The importance of understanding how to promote peace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

-Journal of Developing Societies

Since the late 1980s governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have created commercial institutions to promote regional economic integration. The primary aim of this policy has been regarded as the promotion of economic welfare gains at the national level. The second, less-emphasized goal, has been to promote regional peace through economic interdependence. This study examines the prospects for a liberal peace in the MENA by analyzing two stages of the commercial institutional peace.

 

Understanding how to promote peace in the region is perhaps more pressing now than at any time in the post-Cold War era. The region faces a myriad of security challenges including the rise of extremism, proxy wars at the regional level, and the negative effects of climate change

 

This work considers the prospects for a liberal peace in the MENA by analyzing two separate but interconnected stages of the CIP. This study tests the validity of the CIP theory in the context of the MENA and investigates if trade influences peace and security in interstate relations in the region.

 

Analyzing the relationship between commercial institutions and peace/conflict is complex and various methodological approaches have been used to this end. The multiplicity of methodologies exists in part because no single approach has proven sufficient to explain this contested area of investigation.

 

This article examines the relationship among commercial institutions, trade, and peace among 20 states in the MENA and a total of 380 dyads. Data were collected from 12 variables that provide us with evidence of the nature of economic and political interactions in the region (the variables and sources of data are discussed in the following). These data were then processed using SPSS to ascertain the level of correlation between the variables by conducting bivariate correlate analysis using Pearson R to test for multivariable correlation by dyad-year. The first stage explored the relationship between commercial institutions and trade volume. The second stage explored the relationship between trade and peace.

 

Commercial institutions formed by states in the region do have a pacifying effect, reducing the likelihood of militarized interstate disputes (MIDs). and thus, promoting peace in the region. This effect arises not only from commercial institutions promoting trade, but also through the engagement with commercial institutions themselves—perhaps through a functional spillover effect.

In conclusion, the first hypothesis tested in this study (that commercial institutions in the MENA promote trade within the region) has been proven to be correct, but with the caveat that this impact is limited. The second hypothesis tested (that higher levels of bilateral trade promote peace by deterring aggression) has also been proven to be correct, but again the effect is limited. While this study demonstrates that there are policy implications for current and future political leaders in the MENA and elsewhere, to encourage peace in the MENA through reducing MIDs by promoting commercial institutions and economic integration, it also raises some questions that should be pursued in future research. 

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