■ Collier, Paul, 2007. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It. New York: Oxford University Press. xiii + 205 pp. ISBN 0195311450

AuthorGudrun Østby
Published date01 January 2008
Date01 January 2008
Subject MatterArticles
Andrew, Christoper & Vassily Mitrokhin,
2005. The World Was Going Our Way: The
KGB and the Battle for the Third World.
New York: Basic; London: Allan Lane. 677 pp.
ISBN 0713993596.
While the Soviet Union had trouble keeping up
with the West in direct economic and military con-
frontation, things seemed, for many years, to go
quite well in the Third World. The KGB believed
that the Cold War could be won there and made
great efforts to recruit friends for the Soviet Union
by a variety of means, including overt and covert
interventions and disinformation campaigns. Our
knowledge of the KGB’s foreign operations have
been greatly advanced by the defection of Vassily
Mitrokhin, a former archivist in the KGB’s foreign
intelligence division. Like its predecessor –
The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive
and the Secret History of the KGB, 1999; see JPR
37(3) – this book is a collaborative effort between
Mitrokhin and a leading Western intelligence
historian. The book systematically reviews KGB
operations by region and provides a comprehensive
picture based on Mitrokhin’s extensive archival
notes as well as other sources. The book is short on
attempts to draw general lessons, but one plausible
generalization is that the KGB’s record in the Third
World is largely a story of opportunities missed.
Regardless of the subtlety or the brutality of its covert
operations, the failure of the Soviet Union to provide
an attractive alternative model to democracy and the
market economy proved decisive. Based on the
wealth of new material revealed by Mitrokhin, we
should expect Soviet intelligence and covert
action to be more closely integrated into histories
of the Cold War, as indeed the operations of the
CIA and other Western intelligence agencies have
been for decades.
Nils Petter Gleditsch
Birkman, Jörn, ed., 2006. Measuring Vulner-
ability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster
Resilient Societies. New York: United Nations
University Press. xxvi + 524 pp. ISBN 9280811355.
More than forty authors have contributed to
this volume, presenting different approaches for
measuring and assessing countries’ risk and
vulnerability towards natural disasters. Sections
range from theoretical discussions of central con-
cepts, such as hazard, vulnerability, resilience and
coping capacity, to presentations of different
frameworks for analysing them. The empirical
part is mainly quantitatively oriented but with
some qualitative sections, and informative graph-
ics are used extensively. Several of the authors
highlight the importance of getting policy makers’
attention in advance to prevent a crisis, rather
than just limiting the damage after a disaster has
struck. However, what becomes clear from read-
ing this book is the diversity of the field the
authors are trying to cover, which, combined with
a lack of consensus about global standards for
measuring and analysing and, as always, the
problem of insuff icient data, clearly points to the
need for more research in this field. Thus, this
book serves as a good starting point, offering a
broad presentation of ‘what’s out there’. But, as
the long concluding chapter also stresses, the con-
clusions so far are few, and the major conclusion
to draw from the book is ‘that more comparative
assessments of existing methodologies and ap-
proaches in similar locations and situations are
required; without them it will be difficult to assess
and judge the feasibility and range of the differ-
ent approaches’ (p. 432).
Marit Brochmann
Collier, Paul, 2007. The Bottom Billion: Why
the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be
Done About It. New York: Oxford University
Press. xiii + 205 pp. ISBN 0195311450.
Although global poverty is falling quite rapidly
overall, a group of about 50 failing states consti-
tute the minority of developing countries that are
still lagging behind, at the very bottom of the
global economic system. In The Bottom Billion,
one of the world’s leading experts on African eco-
nomies, Paul Collier, shows what is happening to
this poorest billion people and what can be done
to improve their desperate conditions and poverty.
As Collier explains most of the countries in the
‘bottom billion’ are caught in one, or more, of four
traps from which it is seemingly impossible to
© 2008 Journal of Peace Research,
vol. 45, no. 1, 2008, pp. 121–126
Sage Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi
and Singapore) http://jpr.sagepub.com
DOI 10.1177/0022343307084927
Book Notes_JPR_121-126.qxd 12/14/2007 2:41 PM Page 121

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