The Reach of Radio: Defection Messaging and Armed Group Behavior
Contributors: Alex Armand, Joseph Gomes
Financing: Fundación Ramón Areces

There are very few studies intended to comprehend the incentives that agents that participate in conflicts have, as well as the formulation of viable policies for conflict resolution and peacemaking. In this project, we plan to use information from the most recent literature on labour economics and novel econometric methods to reduce this deficiency. 

Since Becker's Crime and Punishemt: An Economic Approach (1968) publication, a considerable amount of investigations on labour economics has proven that criminal activity can be explained as an alternative to income derived from work.    

However, in recent literature this trade-off has focused on the problem of participation, where a potential thief has to decide between violence or work, but few have put their focus on the problems of defection, when individuals have the opportunity to leave arms behind and return to civil life.  

Our project will focus on two different lines. First, we will see how diverse disincentives affect the decision conflict-work for individual agents by influencing the cost opportunity of remaining in violence once this decision has already been made. Second, we will contribute to the armed conflict literature that focuses on asymmetric information and incomplete recruiting as a reason why rebels decide to fight.

To do this the project will focus on the Lord Resistance Army (LRA). FM radio messaging has been used to fight armed groups in remote areas, such as the LRA, due to its ability to reach distant locations and its cost-effectiveness. The investigators will analyze the success of programs targeted at armed groups, such as the radio program “Return Home”, initiated in northern Uganda around the year 2000. This specific program included interviews with combatants who had defected, personal messages from family and community members, news on the conflict and also logistic information on how to surrender without any risk. In the LRA context, radio was also used as a mean to convince insurgents about the credibility of the national amnesty law, which covered LRA combatants in Uganda.

Working Papers

The Reach of Radio: Defection Messaging and Armed Group Behavior