I am constantly startled by references to “population growth” as a cause of a number of development challenges. Whether it’s urbanization, food security, or water scarcity, all too often “population growth” is cited as a cause for pessimism or even a reason not to strive for progress. I can almost see Thomas Malthus grinning at me from the shadows.
It gets worse. I recently reviewed a paper where higher fertility among minorities was touted as an explanation for their poverty! A few months ago, a respected professional wrote asking why we weren’t doing more on family planning, since fertility in Africa would pretty much stymie any efforts to provide infrastructure-based services! I hear statements to this effect routinely from policy makers in charge of infrastructure ministries and projects (“how can we keep up with the population?” or “nothing we do will be enough unless we control the population”) but am always amazed when I hear them from scientists of different hues.
So I thought I’d try to set the record straight:
Fragility Conflict and Violence
The World Bank’s Country Survey Program has been surveying key influencers, in nearly all of its client countries systematically, since 2012, in order to assess and track their views over time. These respondents come from a range of stakeholder groups including government, media, private sector, civil society and academia. The views of respondents from government (i.e., the offices of presidents/prime ministers/ministers/parliamentarians, employees of ministries, including PMUs, and other governmental bodies) are the focus of this blog (and how their views compare to those outside of government), because this group is one that Bank Group interacts with the most in ‘client’ mode. In a sense, the Country Surveys are really ‘client satisfaction’ surveys when it comes to the thousands of government respondents who participate.
How do these government ‘clients’ think the Bank Group is faring in fragile and conflict states? How do they perceive our engagement on the ground? How can the Bank do better? Where is the perceived Bank Group niche, according to those who own the projects and programs that the Bank supports?
For the past two years, the rains have been poor in Somalia. What comes next is tragically familiar. Dry wells. Dying livestock. Failed harvests. Migration. Masses of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The same is happening in Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. However, poor rains are not the only water problem that creates havoc. Floods, water-borne diseases, and transboundary water conflicts can all cause severe human suffering and disruptions to political, economic, and environmental systems.
The fragile and conflict situations in which the World Bank Group supports development programs are seen as a top and increasingly urgent strategic priority for the institution and donors, and the Bank Group is increasing attention and focus there (note the WBG’s paper “The Forward Look”). The statistics related to fragile situations are staggering. Two billion people live in countries where development outcomes are affected by fragility, conflict and violence. Nearly fifty percent of the global poor is predicted to be living in fragile and conflict affected situations by 2030. Terrorism incidents have increased and forced displacement is a global crisis.
The WBG pays close attention to what its key stakeholders in client countries think about development and the work of the Bank through its Country Opinion Survey program - a mandated survey effort that assesses the views of influential across the Bank’s client countries annually (40+ countries/year on three year cycles). By keeping ‘ears to the ground’ it can understand what the institution’s key stakeholders think about their own development situations, the Bank’s work within this context, and how the Bank can increase its value in these increasingly difficult and complicated situations. The data below reflects opinions from more than one thousand opinion leaders in FCV countries.
After a war or a disaster, we naturally think of the victims and survivors. But think, too, of those who have to put all the pieces back together again. Their task is immense, and the lives and well-being of thousands or millions depends on getting it right.
I saw such a process first-hand in Aceh, Indonesia, a region that suffered the unfortunate circumstances of being both a post-conflict and post-disaster region. A three-decade war had already taken 15,000 lives and left the province economically isolated when an earthquake and tsunami struck in December 2004. Entire communities were washed away. Infrastructure—roads, bridges, ports and more—lay in ruins. Schools, hospitals and government offices that remained were unable to function. Huge swaths of coastline, as well as the provincial capital, were covered in debris. Worst of all, over 200,000 were dead or missing, and survivors were left homeless and without food or water.
How do you begin to recover from such a catastrophe? Where do you even start?
Photo Credit: United Nations
Development of infrastructure services is often a central feature for rebuilding fragile and conflict affected states (FCSs). One of the reasons is that infrastructure is often devastated by conflict, making provision of water, power, communications and transportation priorities for recovery efforts. Another reason is that equitable distribution of services may be an important feature of a peace agreement and any appearance of unfairness could spark renewed unrest. Whatever the motivation, without proper planning for governance, the development can falter.
There are two governance challenges with infrastructure in FCSs. One is that the urgency to provide service sometimes overshadows developing systems that can easily transition from something quickly built to infrastructure with sound governance that grows and matures as the country progresses. Another challenge is establishing regulations that encourage investment by protecting property rights. And given the diversity of FCSs situations, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
How can development professionals advance good infrastructure governance amongst the turbulence and urgency of infrastructure recovery in FCSs? PPIAF and the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) at the University of Florida recently launched a web portal to assist in this work.
Why is gender important for development in environments affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV), in the context of your work?
Even though we know that or sexual violence at the hand of a non-partner, we have yet to fully understand the complexity and different manifestations of gender-based violence (GBV) experienced by women and girls in conflict.
We do know that women and girls experience increased violence, because of the breakdown in social fabric that regulates the use of violence, the lack of security and services, and the reality of being forcibly displaced and living in areas where there is no protection. UNHCR estimates that globally, women and girls comprise about half of internally displaced or stateless populations.
We are learning that the Syrian crisis has led to increases in early marriage, and has severely limited women’s mobility. Girls are not given access to education because they are not allowed to leave their homes. Women in Iraq who are widowed enter into temporary marriages to collect dowry and provide food and shelter for their families. While in these temporary marriages, they are often sexually and physically assaulted.
The increased vulnerability of women and girls in FCV and the entrenchment of norms and attitudes that contribute to violence and eat away at women’s autonomy are reasons why it is especially important to always bear in mind how FCV affects women and men, girls and boys differently.
Tell us about your experience working in this area.
I led the creation of the Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide which was developed and launched in partnership with the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) at George Washington University, and the Inter-American Development Bank in 2014. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) joined the partnership in June 2015.
The guide was created to provide basic information on the characteristics and consequences of violence against women and girls, including operational implications. It offers guidance on how to integrate prevention and the provision of quality services to violence survivors within a range of sectoral projects. The guide highlights potential entry points and partners to engage with, while recommending strategies for integrating violence against women and girls into policies and legislation, sector programs and projects. The guide gathers existing global evidence and emerging promising practices, including those implemented by several teams across the World Bank.
In addition, we are partnering with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative out of the Medical Research Council of South Africa to address the dearth of evidence. The Development Marketplace for Innovations to Prevent Gender-Based Violence is funding innovation in GBV prevention and response around the world -- including in FCV countries. Two of the nine projects we funded last year are working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey. The funding in Lebanon, for example, will help us better understand the drivers of early marriage and how men, women, boys and girls understand this phenomenon. This information will give us the data we need to design an intervention to address the root causes of early marriage.
How can we take this agenda forward?
The new World Bank Group Gender Strategy and commitments under the International Development Association (IDA) give us the opportunity to continue our research and improve our understanding of the different ways in which FCV affects women and men. We can also integrate into our operations measures to address GBV and increase economic opportunities as well as access to labor markets for women, while also increasing access to assets and services.
I hope to use my experiences of working for almost a decade in humanitarian settings and GBV to provide technical support and share examples of evidence-based interventions that we can use across the World Bank’s programs in FCV to help women and girls in these environments.
- gender equality
- Fragility Conflict and Violence
- International Development Association (IDA)
- Syrian Crisis
- refugee crisis
- VAWG Resource Guide
- violence against women and girls
- Gender-Based Violence
- Sustainable Communities
- #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
and what a difference a group of young Lebanese men and women are making to advocate for peace to make a difference!
Their ages range between 16 to 25 years old. They are poor and unemployed. They once fought each other, literally, in their sectarian-divided Lebanese city of Tripoli. Sunni residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Alawite residents of Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods fought each other repeatedly.
But at the beginning of 2015, the government imposed a ceasefire that put an end to the endless rounds of fierce clashes and restored calm in the city.
And that’s when a Lebanese non-profit organization promoting peace through art went there looking for a different kind of recruitment: one of peace. March brought the youth together to perform in a play!
- civil society
- Community Development
- State Fragility
- Fragility Conflict and Violence
- Conflict and Fragility
- Civil War
- Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
- Social Development
- Middle East and North Africa
- Sustainable Communities
The publication of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' global trends in forced displacement for 2015 report this week made the headlines. For yet another year in a row, the number of forcibly displaced persons has been increasing, reaching an estimated 65 million people worldwide.
If all these people were living in a country, it would be more populated than the UK. . Their presence also transforms the environment in which host countries and communities are designing and implementing their own poverty reduction efforts.
Behind such statistics there is an immense amount of human suffering. The personal story of each forcibly displaced person is often heart-breaking. Multiplied by 65 million it makes for a global tragedy.
Most public-private partnership (PPP) trainings open with speakers who review definitions of PPPs, outline their “Dos and Don’ts,” and illustrate the path to success with dazzling Power Point presentations. But at the International Finance Corporation (IFC)’s first PPP training seminar for representatives from fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) earlier this year, we swore off business as usual in favor of an interactive discussion among participants. Throughout, we tailored the conversation to the expectations of participants, who already knew that our number one expectation was their active participation.
As soon as we kicked off the meeting, participants were encouraged to loosen their ties and scarves, prepare to tell their stories, and engage with us on the journey. It was an unusual start to a rigorous three-day training – and it worked.