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October 2010

How to assist fragile countries challenged by weak governance

Nicholas van Praag's picture
 
      Alternative aid channels
 

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the headlines again. This time it’s not about rape and escalating violence in the eastern provinces but because donors are threatening to withhold aid as fears grow about governance, particularly in the mining and energy sectors where many foreign companies compete for concessions.

For most donors, turning the aid tap on and off is a standard response to what they perceive to be poor performance or bad behavior on the part of recipient governments.

Given the pressures from their stakeholders back home, it’s no surprise. Cutting foreign assistance to errant governments is a blunt instrument but it sends a clear message.

In some places it may work. In fragile states, however, it can set things way back.

The risk of violent conflict correlates closely with poor governance and weak institutions. Tampering with the aid spigot can make matters worse for countries that need external support to restore confidence and create institutions that are better able to manage violence.

Research for the WDR shows that the volatility of aid to fragile states is far greater than flows to countries whose situation is less precarious. For example, aid from the World Bank and other donors to Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and Haiti has seen major swings, with donor allocations reflecting competing priorities and short-term deteriorations or improvements in governance.

Dangerouser and dangerouser? Aid workers on the front lines

Nicholas van Praag's picture
   Threatened symbol of neutrality

When I was working as a field officer with UNHCR in eastern Sudan in the mid 1980s, the living conditions were tough but we did not fear for our lives.

A couple of years later, a faction of the PLO attacked the Acropole Hotel in Khartoum, the city’s main hang-out for aid workers and journalists.  Four people were killed and more injured.

The aid fraternity was in shock at what they saw as a dagger lunged into the heart of their community.

Today, such an incident would still get headlines but stories of attacks and kidnappings of aid workers are depressingly familiar.

As the amount of overseas development assistance going to countries in conflict or affected by conflict rises, the growing numbers of humanitarian and development staff frequently find themselves in harm’s way.

This trend is due in part to the recurrence of violence.  Research for the WDR shows that many conflict-hit countries experience repeated violent episodes.

The linear progression from war and destruction to peace and development is now the exception rather than the rule.

This means that aid workers are increasingly caught up in the ebb and flow of conflict rather than coming in when the guns fall definitively silent.

WDR 2011 launches new website!

Nicholas van Praag's picture

New WDR 2011 Website

We are pleased this week to unveil our newly revamped WDR 2011 website. Designed to be more user friendly and to make the World Development Report 2011 accessible to a wider audience, we hope the new website will be a boon to anyone interested in finding out more about conflict and development.

We are especially excited to introduce our Data Visualizer comprising our Conflict Database. Previously, information about conflict was dispersed.  The WDR team has brought it together in a single database covering civil war, homicides, terrorism, and trafficking, as well as socio-economic, demographic and political data – more than 300 variables in one place available online through the Bank’s open data initiative.

Among our other new features are Faces of Conflict, a series of video interviews with experts and people affected by conflict. We will be collecting footage through the WDR Flip Challenge in which 10 Flip cameras have been distributed to World Bank staff around the world to document their experiences with conflict and community efforts to reduce it. We will be putting up videos as we receive them, so be sure to check back for updates.

 

Our new interactive map allows users to acquaint themselves with the consultations around the world guiding the WDR and its thinking. Flags in the map indicate meeting locations with summaries of the consultation sessions with national and regional organizations, policymakers, experts and civil society just a click away.  

 

20 years after conflict: Mauritania

James Martone's picture

It’s almost time to stop work for the day in the village of Fass in southern Mauritania near that country’s border with Senegal.

38-year-old farmer Omar has been picking eggplant and hot-peppers since dawn in the hot sun. He says he makes enough to support his wife and six children, but that he’d hoped to do something different with his high school degree:

“What spoiled it for me is 1989,” he says, referring to the Mauritanian-Senegalese border conflict which sent tens of thousands of black Mauritanians like Omar fleeing into neighboring Senegal.

Photo: James Martone. Elders in the village of Fass in southern Mauritania say they will never forget the violent events of their country’s 1989-1991 conflict with neighboring Senegal.

Omar says that when he finally came back to Rosso in 1993, the area was destroyed and neither he nor his brothers could find jobs.

“We tried many different things, but we ended up in agriculture.”

 

In April 1989, a dispute between Senegal and Mauritania over grazing rights erupted into violence. In both nations, people thought to be linked to the other side were forced into exile. Violence in ethnically mixed Mauritania led about 70,000 black Mauritanians to flee to Senegal. When the conflict ended in 1991, many of those, like Omar, slowly trickled back.

 

Soulaymanou never left.

 

The black Mauritanian from the southern city of Rosso says he stayed in his hometown during the conflict 20 years ago, despite Arab lynch mobs and police attacks on blacks. He stopped going to high school, bought a gun and holed himself up with his family in their small house for three months.