How can RCTs help us reduce violence and conflict?
Aprille Knox and Cillian Nolan
In 2016, an estimated 560,000 lives were lost due to interpersonal and collective violence; some 100,000 of these were lost in battle. The recent Pathways for Peace report from the UN and the World Bank underscored the need to develop more innovative responses to address the changing nature of violent conflict, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
In 2017, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) challenged J-PAL and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to expand the evidence base on effective conflict and violence prevention programs. The result was two major research initiatives, the Crime and Violence Initiative and the Peace and Recovery Program. These initiatives seek to produce rigorous, generalizable insights into what drives crime, violence, and conflict and the levers to reduce each (not just “what works” but why it works).
What have we and others engaged in this work been learning? There is no list of proven interventions that are ready to scale, as we might find in sectors such as education or health. But several promising lines of inquiry have emerged as new research probes the mechanisms behind successful interventions—i.e. how they work.
Drawing on the results of our recent review of emerging evidence in this field, below we highlight just a few of the areas where research is producing new insights for programming.