The World Bank’s upcoming World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Development is an opportunity to reflect on lessons from experience in preventing and resolving conflict. For me personally it is also an opportunity to work with people I have come to respect a great deal—in government, civil society, international institutions and academia.
We have just completed a first round of brainstorming meetings—with our Advisory Council, with researchers who work on conflict, and with reformers from governments and civil society who are fighting to overcome the legacy of conflict or combat conflict risks in their countries right now.
I had a concern when I took on this project that we would end up producing yet another bureaucratic report and holding a lot of meetings on a crucial issue without delivering any action. Our first brainstorming sessions helped me to see that there is a huge demand for a process which brings real action on conflict and development.
Some of the highlights:
- Despite many disappointments, there is a real wish to work together on how to combat violent conflict. We mixed up government officials from developed, middle income and low income countries; academics and politicians in these sessions. There were some frank criticisms of both international actions and local leadership - but also a very clear wish to work together to take on some hard lessons and develop better approaches in future.
- There was surprising consensus on some of the issues that require a better understanding, locally and internationally. Three to mention in particular: i). the shift in forms of conflict with greater violence after peace agreements and state-threatening violence apparently linked to drug trafficking; ii). the motivations of young people who join gangs, resistance movements or extremist groups who espouse violence; and iii). the role of organized crime and illegal international trafficking in undermining national efforts to build peaceful societies.
- There was general agreement that we should not see this issue as one which affects poor countries alone. To be sure, poor countries are often less able to contain conflict and violent criminal activities—and their populations suffer the consequences more directly. But this is a common challenge—from the gangs operating in regions of the US, Europe and Latin America to sub-national conflicts in Asia and elsewhere. Like the efforts to combat the financial crisis, this is a topic where people in much less developed and much more developed economies are grappling with similar issues—how to provide hope and legal employment to young populations and how to balance security with improvements in governance.
We have a lot of ground to cover in a relatively short time frame. Our schedule gives us roughly six months to take in and debate ideas, and then another four months to think through and capture the implications for action. I found the timeline pretty daunting when I took on the job. But the needs are huge and we need to move fast if we are to change behaviors and influence policy in real time.
Success means bringing together the best evidence and ideas. Over the next couple of months I will use this blog to share some of the things we are hearing as we meet people around the world. But we cannot meet everyone and I would like to hear from all of you who have ideas to share or direct experience of conflict itself.