In late May I visited Belfast as part of the WDR 2011 roadshow. During my visit, I discussed the report's main findings and recommendations with the Community Relations Council, which focuses on promoting cultural diversity and better community relations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
World Development Report 2011
“…if you look at the experience of low-income, fragile states over the last 25 years, the lack of progress in health and education is pretty stunning… No single low income fragile state has achieved or will achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals. And believe me, this is not for lack of trying, it is not for lack of investment in health and education, it is for a lack of success in transforming institutions.”
I spent a lot of time this week hanging out with my friend Edward Girardet. He’s in Washington, D.C. ahead of the launch of his book that traces the history of international engagement in Afghanistan over the past 30 years or so.
Killing the Cranes is a deeply personal tale that includes an account of Girardet’s brush with Osama Bin Laden before he (Osama) became a household name. He also describes trekking through the Hindu Kush to interview the leader of the United Front, Ahmed Shah Massoud, during the war against the Soviet Union. This photograph captures that encounter.
Girardet has reported on the region ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and has known three generations of aid workers. I asked him if they had changed.
I came to the World Development Report with years of field experience in conflict-affected countries, but I learned some startling things from the exercise.
One is that violence today is very different from the violence of the Cold War era. Another is that how to escape from persistent violence isn’t something we can really learn from academic or policy literature — we need to listen to those who have managed actual transitions from violence to stability.
When I joined the Bank in 1981, Cold War politics dominated the debate on violence. Proxy wars between the US and its allies and the Communist Bloc were playing out across the world. Researchers and policy-makers, caught up in this global contest, focused on the wars that formed the pieces of this jigsaw. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the eclipse of Soviet power, a great deal changed. There was a brief surge in the number of civil wars in the mid-1990s, but since then the incidence of “conventional” civil war (wars for political control of the state) has declined. Inter-state warfare is also rare now.
In places where conditions are ripe for political change, actually unseating tyrannical regimes requires a spark to light the tinder of revolution. But where does that spark come from?
|In the vanguard|
The upcoming World Development Report argues that there is no one push factor. Rather, it shows how a wide range of domestic and international stresses—including economic inequality, political oppression and corruption—can eventually bring a country to its knees if its institutions are unable to mediate tensions and overcome stresses.
But, absent an institutional set-up capable of heading off the pressures before they boil over, when does enough become too much?
Many people are wary and their natural reticence may win out.
I was reading last weekend that most people in the UK pay parking fines—even when they are given erroneously—rather than go through the hassle of complaining.
If that is the case in the UK, what does it take to ignite direct action in places where the dissuasive powers of the authorities are used to scare people into submission?