Anke Hoeffler, an Oxford University economist and James Fearon of Stanford University recently co-authored an assessment of the astonishingly high cost of violence and conflict for the Post 2015 Consensus project for Copenhagen Consensus, a global think tank that provides research data to governments and philanthropists in an effort to ensure public policy funding is spent effectively.
Fearon and Hoeffler’s findings are startling and provide a framework for understanding the tremendous economic and social costs associated with violence.
Global Cost of Violence Report
War $170 billion
Homicide $650 billion
Domestic Abuse $8 trillion
Fearon and Hoeffler, August 2014
Cure Violence Director of Science & Policy, Charlie Ransford, reviewed the Fearon and Hoeffler research for Copenhagen Consensus which recently published his review. Ransford agrees with Hoeffler and Fearon that reducing violence is crucial to global economic and social development. The costs of violence are simply too high – the welfare cost of collective, interpersonal violence, harsh child discipline, intimate partner violence and sexual abuse total more than 11 percent of global GFP. The costs of homicides are much larger than the cost of war.
“Violence greatly impedes the world’s ability to address almost all issues traditionally identified as underlying causes of violence. If we focus more resources on interrupting and stopping the spread of violence, not only will we have less violence, but we will significantly increase the potential of success for interventions that address the underlying causes of violence,” Ransford stated.
Ransford says the magnitude and costs associated with interpersonal violence render the reduction of domestic abuse a public health priority. Since violence acts like an epidemic disease, like epidemic diseases it can be prevented using health-based approaches. These approaches use the same methods that have stopped epidemics like AIDS, cholera, and tuberculosis by concentrating on interrupting transmission, changing behaviors of the highest risk, and changing norms around the use of violence. As with other approaches to stopping epidemics, local workers and organizations are used in order to gain access to the highest risk population so that the behaviors and norms that encourage the spread of violence can be effectively changed.
Furthermore, health institutions are in an excellent position to prevent violence. First, health workers have a unique opportunity to stop further spread of violence because victims of violence come to hospitals for treatment. Second, health professionals have experience at changing behaviors – sexual, dietary, exercise-related and others. Finally, health workers are often highly trusted in the communities. Because health workers do not have the power to arrest or a history of involvement in violence, they are in a position to be able to address violent behavior with the highest risk.
Focusing explicitly on interrupting violence before it happens is the one single thing we can do with the greatest potential for fundamentally changing levels of violence in the world. If we focus more resources on interrupting and stopping the spread of violence, not only will we have less violence, but we will significantly increase the potential of success for interventions that address the underlying causes of violence.
The Post 2015 Consensus Project brings together more than 50 top economists, NGOs, international agencies and businesses to identify the goals with the greatest benefit-to-cost ratio for the next set of UN development goals. www.post2015consensus.com Cure Violence Director of Science & Policy, Charles Ransford, is a member of the project team.