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Segregated, Ghettoized, Polarized and Insular? Who, Me?

Naniette Coleman's picture

A few weeks ago David Brooks, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times, unearthed the roots of an important discussion that began with Cass Sunstein’s 2001 essay entitled “The Daily We: Is the internet really a blessing for democracy?” Brooks’ take on Sunstein branches in two directions:  tension and composure. Tension because “the internet might lead us to a more ghettoized, polarized and insular electorate”. Composure due to recent work by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro called “Ideological Segregation Online and Offline” which presents a different take on our what Sunstein called “personalization”. 

Conflict and Development: Where is Conflict Concentrated in South Asia?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

After Iraq, South Asia is the second most violent place on earth. Conflict has increased in South Asia during the last decade. Where is conflict concentrated? What can be done about it?

Conflict is a very broad term, which is often defined differently in different contexts and data sets. We can, however, consider two broad classes of conflict. The first category includes conflict against the State. Examples of this include civil war or terrorism, which is an extreme manifestation of conflict, and it reflects a certain degree of organization of conflict. It is carried out by a relatively organized group of non-state actors, and directed against the State. Some researchers choose to focus on terrorism as a measure of conflict, because it has implications for the overall stability of the state itself, and therefore its ability to implement any developmental policy. The second category includes people-to-people conflict, rather than directed against the State. Examples of this include localized land conflicts, religious riots, homicides or other crimes. They too have adverse implications for development, but are probably less severe, compared to terrorism.

Provoking Exit, not Loyalty, in Post-Conflict States

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You know the usual story: a political community is sundered by ethnic or sectarian conflict, things fall apart; after a hot season or two of killings and mayhem peace is negotiated, and the domestic political process resumes. The international community insists on elections. They are held in a rough and ready manner, a faction wins and forms a government. Then what happens? The winners start using the powers of the state to smash opponents anew and entrench themselves in power. Very often, the winners do this just because they can. I call them the new authoritarians. They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. 
 

Media Without Borders

Caroline Jaine's picture

We are unstoppable when it comes to communicating.  “Communicate” means “to share” and it comes as second nature (it’s socially addictive in fact).  The 300 million of us blogging can rarely be silenced.  A comment on a Minister’s blog can provoke a policy change.   A micro-blog can influence a legal challenge (the Trafigura/Carter Ruck affair) or inspire masses (the Iranian elections were the top news story on Twitter last year).  And a social network group like Facebook can undermine an X-Factor winner’s success (a winner ironically chosen by “the people” by telephone vote).  It is the public, not governments that are beginning to drive change. But whether we like it or not it’s still mainstream media that is being listened to most – TV, radio and most powerful of all – the old fashioned newspaper read out loud.  It’s more coherent, more organised, and usually better written than the complex voice of the masses.  Big media still counts.  
 

Fragile States Are Hard to Lump Together

Tom Grubisich's picture

"Fragile states" -- the subject of the next Global Development Marketplace competition -- can't be put in one box.  Or two or even three boxes (i.e. in conflict, post-conflict, or threatened by conflict or political unrest).  The World Bank chart below shows how fragile states that aren't "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPCs) can compare favorably to non-fragile HIPCs based on key indicators such as poverty, school enrollment, and mortality rates for children under five years of age.  The exception is in the poverty category in the "last available year" section of the chart where non-fragile HIPCs reverse the 1990-2006 average and perform better. (Some HIPCs have had their debt forgiven wholly or partially, while others have not yet advanced to either stage.)

The World Bank Data Visualization chart (below) in general mirrors the first chart's findings.  It ranks a mix of fragile and non-fragile states by per-capita gross national income (horizontal axis) and per-capita gross domestic product (vertical axis).  The highest-performing countries (green balls) are, right to left, upper-middle-income Gabon, South Africa, Mauritius, and Botswana, all of which are non-fragile and not heavily indebted.  The next highest-performing countries (the cluster of blue [poorest countries] and red balls [lower-middle income countries]) include Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Nigeria (biggest blue ball), and Liberia, all of which have been designated fragile but are not heavily indebted.  (Nigeria is a special case.  It was on the World Bank's and other fragile lists as recently as 2008, but off the World Bank's new "interim" "Harmonized List of Fragile Situations" published Nov. 17, 2009.  But the World Bank's 2009 Worldwide Governance Indicators rank Nigeria as the third worst state for "political stability and lack of violence/terrorism," just below Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo.) Many of the blue balls at the lower ends of the two scales represent non-fragile but heavily indebted states.


 

Fragile States should not be forgotten while dealing with the international crisis

William Byrd's picture

Fragile States Panel. Photo: Geetanjali Chopra

Yesterday an exciting panel of committed global experts and international leaders spoke compellingly about the extreme problems faced by countries affected by fragility and conflict, and what can be done. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Managing Director of the World Bank) asked probing questions to the panel of Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion, and Wars, Guns and Votes), Donald Kaberuka (President of the African Development Bank, former Finance Minister of Rwanda), and George Soros (Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation).

 
I will write a more systematic summary paper later; here I am just trying to capture some memorable points that struck me from the lively discussion and debate.

Fragile States Panel. Photo: Geetanjali ChopraOn the one hand a sense of optimism, that the problems of fragile states can be addressed, the world is much more aware of these problems, and fragility is not a permanent condition, although it will require much more money and greater accountability, as well as strong leadership in the countries themselves.

On the other hand the recognition that helping countries move out of fragility and conflict is a long-term and thankless task, the dynamics of these countries often put them in a downward spiral, and it is essential to take advantage of windows of opportunity when they arise – whether at the end of a conflict or when there is political change (because once the windows are gone they are gone), and then have staying power. Deterioration can occur quickly, whereas rebuilding takes years and decades. Important not to lose hope.

Don’t bypass the state but rather use aid to help these countries build institutions, was a key message of the seminar.

More money for fragile and conflict affected countries (although it is tiny in relation to what has been spent on the global financial and economic crisis) needs to be accompanied by greater accountability. There are promising ideas, some of which have begun to be put into practice, that need to be scaled up and taken farther.

Conflict, Displacement, and pro-poor Adaptation

Rasmus Heltberg's picture

Migration is the default adaptation strategy of the poor.

Rising sea levels, more frequent flooding, and droughts could displace millions of people by the middle of the century. And if the predictions of sharply declining agricultural productivity come true, farmers will to an increasing extent abandon rural areas in search of new livelihoods.  

How do we Make People Value Peace?

Caroline Jaine's picture

International Day of Peace on Sunday 21st September is an annual event that has been organised by the UN for more than a quarter of a century.  International Day of Peace is also a day of Global Ceasefire which, if adhered to, provides a small ray of sunshine for those who endure war and conflict and often allows essential food, water, and medical supplies to reach those most in need. The UN have launched an admirable campaign this year, encouraging like-minded global citizens to network, participate and even send text messages of peace to world leaders.  Jeremy Gilley has even made a film about it, set in Afghanistan and starring Jude Law.  But as a Communications Strategist I have been contemplating the difficulties of selling “peace” both in my work with the UK ministry for peace and as research for a book on the subject.


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