Most development spending attains peace over trlns of dollars for military

09:28, June 24, 2010      

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"It's not a coincidence that wars are taking place in Afghanistan and elsewhere where people are impoverished," a top adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out on Wednesday at the introduction of the annual Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, the adviser and U.S. economist, was telling reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York the true cost of poverty as U.S. President Barack Obama was replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petreaus to head up the International Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan campaign of the U.S. "War on Terror" has cost American taxpayers nearly 1 trillion U.S. dollars since Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's not a coincidence that wars are taking place in Afghanistan and elsewhere, where people are impoverished," said Sachs. "If we don't direct efforts toward sustainable development in those locations conflict is much more likely and I think that under investment in impoverished places is a huge and tragic loss of opportunity for peace."

He said annual military spending world wide "is on the order of 1.5 trillion dollars. The development budget is a little over 100 billion dollars. This is a rather shocking misallocation. Most of these wars are over extreme poverty and depravation."

"I think the under investment in peace is profound and very much an area where we could have very high returns in this world if we went in that direction," he said.

Fighting in Central Asia and the Horn of Africa is "where you have some of the world's poorest people," Sachs cited as an example.

"Hunger and lack of access to water and environmental threats are absolute drivers of conflict without question and then troops come in and they don't solve anything," he said. "They end up spending a hundred times more than you would spend on a development program."

"I think that this trade-off is not just a moral trade-off, it' s a most practical issue that unless we invest in development in impoverished places you end up bearing hugely higher costs in violence and conflict," the professor said. "It is a miscalculation made repeatedly by the politicians who see issues through the lens of politics and security and not through the lens of poverty and hunger."

If peace is sought, the world must address poverty, he said.

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