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Throughout the developing world, citizens distrust the police and hesitate to bring crimes to their attention—a suboptimal equilibrium that makes it difficult for the police to effectively combat crime and violence. Community policing has been touted as one solution to this problem, but evidence on its efficacy in developing country contexts is sparse. We present results from a large-scale field experiment that randomly assigned a home-grown community policing intervention to police stations throughout rural Uganda. Drawing on administrative crime data and close to 4,000 interviews with citizens, police officers, and local authorities, we show that community policing had limited effects on core outcomes such as crime, insecurity, and perceptions of the police. We attribute these findings to a combination of turnover, treatment non-compliance, and resource constraints. Our study draws attention to the limits of community policing’s potential to reduce crime and build trust in the developing world.

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Working Paper
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February 01, 2022
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IPA’s Peace & Recovery Program (P&R) supports field experiments and related research in several broad areas:

  • Reducing violence and promoting peace
  • Reducing “fragility” (i.e. fostering state capacity)
  • Preventing, coping with, and recovering from crises, focusing on conflict but including non-conflict humanitarian crises such as COVID-19

This document covers the aims, core themes, research questions, and focus countries for our competitive research fund, supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Open Society Foundations (OSF). Please send all inquiries to peace@poverty-action.org

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Report
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February 01, 2022
Spanish

La pandemia causada por el virus del Covid-19 ha cambiado la vida humana como muy pocos acontecimientos lo habían hecho en el pasado: no solo por afectar a miles de personas en todos los continentes, sino por paralizar la vida y la economía como las conocíamos. Poco se sabía del virus cuando varias naciones europeas reportaban miles de contagios y de fallecidos. En países como Colombia, se decretaban cuarentenas nacionales y medidas sanitarias ante una situación de la que poca información se tenía. Según el World Uncertainty Index (wui) realizado por el Fondo Monetario Internacional, la pandemia del Covid-19 ha causado más incertidumbre que cualquier otra crisis sanitaria en la historia o acontecimientos recientes, como los eventos terroristas del 11 de septiembre de 2001, la crisis financiera global de 2008, la crisis del euro a finales de 2009 o el Bréxit en 2016 (Ahir, Bloom y Furceri, 2018).

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January 01, 2022
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We implemented a randomised controlled trial study to measure the impact of one-on-one engagement with local religious leadership on the compliance of protocols at their mosque. Our messaging was a combination of religious appeal and public health guidelines that were interactive, involving frequent elicitation of the respondents’ reactions and agreement, as well as asking them to commit to action. Our study is different from previous strategies of COVID-19 containment as it does not rely on mass messaging but rather focuses on one-on-one engagement with focal community leaders. It aims to improve the implementation and communication of the 20-point plan that was agreed between the government and religious clergy to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, it is not novel in its approach as it is similar to previous interventions like the polio vaccination drive that disseminates knowledge and engages at the community level. Thus, the results from our study can provide valuable insights for strategies used by other public health campaigns to engage the public and build trust, such as polio vaccination and eventually the COVID-19 vaccination.

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January 01, 2022
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Medellín's government wanted to raise its efficacy, legitimacy, and control. The city identified 80 neighborhoods with weak state presence and competing armed actors. In half, they increased nonpolice street presence tenfold for two years, offering social services and dispute resolution. In places where the state was initially weakest, the intervention did not work, mainly because the government struggled to deliver on its promises. Where the state began stronger, the government raised opinions of its services and legitimacy. If there are indeed low marginal returns to investing in capacity in the least-governed areas, this could produce increasing returns to statebuilding.

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Working Paper
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January 01, 2022
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Governments across the developing world rely on their armed forces for domestic policing operations. Advocates of these “mano dura” (iron fist) policies view them as necessary to control violent crime, while detractors claim they undermine human rights. We experimentally evaluate a military policing intervention in Cali, Colombia, the country’s third largest city and among its most violent. The intervention involved recurring, intensive military patrols targeting crime hot spots, randomly assigned at the city block level. Using administrative crime and human rights data, surveys of more than 10,000 Cali residents, and detailed firsthand observations from civilian monitors, we find that military policing had weak (if any) effects on crime while the intervention was ongoing, and adverse effects after it was complete. We observe higher rates of crime, crime witnessing, and crime reporting in the weeks after the intervention, combined with higher rates of arrests. We also find some suggestive evidence of increased human rights abuses, though these appear to have been committed primarily by police officers rather than soldiers. Our results suggest that the benefits of military policing are small and not worth the costs, and that governments should seek other ways to control crime in the world’s most violent cities.

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January 01, 2022
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We examine how trust shapes compliance with public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. We use an endorsement experiment embedded in a mobile phone survey to show that messages from government officials generate more support for public health restrictions than messages from religious authorities, traditional leaders, or international NGOs. We further show that compliance with these restrictions is strongly positively correlated with trust in government, but only weakly correlated with trust in local authorities or other citizens. The relationship between trust and compliance is especially strong for the Ministry of Health and—more surprisingly—the police. We conclude that trust is crucial for encouraging compliance but note that it may be difficult to change, particularly in settings where governments and police forces have reputations for repression.

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January 01, 2022
English

By the year 2030, roughly two thirds of the world’s population living in extreme poverty could be in fragile settings. Innovations for Poverty Action’s Peace & Recovery Program (P&R) aims to improve outcomes for conflict- and crisis-affected populations by building the evidence base on reducing violence and fragility, promoting peace, and preventing, managing, and recovering from crisis. The program prioritizes studies that develop, illustrate, or test fundamental theories of peace, violence, and recovery, especially those that are highly policy-relevant, challenge common beliefs, pioneer innovative interventions, and produce evidence where little currently exists.

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December 28, 2021
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Working in partnership with local police agencies, we conducted six coordinated field experiments in Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Uganda. We collaborated with the police to implement locally appropriate increases in community policing practices. We planned for risks involved in partnering with the police by soliciting reports of police abuse and carefully selecting the areas we worked in and the police units we partnered with. We randomly assigned areas to either the community policing practices or a control group. Our interventions reached approximately 9 million people in 516 treated areas. At the end line, we surveyed 18,382 citizens and 874 police officers and obtained crime data from the police. We conducted experiments in multiple settings with common measures to strengthen the generalizability of our findings and preregistered a joint analysis of the six studies to reduce the risk of publication bias.

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November 26, 2021

In order to understand how refugee crises end we require an understanding of when and why refugees return home. We study the drivers of refugees’ decision-making using original observational and experimental data from a representative sample of 3,003 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We find that conditions in a refugee’s home country are the primary drivers of return intentions. Refugees’ decisions are influenced primarily by safety and security in their place of origin, their economic prospects, and the availability of public services. Personal networks and confidence in information are also important. By contrast, the conditions in refugee-hosting countries—so-called “push” factors—play a much smaller role. Even in the face of hostility and poor living conditions, refugees are unlikely to return unless the situation at home improves significantly. In addition to the data from Lebanon, we explore the generality of our findings using a second original survey of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

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Working Paper
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November 09, 2021
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Humanitarian crises affect over 200 million people globally and exact a large toll on population mental health. We assessed the impact of an economic transfer program on the mental health of internally displaced persons and host populations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We conducted a randomised trial among vulnerable households residing in 25 villages in North Kivu Province, DRC, where a large United Nations program responds to population displacement by providing economic transfers in the form of vouchers for essential household items (EHI). Households that were in need of assistance but outside the program’s standard eligibility criteria were randomly assigned (1:1) to a “voucher” or to “no intervention”. Households in the voucher group received US$50-92 worth of vouchers to use at a fair where EHI, such as blankets, clothes, buckets, and pans, were sold. The head woman of each household was interviewed just before the fair, six weeks and one year after the fair. The primary outcomes were standardized indices of adult’s mental health, children’s physical health, social cohesion, and resilience. Effects were assessed in least-squares regression models adjusting for baseline levels. 

Between August 2017 and March 2018, we enrolled 976 households in the study. 488 were randomly assigned to the EHI voucher and 488 to no intervention. 88% of respondents were female. At baseline, 33% of respondents had an anxiety/depression score suggesting clinical significance. At six weeks, the voucher group had a 0.32 standard deviation units (SDU) improvement on the mental health index (95% CI 0.18 to 0.46), and, after one year, the voucher group had a 0.19 SDU improvement (95% CI 0.02 to 0.34). There were no effects on the child health, social cohesion, or resilience indices.

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Working Paper
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October 14, 2021
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Despite the potential of intergroup contact, there is little rigorous evidence about whether it can build lasting real-world behavior change in areas affected by conflict and ethnic violence. Evidence on the extent to which this tolerance can extend outside the intervention, or spillover to others in the community, is likewise sparse. To test whether positive and cooperative contact can improve relations across groups in post-conflict communities, Salma Mousa (Yale) randomly assigned displaced Christians either to play with Muslims, or fellow Christians, through a two-month soccer league in an ISIS-affected area of Iraq.

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October 05, 2021
Español

A lo largo de la última década, cerca de 5.1 millones de venezolanos han abandonado su país. Colombia ha sido el mayor receptor de estos migrantes: a junio del 2020 el Gobierno Colombiano identificó cerca de 1.74 millones de venezolanos al interior de sus fronteras, de los cuales aproximadamente 986 mil son personas indocumentadas. La composición de esta población tiene características socioeconómicas diversas, aunque destaca que el grueso de los migrantes son personas en condición de trabajar, que buscan conseguir ingresos para ellos y sus familias.

La crisis social desatada por la pandemia del COVID-19 ha agravado la condición de vulnerabilidad de los migrantes venezolanos. ¿Qué mecanismos favorecen el bienestar de esta población? Este resumen de política pública destaca que las redes de migrantes y la posibilidad de acceder a un permiso de permanencia (PEP-RAMV) facilitan el proceso migratorio en Colombia, permitiendo una mayor integración social y económica de la población migrante en la sociedad colombiana y generando efectos positivos en su bienestar.

Para explorar el impacto potencial de estos mecanismos, este documento proporciona una descripción general de (i) la importancia de las redes de migrantes y el PEP-RAMV durante los procesos migratorios, (ii) las diferencias entre estos dos mecanismos, y (iii) cómo ambos mecanismos han mitigado los impactos negativos en los hogares generados por el COVID-19.

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September 21, 2021
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The reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups is a pressing policy challenge. Governments and policymakers often have to change minds among reticent populations and shift perceived community norms in order to pave the way for peaceful reintegration. How can they do so on a mass scale? Previous research shows that messages from trusted authorities can be effective in creating attitude change and shifting perceptions of social norms. In this study, we test whether messages from religious leaders—trusted authorities in many communities worldwide—can change minds and shift norms around an issue related to conflict resolution: the reintegration of former members of violent extremist groups. Our study takes place in Maiduguri, Nigeria, the birthplace of the violent extremist group Boko Haram. Participants were randomly assigned to listen to either a placebo radio message or to a treatment message from a religious leader emphasizing the importance of forgiveness, announcing the leader’s forgiveness of repentant fighters, and calling on followers to forgive. Participants were then asked about their attitudes, intended behaviors, and perceptions of social norms surrounding the reintegration of an ex–Boko Haram fighter. The religious leader message significantly increased support for reintegration and willingness to interact with the ex-fighter in social, political, and economic life (8 to 10 percentage points). It also shifted people’s beliefs that others in their community were more supportive of reintegration (6 to 10 percentage points). Our findings suggest that trusted authorities such as religious leaders can be effective messengers for promoting peace.

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September 09, 2021
Spanish

El uso de fuerzas militares para tareas de seguridad pública se ha convertido en un enfoque común para combatir el crimen y la inseguridad. Los promotores de estas políticas de "mano dura" las consideran necesarias para controlar el crimen, mientras que los detractores afirman que podrían violentar los derechos humanos. En Cali, Colombia, los investigadores llevaron a cabo una evaluación aleatoria de un programa de policía militar llamado “Plan Fortaleza” para medir rigurosamente los impactos de la policía militar en las tasas de criminalidad y los derechos humanos. Los resultados revelaron que el programa de policía militar no tuvo ningún impacto en la delincuencia durante la implementación y tuvo efectos negativos después de su finalización.

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August 09, 2021

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