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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Bill Gates for a Day: Conflicts, Collier

Assessment Paper

By Paul Collier

The high profile of the security challenges facing rich countries has tended to crowd out the rather different security challenges facing poor countries. A discourse on international security that does not address these challenges is one-sided and less likely to gain acceptance. 

The key security challenges facing poor countries are civil wars and coups. Currently, governments respond to these risks by military spending. Both the risks and the response are highly costly. If there are cost-effective international interventions that would substantially reduce the risks of wars and coups, and reduce military spending, the payoff to poor countries would be enormous. Yet even among the international interventions designed to help such countries, security has received less policy attention than the ‘photogenic’ topics like health and education. International security interventions, though numerous and expensive, have not been guided by cost-benefit analysis. Especially with the establishment in September 2005 of a permanent UN Peace-building Commission, there is a real opportunity for more informed and coherent international action. There is the potential to build on recent advances in the quantitative study of security issues in poor countries as exemplified by the contributions to the new Handbook of Defence Economics, (Hartley and Sandler, 2006).