Launched today, the 2011 World Development Report  is on “Conflict, Security and Development.” In making a presentation on its relevance to Africa to my World Bank colleagues, I counted six messages that are new and different.
1. 21st century violence is different from 20th century violence.
2. Conflict and violence are caused by a combination of weak institutions and external stresses.
3. Build good-enough coalitions to break the cycle of repeated violence.
4. Create jobs, even with second-best approaches that are inefficient and likely not sustainable.
5. Address external stresses alongside institution building.
6. International partners should do more good than harm.
More on each on them:
1. 21st century violence is different from 20th century violence. The former is characterized by repeated cycles of conflict and violence. Political violence in apartheid-era South Africa was followed by criminal violence, conflict in Guinea-Bissau by drug-trafficking-related violence. These cycles mean that the economies of some fragile states are caught in a low-level equilibrium trap.
2. Conflict and violence are caused by a combination of weak institutions and external stresses. While this may seem obvious, it suggests an economic model of violent conflict that I haven’t seen before. The decision to engage in violent conflict has a type “collective action” problem associated with it. The cost to any individual in taking up arms is lower the greater is the number of other people taking up arms. But you don’t always know who else is going to join the fight. What external stresses, such as food price spikes, natural disasters or widespread drug trafficking, do is provide a “focal point”—information that everybody receives—to solve this collective action problem.
3. Build good-enough coalitions to break the cycle of repeated violence.This means going against our instincts in divided societies to have a “big tent” and bring everybody under it. You may need to exclude some groups, as Colombia did, in order to get enough of a coalition that restores confidence in collective action.
4. Create jobs, even with second-best approaches that are inefficient and likely not sustainable. For instance, public works schemes are often very costly ways of creating employment, but using demobilized soldiers to rebuild roads in Liberia helped both the demobilization and infrastructure goals.
5. Address external stresses alongside institution building. There may be a special role for the international community here, because some of these stresses—such as terms of trade shocks or drug trafficking—are the result of factors outside the fragile states themselves.
6. International partners should do more good than harm. This may sound like a platitude, but it’s worth repeating because too often we may be doing the opposite. The problem is that external partners don’t sufficiently distinguish between fragile and non-fragile states. For instance, we provide budget support to both types of countries. In the latter, the aid is intended to stimulate growth and poverty reduction through policy and institutional reforms. In the former, it is essentially “life support”—to pay civil servants’ salaries and reduce the chances of a resumption of conflict. The criteria should not be the same. Likewise, the total volume of aid is typically conditioned on performance ; but if these countries are caught in a low-level equilibrium trap, perhaps aid should also be conditioned on “need”—so that they can emerge from the trap.