Can Development Reduce Violence?

December 2, 2016

For too long, evidence of “what works” has evaded policy makers and practitioners seeking to reduce violence, armed conflict, and terrorism. Little evidence guides governments’ policy decisions over how to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to counter terrorism or millions of dollars to reduce violence through aid. To respond to these evidence gaps, Mercy Corps carried out a rigorous mixed-methods impact evaluation of a multi-year youth-focused stability program in Somaliland, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Key findings include:

• Improving access to secondary education alone reduced youth’s participation in political violence by 16% but increased their support for political violence by 11%.

• Combining secondary education with civic engagement opportunities that allowed youth to carry out community action campaigns, however, reduced youth’s participation in political violence by 14% and support for political violence by 20%

These findings affirm an important and contested policy debate: that development programming – focused on the drivers of violence – can indeed reduce violence.

On November 29th, AfP hosted a conversation with Feysal Osman, Civic Engagement Specialist, Mercy Corps – Somalia, and Beza Tesfaye, Research Manager for Conflict and Governance, Mercy Corps to discuss the findings and their greater implications.

A recording of the event can be found here.