Network of European Peace Scientists Conference (Report)

Network of European Peace Scientists Conference (Report)

The year 2019 marks fifty years since the Nobel Prize for Economics was instituted. The first award went to the two founding fathers of econometrics (techniques applied to empirical data to test theoretical hypotheses) namely the Dutch economist, Jan Tinbergen and the Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch. This year also happens to be a quarter of a century since the passing of Jan Tinbergen. Between 24th and 26th June, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR) hosted the 19th Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, also known as the Network of European Peace Science (NEPS) conference. Incidentally, the 2014 NEPS conference was also held at ISS. It is fitting that the Institute does so for a number of reasons. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security, and perhaps the society’s most distinguished academic on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Although, it is well known that Professor Tinbergen enjoyed a long tenure at the Erasmus School of Economics, what is less known is that the ISS awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1962. Jan Tinbergen was a founding member of the Economists for Peace and Security. He was, incidentally, also one of the founding members of the Econometric Society back in the 1930s. Unsurprising, as he was one of the progenitors of this particular art.

Over the two and a half days of the conference over 90 papers were presented. This year, for the first time, there was also a poster presentation session. The topics covered included a rich variety ranging from the economics of internal strife to inter-state wars, sanctions, post-conflict reconstruction, the military or security burden, populism and the nature of the democratic peace between nations. The overwhelming majority of papers fell into the category of rigorous quantitative analysis. There was also a presentation at a plenary session by Mansoob Murshed, of the ISS, in the spirit of work of Tinbergen, using ideas he presented about the chances of an armed peace based upon actions and positioning of nation states. The armed peace does have opportunity costs, since some of the resources devoted to security could have been used to provide public goods. There was also a distinguished lecture by Professor Jean-Paul Azam of Toulouse University who focused on how proper empirical analysis should be conducted, another topic that would have interested Tinbergen as a pioneer of empirical methods in economics. Furthermore, besides involving the academic community, there was also engagement with civic society, including dialogue with EFSAS (European Foundation for South Asian Studies), where, amongst other issues, there was a discussion on the conflict in Kashmir.

Tinbergen had a strong commitment to the societal relevance of Economics, the need to engage in advisory work, and the overwhelming salience of finding solutions to economic problems.. For all of these reasons, and more besides, it is fitting that this year’s NEPS conference, which witnessed the presentation of nearly a hundred papers in quantitative conflict studies was held at the ISS, in the Hague, the home town of one of the pioneers of the economics of conflict, who was also one of the most ardent and distinguished champions of disarmament and development assistance.