of the International Institute, described the series as “an effort to engage across multiple disciplines across the University as we raise these larger questions about the role of multilateral institutions in a globalizing world.”

The series is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation to the International Institute, and was sponsored by a diverse range of University departments and schools.

“It’s up to the University to provide the opportunity for our community to learn about the current and emerging direction (of the World Bank) and to raise our perspectives and concerns with people from the Bank,” Harlow said.

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