A “hearts and minds” model of conflict posits that development aid, by bringing tangible benefits, will increase population support for the government. This increased support in turn can lead to a decrease in violence, partly through a rise in population cooperation and information sharing with the government. At least one previous observational study in Iraq found that development aid is indeed associated with a decrease in conflict.
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Imagine that one day you are forced to leave your home with only the clothes on your back. You have no house, land, supplies, work or friends. You cannot return. The only thing you have left is your will to survive and to protect your family. You arrive in a new city to start from scratch. Everything seems overwhelming. You realize you have lost in two ways: as a woman and now as a displaced person.
This is the experience of millions of displaced women in Colombia, such as the ones we met at the Foundation for Development and Progress (FUNDESPRO) in Bogota.The Foundation works with the government to aid victims, especially women, of the Colombian civil conflict, as part of a World Bank initiative supported through the Peace and Development Program.
A perennially relevant question is making the rounds again in the wake of the Arab Spring: Why can't anyone predict revolutions? (See Sina's "quote of the week," for example.) The issue is again raised in this piece by Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell, in conjunction with Foreign Policy's seventh annual publication of its Failed States Index (FSI).
The article seems geared toward explaining why the FSI didn't "predict" the Arab Spring, and it discusses the fact that indices are generally better at providing snapshots rather than acting as crystal balls. It also notes that while the FSI has captured some elements of political destabilization in the Middle East, it has missed others. Experts quoted in the article note that revolutions may be inherently difficult to predict, due to the so-called "demonstration effect" (whereby revolutions, aided by satellite television and other advances in communication technology, allegedly spread by contagion) and other factors.
Twenty years ago, the French philosopher, sociologist and political commentator, Jean Baudrillard wrote an essay entitled “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place”. Published in French and British Newspapers (Libération and The Guardian), it attracted huge criticism from people like Christopher Norris, who castigated Baudrillard and other postmodern intellectuals for arguing the Gulf conflict was unreal and essentially fictive. Some even labelled Baudrillard “a theoretical terrorist”. He was not, however, in denial that lives were lost nor that “more explosives were dropped in the two months of the Gulf War than the entire allied air attacks in World War II”. His central issue was one of interpretation and the presentation of the facts through a media lens – his concern was whether these events could be called a war.
Disaster management 2.0: scalable human connections fired by high technology
Scalability, virtual communities and Web 2.0 have changed the world of disaster response. The most successful and disruptive inventions of modern times owe much of their success to scalability. Although people always had the ability to read books, it was only with the invention of the printing press that it became possible for millions of people to do so. Web 2.0 and social media make the ability to connect with people scalable. Scalable human connections combined with open source software and platforms, and unprecedented computing power, results in human-machine synergy also being scaled up. This human-machine synergy results in disruptive technology innovations. Such disruptive innovations have most recently been seen in the area of humanitarian support to disaster and conflict affected countries. USB drives were an innovation that disrupted the market for floppy disks. Although they are not likely to go the way of the floppy disk, the world of traditional disaster relief organizations with proprietary systems, closed data sets and bureaucracy have been up-ended by the disruptive human-machine synergies of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourced humanitarian volunteer organizations.
We see donation appeals everywhere these days - to help the people in Japan, to help the people in Darfur, to help the people in Haiti. What influences our decision to give? An interesting study comes from British psychologists, who analyzed how individuals respond to donation appeals in the wake of man-made disasters - like war - versus natural disasters. The authors around Hanna Zagefka from Royal Holloway University in London found that natural disasters elicit more donations than those caused by people. Their explanation: people tend to assign some blame to the victims of man-made disaster, while they blame no one for being overrun by a Tsunami.
These days, there is simply no avoiding the news. In a season of spectacular events coming one on top of the other -- revolutions, tsunamis, slayings of master-terrorists -- it is clearer than ever that we now have unparalleled means to follow what is going on, the very latest developments, even minute by minute updates. You no longer have to wait for the evening news or the hourly news on radio. There are now live-blogs and live-streams of visual images around major events. Your computer, even at work, can bring you the very latest news. Click on the Aljazeera live-stream, for instance, and you have a court-side seat in the arena of the Arab Spring. Tweets are updating global audiences on all kinds of issues. If you have a 3G or 4G phone, you can follow the news on the move in living color. And if you have a tablet device...ha, you are in news junkie heaven!
Without a doubt, we are the first humans to run the risk of drowning in a tempest of news. This has at least three interesting consequences.
The World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings concluded Sunday, having brought renewed attention to the impact of the food crisis, challenges facing conflict-affected states, and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, among other issues.
In case you missed one of the many announcements or discussions held over the last two weeks, here are a few highlights:
Food prices are the biggest threat today to the world’s poor, World Bank President Bob Zoellick told reporters at an April 16 press conference following the meeting of the Development Committee of the World Bank and IMF. “We are one shock away from a full-fledged crisis,” said Zoellick.
In their final communiqué, Committee members expressed concern that “overheating in some sectors, especially food and energy, is resulting in price pressures and volatility.”
The World Bank has just published its annual World Development Report, something it has been doing for more than three decades. [Disclosure: this economist has been contributing comments to early drafts of the WDR for the past 20 years.] The new volume is about security and development. It says that societies are constantly under internal and external “stresses”—think corruption, youth unemployment, racial discrimination, religious competition, foreign invasion, and international terrorism.