Conflicts over GOD (gold, oil, drugs) proliferate in a world whose foremost leaders and consumers want no limitations. Why? From an economic viewpoint, many ‘resource wars’ occur in regions with a history of authoritarian leaders struggling to control a resource stream with high foreign demand. The economy depends on leaders’ ability to exploit an already impoverished workforce. Citizens seeking basic sustenance compete for a chance at endless hours of hard labor, and repression of workers’ rights becomes the norm before violence takes shape. The working majority is trapped in a small industry controlled by leaders who are reckless with economic gains. Ironically, the international community and country leaders spin exploitation as economic development. For example: Farmers in Makeni, Sierra Leone recently entered a 50-year contract with a Swiss company that bought 155 mi² of land to grow biofuels for Europe. Makeni, whose economy was destroyed by Sierra Leone’s recent 12-year civil war, has a population of 105,900 and desperately needs increased employment, which brokers of this deal promised. The Economist reports that the deal has destroyed local biodiversity and provided a total of 20 jobs.
How can this contract equate to ‘economic development’ when zero percent of its action steps answer to Makeni’s economic or development needs? The simplest of strategies is missing – economically, employment must increase; in terms of development, citizens need (sustainable) food, shelter, and clean water. Moreover, this land deal actually flouts the foundational assumption of economics: participants must want to enter a market transaction. This deal, touted as development, does more harm than good to the farmers it affects. It cannot be argued that they would have wanted it had they known how the details would play out.
Given that such deals lack progressive strategy and falsely claim economic association, they showcase neither development nor economics, but highly organized crime. Can economic development be a means to peace? Only if those responsible take deliberate action to ensure that all parties involved have faith in the economic transaction at hand. But if left to the devices of careless leadership, economic development clearly becomes a wolf in sheep’s clothing.