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February 23, 2023

Professor Arie Kacowicz Shares His Perspective on the Unintended Consequences of Peaceful Borders

On February 23, the Georgetown Americas Institute hosted Arie M. Kacowicz, Aaron and Cecile Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University and the Chaim Weizmann Chair in International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Kacowicz discussed illicit transnational flows in the context of the Americas and shared the insights of the book he co-authored, The Unintended Consequences of Peace: Peaceful Borders and Illicit Transnational Flows (2021). This event was moderated by Denisse Yanovich, GAI managing director.

Arie Kacowicz discusses his new book with Georgetown students
Arie Kacowicz discusses his new book with Georgetown students

Unintended Consequences of Peace

Kacowicz explained that while the opening of borders in the Americas led to an increase of trade between nations, there’s evidence to suggest that it also caused an increase of illicit transnational flows, crime, and terrorism. In his book, Kacowicz and co-authors argue that international peace creates an environment that facilitates the illicit flow of goods and services due to less strict security measures between the borders of peaceful countries. He suggested that there are specific conditions which might enable illicit products and activities to occur between the borders, such as the degree of institutional and economic strength of both countries.

What Explains Illicit Transnational Flows?

Kacowicz explained that understanding the economies on both sides of any border were key to understanding the flow of illicit goods and services. He argued that if two countries share a border and they are both in good and comparable economic standing, they are less likely to encounter illicit transnational goods and services at the border. Similarly, it is likely to find a greater volume and variety of illicit flows at the border of two countries with notable economic disparities. The same principle applies for governance and institutional strength, where countries do not have the capacity to effectively monitor and control their borders.

Arie Kacowicz presents to a group of Georgetown students at the Mortara Center
Arie Kacowicz presents to a group of Georgetown students at the Mortara Center

Lessons Learned and Paths Forward

“Always promote and prefer peace, but be aware of its potential unintended consequences.” - Arie Kacowicz

Kacowicz concluded that “peace is a permissive condition that enables proliferation of illicit transnational flows.” However, there are certain cases where this is exacerbated by economic disparities or significant differences in institutional strength. He also noted some geopolitical implications that exacerbated illicit transnational flows, such as in the case of Central American countries, that find themselves in the path of the biggest drug producers and consumers. In addition, he suggested considering the importance of the Latin American historical context—particularly its legacy of civil wars and U.S. interventionism—when it comes to border security. Finally, Kacowicz provided policy recommendations, such as strengthening state capacities, increasing cooperation among nations at every possible level, and being aware of the implications of peaceful borders.