Dr. Natalia Mirovitskaya, senior research scholar and lecturing fellow at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), and Dr. William Ascher, founder of DCID and professor of government and economics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., have released the second in their series of books exploring the connection between economic development and conflict.

Development Strategies, Identities, and Conflict in Asia provides an overview of the evolution of development doctrines, patterns of socio-economic development and levels of violence in all Asian subregions. Through a set of carefully selected case studies, the book explores the often surprising impacts of development initiatives on inter-group conflict from West Asia to Southeast Asia.

These studies demonstrate the “need to get past the conventional wisdom about economic development and violence,” Mirovitskaya said.

“For instance, the most explosive current conflicts in East and South Asia do not reflect the resentment against governments for neglecting the least developed areas, but rather the clashes that emerge from efforts to develop those areas,” she said. “Also, although it is plausible that poverty would engender resentment and increase struggles for wealth, in some of the poorest Asian countries violence has been more likely in wealthier, more economically advanced areas.”

The new book is part of a major multi-country research project on Economic Development Strategies to Avert Collective Violence, launched by Ascher and Mirovitskaya in 2009. The research is designed to help policymakers, development professionals and activists design conflict-sensitive strategies for development and avoid creating or magnifying fault lines between groups.

“Clearly, governments must be concerned about large gaps between the wealthy and the poor, about restricted social mobility, and about circumstances of economic desperation,” Mirovitskaya said. “Yet development strategies and economic hardship attributed to government policy may also contribute to animosity toward other ethnic, religious or linguistic groups.”

The book follows Economic Development Strategies and the Evolution of Violence in Latin America, released last year, which explores the links between economic policies and the nature and dynamics of intergroup violence in Latin America. Based on the patterns of 10 countries, the first volume traced the transformation from ideological conflict to the explosion of social violence, urban crime and confrontations over natural resources and drugs across the region from Mexico to Argentina.

Although there are some similarities between Asia and Latin America, Mirovitskaya said, “the liberalization reforms that brought acute disruption all over Latin America have generally been enacted with far less turmoil in Asia. Much of Asia’s general success in economic growth and eventually in societal stability is owed to the elimination of inefficient state interventions combined with carefully designed compensation for reform losers.”

The third book in the series, The Economic Roots of Conflict and Cooperation in Africa, is due out this fall. These books are part of the Palgrave Macmillan series entitled “Politics, Economics, and Inclusive Development,” which is available online.

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