Even when armed conflicts formally end, the transition to peace is not clear-cut. In this project, we focus on an understudied factor in shaping post-war crime: war economies. This encompasses the organisation and development of a society’s legal and illegal resource flows in support or as a result of conflict and violence.
Comparative design analyzing select cases in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (Colombia, Guatemala, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, and Cambodia among others), based on our main criterion, which is whether they have experienced armed conflict in the past twenty years. We intend to focus on the micro-level in addition to the national level, in order to better understand the specific mechanisms of their respective war economies and their relationship to conflict-related and post-war crime.
A first discussion of different cases provides evidence that some of the same conditions that gave rise to armed conflict and its transformation (such as weak institutional capacity, resource dependence, disenfranchised youth) are prevalent in societies after—and even when—wars end. However, post-war crime differs in many societies, suggesting that some variables—alone or in combination—may be more helpful than others to account for the differences. A comparative and historically grounded perspective in addressing these three aspects and in identifying the mechanisms linking periods, actors, practices, states and society suggests the overarching reality of path dependence, as the legacies of war and violence dynamics interact with other political, economic and social dynamics well beyond the formal end of war. War economies do not disappear after the end of war but rather adapt and change. Hence a focus on war economies and their transformation or the lack thereof is essential to tackle the related social, political, and economic problems. Otherwise, we may see persistent institutional weakness and the influence of, and co-optation by, illicit actors, in state responses to violence and non-state armed actors; the ongoing interaction with international markets for crime; the reality of organizational learning and adaptation; and the cultural propensity and historical embeddedness of practices related to violence before, during, and after war.