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Was Keynes right about fragile states?

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Keynes said that “In the long-run we are all dead.” But for people living in fragile states affected by violence, the short run can be deadly too.

The challenge is to balance swift action with long-term stability and security. The two must be carefully paced and sequenced if we are to make progress, both sooner and later.

Not by bricks alone.

Frustration with the slowness of recovery efforts has focused attention on the short-term part of the story. No wonder. We have seen the promise of peace dashed so often by tardy action on meeting immediate needs.

Look at Haiti. Whoever emerges from the presidential elections will be under huge pressure to get a lot done fast, from controlling the cholera epidemic and rebuilding homes to getting intimidating gangs off the streets and creating jobs.

We've been there many times before in fragile places the world over - whether they are emerging from the devastation of violent conflict, exacerbated in Haiti by the earthquake, or about to plunge into it. Neither national leaders nor the international community have been effective enough in responding to the pressures that lead to conflict or reignite its embers.

Speedy action to meet immediate needs is a good start but it is not enough on its own to solve what is perhaps our greatest development challenge -- giving a stake in the future to the 1.5 billion people who are forced to look on as the middle income countries power ahead, with many lower middle income states on their heels.

Encouraging leaders to do the right thing

Nicholas van Praag's picture

“Spare the stick, spoil the child.”

Rewarding the rewardable

That was the advice from proponents of the tough love approach to parenting that prevailed in Victorian times.

 

Plus ça change. Looking around the world today, encouraging leaders in fragile states to do the right thing, whatever that might be, is more about punishing them for erring in the performance of their governance duties than rewarding them for doing good.

 

There is a panoply of international sanctions to punish leaders who abuse human rights, undermine constitutionality or indulge in corruption. Some are regional, others global. Some are formal, others informal. Whatever their provenance or legal standing, the stick remains the instrument of choice.

 

Mechanisms to recognize or reward good leadership are few and far between. Yet leaders are human and, unless they are beyond redemption, they are more likely to respond to recognition and rewards than sanctions and reprimands.

 

The Nobel Peace Prize and the Ibrahim Prize are both strong incentives and could be emulated to acknowledge the contribution of leaders who consistently do well.  Why not find ways, for example, to reward ministers who make a lasting impact on corruption or top brass in the military who reform the security sector peacefully? 

 

Overcoming past traumas to build a stable future

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims. Photo by Adam Carr, February 2005.

If your child is murdered or your friend is tortured or someone tries to kill you, it is tough to forgive and forget.   Animosities that spring from these kinds of brutality run deep. Yet moving on emotionally and psychologically is an important part of rebuilding society after the trauma of conflict and violence.

 Different societies deal with these things in different ways. This week Hilary Clinton visited a former prison in Cambodia where thousands were held before being sent to their deaths in the killing fields. She urged the authorities to proceed with trials of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge so that the country can ‘confront its past’.

This followed the decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen that there would be no more prosecutions after the trials of four senior Khmer Rouge leaders already charged.  The prime minister says the country needs to bury the past. Ms. Clinton argues that a country that is unable to confront its past is a country that cannot overcome it.

 

The same day, there was another story describing how East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta plans to free Gastao Salsinha, the former rebel who shot and badly wounded him in 2008. The UN Secretary General, rights groups, and the opposition have reacted to the decision with dismay, saying it will undermine the rule of law.

 

For President Horta, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, it is about mercy and reconciliation. With internal tensions still strong in his impoverished Asian nation, he believes offering clemency is an opportunity to consolidate peace and stability which outweighs arguments for punitive justice.

 

Is there a right approach to this thorniest of post-conflict problems? Research for the WDR finds that over the last three decades almost 40 countries have implemented various measures to redress serious human rights abuses.

 

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.

 

The WDR 2011 Flip Challenge!

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Ten cameras…six months…192 countries…thousands of highly committed staff and consultants...the easiest, most user friendly camera available.  The challenge?  To get eye-witness reports on how conflict and violence affects people throughout the world. 

   

WDR 2011 Flip Challenge!

Think of it as a relay race, or the game of “hot potato,” only what you are holding is far hotter than an imaginary hot potatoit is the voice of one person who hopes to be heard.

The WDR Flip Challenge is part of the World Development Report 2011, on conflict, violence, and development.  Like every report, it will be full of data, analysis, and suggestions for action. But all of these are built on one thingthe human story.  We aren’t looking for stories about Bank programs or interviews with experts. 

What we want are the people on the ground, the people who know about conflict and violence because they experience it in their own lives.  Or they never experience it, and that’s a story as well! It is these stories that tell us why we should care about an issue, that compel us to feel empathy and to act.  These are the stories we want to hear.

The rules for the WDR Flip Challenge are simple.  Get a camera, register, film, upload, and pass it on.  You don’t need to be a proour guidelines will walk you through everything you need to know. 

You can send us raw footage, or if you want to get fancy, you can use the flip site to edit, add sound effects, and whatever other bells and whistles you like.  All that is required is some curiosity and a desire to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

If you are interested in participating, please contact us at wdrflip2011@worldbank.org 

SAMPLE CLIP:


WDR 2011’s final stretch

Sarah Cliffe's picture
   

Sarah Cliffe at WDR Advisory Council in Beijing

The WDR team is in high gear. As the data collection, analysis and research phase of the WDR comes to an end, we have just held our latest round of consultations with our Advisory Council, which met in Beijing, and a session with Middle-East experts in Beirut. 

 

At the Beijing meeting, Bob Zoellick, who chaired the opening session, spoke of his desire for a report that goes beyond the conceptual and analytical work of previous WDRs – one that provides practical guidance for development action that will make a difference on the ground. 

 

In Beijing and Beirut our interlocutors supported the WDR’s focus on the links between conflict and organized crime, and the need to combine political, security and developmental measures to restore confidence in the short-term and transform institutions to prevent repeated cycles of violence in the longer-term. 

 

They want a WDR that pushes the envelope in addressing difficult issues, and offers concrete and practical approaches. 

 

Issues raised included the need to strengthen global and regional incentives to respect the rule of law and combat corruption and trafficking, provide faster procedures for international support in times of crisis, sustain support to national institution-building, and fill gaps in supporting the criminal justice system and employment creation.

 

Improving Maternal Health in Bangladesh

Anushay Hossain's picture

Editor’s Note: On Thursday, Sept. 16, the World Bank previewed renowned model and maternal health advocate Christy Turlington Burns' debut documentary, No Woman, No Cry, a powerful portrayal of at-risk pregnant women in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the United States. In this guest post, Anushay Hossain focuses on the progress that has been made in Bangladesh and what more must be done.

     Screening of "No Woman, No Cry" at the World Bank on Sept. 16th

Bangladesh stood out as the “development star” this month, when countries met at the United Nations in New York to reaffirm their commitments to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The 2015 deadline is looming on the goals, which include ending poverty, achieving gender equality, and improving world health.

Bangladesh’s achievements may be surprising to many, as it is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. But as Women’s eNews puts it, a “precocious, gender-sensitive civil society movement stirring in Bangladesh since the 1970s” is largely responsible for the progress the country has been making towards the MDGs. In particular, Bangladesh is doing a great job in poverty reduction, increasing girls’ enrollment in schools (though high dropout rates remain) and satisfying the 33 percent quota of women in Parliament.

All admirable accomplishments, considering Bangladesh is still recovering from 2007′s military coup. But the country is far from meeting the fifth UN development goal, which calls for a two-thirds reduction in maternal mortality rates by 2015.

Maternal deaths declined by almost 40 percent in Bangladesh from 1990 to 2006, but the UN reports that the progress has halted. An estimated 15,000 Bangladeshi women die every year from complications in childbirth.

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