Peace economics explores how economies build (or don’t build) peace, and how peace affects economies.
There are many reasons why economic opportunities, like jobs and access to education, are important – from climbing out of poverty, to building a legacy for your family. But in some cases, like in México, it can be even more serious than that. In México, young women and men, often with small children to feed and aging parents to care for, not only lack access to sufficient livelihoods, but are surrounded by corruption and coercion. For too many people the choice is poverty, migration away from their homeland and family, or illegal economic activity. The activities people are turning to out of desperation have become an international war.
In the fall of 2012 I conducted an Economic Opportunity Assessment, working with community members in Ojuelos de Jalisco, a small city in the geographic center of México, to identify how communities can build greater economic opportunity.
The key findings:
- Market violence is the use of direct violence in profit maximizing exchange activity via engagement in the market.
- Dynamics that drive peace and violence in relation to economic activity differ at the national and local levels.
- The market mechanism can be an instrument of peace or of violence. The international market for illegal drugs is creating a situation of market violence in México.
- At the local level, nonviolent markets for goods and services may be providing a measure of resilience to communities. These peaceful markets can be enhanced by deliberately strengthening other community dynamics, such as social capital.
- It is possible to use our economic structures and mechanisms, including the market, to deliberately increase peacefulness.
Read more in this short research brief, “Al Centro de la República.”
These assessments identify what opportunities people have, what they don’t have, and what they want. Armed with this knowledge and after building a network of partners, we can start to create opportunities – safe, legal, nonviolent, and fulfilling ways for families across the Americas to make ends meets and sleep easier at night.
I’m currently working to further develop the economic opportunity framework, to implement the findings from México, and to identify locations for future work. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to collaborate and help make this vision a reality.