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DIME Seminar: The Reach of Radio: Ending Civil Conflict through Rebel Demobilization

September 18, 2018

MC 4-100

  • In recent years, FM radio broadcasts have been used as a low-cost, non-violent instrument to draw combatants out of war in otherwise hard to reach remote areas. While this strategy has received limited media coverage, broadcasts encouraging demobilization have been used in a number of conflicts, for example, against the FARC in Colombia and more recently against the Boko Haram in Nigeria. This paper shows that these broadcasts can indeed be instrumental in ending civil conflict. We collect original data on radio broadcasts encouraging defections during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, one of Africa’s longest running conflicts. We provide the first quantitative evaluation of an active counter-insurgency policy. Exploiting random topography-driven variation in radio coverage along with panel variation at the grid-cell level we identify the causal effect of messaging on violence. Broadcasting defection messages reduces fatalities, violence against civilians and clashes with security forces. These reductions are propelled by an increase in defections. In response to manpower losses, the LRA resorts to increased looting for survival. The effectiveness of the program is closely linked to economic incentives driving fighters. Conflict-enhancing (-reducing) commodity price shocks weaken (strengthen) the pacifying effects of defection messaging.

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    University of Navarra

    Alex Armand is an Assistant Professor at the University of Navarra, a Research Fellow at the Navarra Centre for International Development and at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. His current work focuses on gender-targeting of cash transfers in Macedonia, on natural resource governance in Mozambique, on the role of media in reducing conflict, and on community-based solutions of sanitation in the urban slums of India. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University College London and a MSc in Economics from University Pompeu Fabra.

  • DIME is a World Bank-wide program to generate knowledge on the effectiveness of development policies. Working across 18 thematic areas, DIME collaborates with 300 agencies in 72 countries to improve the effectiveness of policies and programs and strengthen country capacity for real-time evidence-based policy-making. More »