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Researchers in Stockholm to make ‘business case’ for peace

Laying out a “business case” to show that world peace saves money may become a new focus of the prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), its new head says.

Tilman Brueck, who takes over in January as director of SIPRI, the second German national to lead the think tank since its founding in 1966, has a gift for such turns of phrase. Collecting “authoritative data” on military spending is likely to remain key for SIPRI, but the long-term effects of conflict on individuals and societies is a possible future research theme, he told dpa during a recent visit to Stockholm. The 42-year-old economist earned his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He said he believed his research background will come in handy at SIPRI.

“I’m used to using data, and data is at the core of what SIPRI is known for and has done so successfully,” he said. Brueck is leaving Berlin, where he has been professor of development economics at Humboldt University and head of the department of development and security at the German Institute for Economic Research. His research has included studying the relationship between security and development, the economics of post-war reconstruction and the economics of terrorism and insecurity.

“In my research, I look at how people cope with peace and conflict. Thereby I try to make an argument for supporting peace,” Brueck said. “Often the business case for war or violence is quite clear to those perpetrating them, whether in terms of profits or power,” he said. “But the case for peace should be much more powerful, yet it is harder to make.”

Studies in Germany, for instance, have shown how some people have poorer health and earn less because their early childhood was affected by the World War II experience of their parents, he said.

A focus on data, such as estimating military spending or the number of nuclear warheads in global arsenals, has been SIPRI’s hallmark. The institute has contributed to “providing transparent and authoritative data on issues which are, by nature, very disputed, very political, not lending themselves to transparency,” Brueck said.

“Where the fog is thickest we have tried to shine our torch, to try to illuminate that,” he added. Brueck said this could be transposed to other areas but he wanted to discuss possible research ideas with staff and hear their proposals. He said he believed it was important for SIPRI to maintain its research capabilities in areas that do not always top headlines.

Asked why major conflicts, for instance in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Mali, appear to be forgotten, Brueck said it could be that “we, in Europe, think it doesn’t affect us.”

“In part it seems irrelevant. In part, (it is) the economic case for caring or taking an interest, we worry about refugees or migrants coming through Malta into the European Union but we don’t care about millions of people killed, maimed or raped in the (Congo) because we think it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Lennart Simonsson, "Researchers in Stockholm to make ‘business case’ for peace," Business recorder. 2012-12-31.
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