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Prevention is better than post-conflict catch-up

Nicholas van Praag's picture
   An end to conflict conformism

Violence is the antithesis of development.  It tears down what’s been built up.  It destroys lives, shortens horizons, and inflicts huge psychological and physical pain.

Once violence ends, it takes a generation, on average, to get back to square oneand that’s only when strife does not reignite or morph into other forms of man-on-man beastliness, as often happens. 

No wonder so many people at the Millennium Development Goals summit in New York this week are taking a hard look at how to improve the often nasty, brutish and short lives of people living in states wracked by violence. 

At a side event organized by the WDR and the International Dialogue on Peace Building, and co-hosted by Timor Leste and the UK, Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s aid chief, reminded us that no fragile state or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single MDG. Most lag 40 to 60 percent behind other low and middle-income countries in MDG attainment.

If you were born without a birth attendant or lack access to clean water or never went to primary school or go to bed hungry, the chances are pretty high (between 65 and 75 percent, depending on the indicator) that you come from a country mired in or emerging from violence.

With more than 1.5 billion people living in conflict-affected countries, the challenge is daunting.  There’s no chance of coming close to attaining the MDGs at the global level unless we move from bumper-sticker aspiration to policy action in fragile states.

Paul Collier: New rules for rebuilding a broken nation

Daniel Maree's picture

Like you, we sometimes spend our lunch-breaks catching up on old TED videos – especially when one of our Advisory Council members is involved!

Check out Paul Collier’s TED@State talk in which he explains the problems with current post-conflict aid plans, and suggests three ideas for a better approach.

 

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Collier is Professor of Economics and Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. His work focuses on the causes and consequences of civil war, the effects of aid, and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resource-rich societies. He addition to serving as Associate Professor at the Université d'Auvergne, and Fellow of the Center for Policy and Economic Research in London, Collier is also a member of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council.

 

Clare Lockhart and Ory Okolloh on "Making States Work Better"

Daniel Maree's picture

"New Media and Conflict" is our ongoing series which explores the affect of new communication technologies on issues of conflict and development.

Last Tuesday (Sept. 7), the Grand Hyatt Washington was abuzz with the Gov 2.0 Summit, which brought together innovators from government and the private sector to highlight technology and ideas that can be applied to “the nation’s great challenges.”

 

One session we found particularly interesting was "Making States Work Better" featuring Ory Okolloh, founder of the groundbreaking “activist mapping” platform Ushahidi, and Clare Lockhart, founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, co-author of Fixing Failed States, and author of two input papers for the 2011 World Development Report.

 

Reflecting on their post-conflict experiences in Afghanistan and Kenya, respectively, Lockhart and Okolloh stressed the importance of building institutions that provide effective and accountable security, justice and economic prospects.

 

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Bob Geldof and the food riots in Mozambique

Nicholas van Praag's picture

Last Friday, Bob Geldof’s face gazed pensively from the front page of the FT’s business section over a story that he was seeking to raise a billion dollars for a venture capital fund for Africa.

The front page of the main paper, meanwhile, told of violence on the streets of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, where more than 20 people died in food riots after the price of bread went up by 25 percent.

Same day, same paper, same continent. But for me, the two stories were linked in another way. Let me explain.

Geldof’s transition from advocate for aid to fund manager, seeking to capitalize on resurgent economic growth, is not as surprising as it may sound.

Africa can certainly use more investment in agri-business, financial services and telecommunications that will be the focus of the new fund.

And these investments, if capably managed, should contribute to creating economic growth and opportunity.

But the scenes of violence in Maputo show that economic growth is not enough to ensure a peaceful future in a society that has known or is prone to violence. Rather, they indicate that even the most enduring transitions away from conflict and fragility can experience a violent tipping point.

Media freedom and violence prevention

Nicholas van Praag's picture
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis
  
True believers in press freedom. 
© Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis

How often it’s happened. Standing at the podium, almost finished with the press conference, when the question which I would love to ignore is shouted out from the gaggle of reporters.  As a communications professional, I wholeheartedly believe in press freedoms, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that there were times I wanted to muzzle an aggressive journalist with his "gotcha" question, or the reporter who quotes me out of context or misrepresents an issue I hold dear.   

In those moments, I can see how a politician or government official, with the ability to clamp-down on the media, might succumb to the urge.  The reality is that freedom of the press is a messy business.  But like Winston Churchill once said of democracy, it's the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.

The current debate over press freedom in South Africa, with the government considering legislation that would allow the state to keep secret any information, if it decided that disclosure would harm the “national interest”, has drawn fresh attention to the role of the media as societal watchdog.

Some people question whether media freedoms are appropriate or even relevant in fragile states where, they argue, the delicate political and social balance may be upset if people are allowed to write or broadcast exactly what they think about their government or their fellow citizens.

Inequality of mercy

Nicholas van Praag's picture
  

Waiting for the aid tide to turn
Photo © Wordpress

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called a special session of the UN General Assembly today to draw attention to the calamitous situation in Pakistan and the urgency of raising $460 million for flood victims.  The lukewarm response to the UN’s appeal (less than 40% pledged so far) compares unfavorably with the $1 billion committed to Haiti within 10 days of the earthquake last January.

The difference in the speed and generosity of the international response to these two humanitarian tragedies is stark. Why does one catastrophe strike a chord and win a boat-load of funding while another elicits compassion but little cash?

With 1,500 dead, 20 million people displaced, and millions of hectares of agricultural land underwater, Pakistan would seem to have a solid claim on international support.

We have heard many explanations for the disappointing response.  John Holmes, The UN’s emergency relief coordinator travelling with Ban Ki-moon in Pakistan last weekend, contrasted the drama of an earthquake or the tsunami with the ‘slow burn’ of this crisis, as the flood waters slowly engulf a fifth of the country.

Promises of Change: Reconciling Reality and Expectations in Fragile States

Nicholas van Praag's picture
  

Go ahead, make your case
Photo © Nick van Praag

I was listening to a report on the radio last week about winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan.  You know, all the stuff about moving from the number of insurgents killed and hectares of poppy fields destroyed to how many miles of roads can be travelled in safety and the number of people benefiting from agricultural extension projects. 

The journalist ended the dispatch by saying that these new ways of looking at progress are all very well, but what matters most are people’s perceptions of what the future holds. 

Afghanistan has many problems and skepticism over the war continues to grow. But there are also some objective reasons for hope. There has been an explosion in cell phone use and measures of maternal health and child mortality show progress.  More girls are in school and more women in parliament. But to the average man and woman, these incremental changes have not been enough to overcome a pervasive sense that prospects for improvement are dim.

As governments in Afghanistan and other fragile states pursue the tortuous business of reform, they cannot rely on promises of better security, improved livelihoods and more social justice to impose their own logic on people’s minds. The rationale of reform will not spontaneously emerge for war torn citizens without the connections made through consistent, disciplined communication.

After years of insecurity and hopelessness, you have to actively persuade people to suspend their disbelief and invest themselves in the future.  Evidence shows that purveying raw information and data is not enough.  Rather, it is about changing perceptions through carefully crafted and targeted messages that address people’s concerns directly.

Finding ways to communicate persuasively is not a silver bullet.  It takes more than smart communications to challenge vested interests or deter insurgents bent on resisting changes in the status quo. But communication can play a powerful role in consolidating support from allies, winning over the doubters, and reassuring the fearfulas well as undermining the credibility of opponents. 

Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus

Onnik Krikorian's picture

This guest post is the first in a series on "New Media and Conflict" which explores the affect of new communication technologies on issues of conflict and development.

  Photo © Global Voices

In the 16 years since a 1994 ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed mainly-Armenian populated territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, peace remains as elusive as ever. The war fought in the early 1990s left over 25,000 dead and forced a million to flee their homes, leaving ethnic Armenian forces, backed by Armenia proper, in control of over 16 percent of what the international community considers sovereign Azerbaijani territory. 

The situation, perhaps, is typical for many frozen conflicts, but what makes this dispute even more complicated is the almost constant rhetoric of hatred from both sides. Nearly two decades after the troubles broke out, new generations of Armenians and Azerbaijanis are unable to remember the time when both lived side by side together in peace. Armenia's last president, Robert Kocharian, for example, declared that the two were 'ethnically incompatible' while his Azerbaijani counterpart, still incumbent Ilham Aliyev, regularly threatens a new war.

Regional analysts fear that such threats are not merely empty words. Fueled by massive oil revenue, the Azerbaijani military is rapidly re-arming itself and the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia was enough of a wake-up call for the international community to once again direct attention towards unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus.

INTERVIEW: Land Rights and Internally Displaced Persons in Colombia

Daniel Maree's picture

In this exclusive interview with Senior Social Development Specialist Elena Correa, we discuss the results and lessons-learned from the project on Protection of Land and Patrimony of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Colombia. To read the background paper on the workshop click here.

Alec Wescott contributed to this post.

 © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank 
   © Charlotte Kesl / World Bank  

 Q. Since its inception in 2002, your focus has developed from “land protection” to “land titling” and “land restitution”. What is the difference between the two strategies, and what prompted the change?

A. Land rights protection was the starting point for the project because of the large number of population displaced. However, land right protection is not enough to diminish the risk of impoverishment of IDPs as was established as the main objective of the project.  According to the circumstances and the evolution of the project, land titling was incorporated to formalize these land rights of IDPs who do not have legal titles.

Land restitution was included in the project as a result of the enactment of the Justice and Peace Law in 2005. Land restitution is the ultimate goal in the protection of land that has been lost due to displacement. The project had gathered information since its start in 2003 that could be built on to achieve land restitution.  This is a good example of new emerging legislation and how the project adapted itself to the opportunities provided by this law.

UPDATE: The rape of Congo

James Martone's picture

This week President Obama signed the Wall Street reform bill, which contains a key provision against conflict minerals from Congo. This guest post originally appeared on March 29, 2010.

War is officially over in eastern Congo, but the violence continues.  23 year old Amani can tell you.  She was raped last year in the forests of North-Kivu by men she refers to as “rebels,” and has since given birth to a baby girl.  Then there’s 15 year old Neema who was held and repeatedly raped for a week last July outside Goma by an “older man” after being lured to his house by a classmate.  She too will give birth soon. “I want him to be imprisoned for life,” said Neema of her rapist.  “He destroyed my life and I don’t study anymore.”

     Cameraman Justin Purefoy filming displaced Congolese in Eastern Congo. Pictures © James Martone.

I met Amani and Neema at the Heal Africa Hospital and other sites in Eastern Congo as part of a WDR 2011 research mission in February.  The team was looking into the causes and consequences of this conflict that has been going on for over 15 years and killed an estimated 3.5 million people.  I was there with cameraman Justin Purefoy to film people affected by the conflict and document their stories.  The effect of massive sexual violence and overall lack of security were two of the issues we were exploring on video. The films and interviews will be published as part of the Bank’s upcoming 2011 World Development Report.

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