There is a neglected garden overgrown and in disarray. The flowers— vibrant, multi-colored, beautiful— are smothered by refuse and weeds. The detritus must be cleared away to allow new growth. This metaphor came up in a debate a couple years back on whether Chicago should further invest in CeaseFire’s violence prevention approach or an economic revitalization schema.

Progress in a conflict-ridden community or country requires that the violence be addressed
Violence is disproportionately concentrated in communities characterized by high unemployment rates with no business opportunities, while simultaneously, hindering economic revitalization efforts, development, and new business growth. As with weeds in the garden, violence stifles new growth; for opportunity to take root, violence must be addressed. CeaseFire has long argued that to make progress in a conflict-ridden community or country requires that the violence be addressed first.

The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), a think-tank dedicated to exploring the intersections between business, economics and peace has been demonstrating the value of peace to the global economy since 2007. As they state on their website:

Economic development, business and peace are interlinked. There is little doubt that peace creates more economic benefits to a society than violence or war. Peace is conducive to business and areas of minimal violence are attractive to business investors. At the same time, business can play a decisive role in building and strengthening global peace through job and wealth creation.
IEP produces the annual Global Peace Index gauging ongoing domestic conflict in the United States, as well as international conflict. Taking numerous factors into consideration IEP looks at the safety and security in society, as well as the militarization in 153 countries. The 2011 findings indicate that if the world had been 25 percent more peaceful in the past year that the global economy would have reaped a US$2 trillion economic benefit.

IEP is the brainchild of Steve Killelea, an Australian IT entrepreneur, who sees the “Peace Industry” as essential to our survival as a species. Killelea isn’t an alarmist (which may make his concerns all the more alarming), but a pragmatic visionary. He not only has the perceptive forethought to see the inter-relations between economic, ecological, and human forces at work on a global scale, but as the largest individual donor to overseas aid in Australia to invest in practical solutions that can reverse these trends.

CeaseFire has followed IEP’s work for several years now. While the 2011 research indicates the world is less peaceful for the third straight year, IEP’s promote the economic as well as humanitarian importance of investing in peace should itself inspire hope.