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Meeting the ‘Conflict Community’

Sarah Cliffe's picture

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.

Comments

Ms. Sarah, Congratulation! Your assignment has big challenges and opportunities. "Success means bringing together the best evidence and ideas" - with originality and fact-based. I've noticed that information given in the Human Development Report Nepal 2009 is either obsolete or ridiculous. Thus, while collecting information please take care of the recent material and case studies not secondary information or quote of unrealistic sources. There is a lot of information on conflict everywhere in the literature which is neither fact-based nor complied with the actual field. Various institutions are fabricating information as per their interest and to justify their preconceived notions. Thus, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MoPR) Nepal, its sister institutions and its collaborating organization can provide you firsthand information about Nepal's peace process which can be fruitful for you to analyze. Thus, I advise you to make necessary arrangement to get information from similar sources in other countries too.

Submitted by Holly Benner on
Dear Mr. Paudyal, Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the WDR blog. I am a member of the WDR core team and, having returned recently from a WDR consultation in Nepal, wanted to respond to your very important point. It is often challenging to collect reliable information in countries experiencing or recovering from conflict -- data coverage is often spotty, polling and perception data lacking, and opinions strong but diverse. The WDR team is doing its best to collect information from a variety of sources and perspectives, including from political scientists, economists, and practitioners. For our over 25 case studies, we have commissioned long-time experts on the country or region. Several cases involve in-country travel and consultations which provide an opportunity for the WDR team to ‘field test’ evolving WDR thinking and recommendations. In Nepal, we met with a wide range of stake holders -- from government officials (including the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction) to nongovernmental representatives, journalists, academics, and political party leaders. We also have a well-known Nepali expert - Deepak Thapa - authoring our study. We hope this approach will help us in developing a story-line for the WDR that accurately reflects on the ground realities. You can read about our Nepal trip on Nigel Robert's blog: http://blogs.worldbank.org/conflict/absolute-democracy Thank you for your interest and we hope you continue to follow our work, Holly

Submitted by VEDiCarlo on
What an exciting project to be involved in-- this council is both necessary and timely given that proposed conflict remedies are largely "Western," such as in Afghanistan, yet in order for resolutions to be successful they necessarily need to be based in culturally relative terms. Hopefully the council will take advantage of failed examples of imposed conflict resolution mechanisms and recognize the value of supporting community based approaches to build systems with viable longevity. As a dispute resolution student, I firmly believe that foundational to any sustainable resolution to conflict, especially in intractable conflicts, is the need to meet basic human needs (as proposed by John Paul Lederach). Looking at the issues cited in your second and third bullet points, there is a common theme that the black market and illicit economies are unresponsive to the attempted establishment of norms at the policy level. This is because disengaged youth, disgruntled extremists, organized gangsters, and those participating in and facilitating human trafficking are largely doing so out of a lack of alternative economic possibilities. While this does not even begin to scratch the surface of the causes behind persistent violence, keeping the role of basic human needs at the forefront of conflict resolution discussions drastically shapes who should be involved in the discussion, whose interests are at stake, and the deep need for localized approaches based on individual communities' needs. I look forward to hearing more about your work with this project! Not only is it extremely interesting, but absolutely necessary.

Submitted by Abdia on
I am very encouraged to learn that the Bank's flagship publication (WDR 2011) will deal with fragility and conflict. I am very interested in reading more discussion on how to end conflict once it has already started, and before it has taken its many different faces and stages (e.g extremism, drug trafficking, toxic waste damping, terrorism, and most importantly the destruction of the fabric of the society etc). For example, what are the main reasons that Sierra Leone’s horrible conflict has ended while Somalia’s is still continuing with intensity, despite all the positive elements within the Somali society? Another area to examine further would be the linkage between Conflict and climate change. I look forward to reading your brilliant postings. Thanks. Abdia

Countries most affected by conflict, insecurity and underdevelopment often repress and censor their own media. Its a central issue because you cannot have transparency and good governance in countries where responsible journalists and bloggers get chucked in jail at the whim of a minister, embarrassed and angered by a revelation just published. Too often, it seems, the relationship that counts is the one international organisations have with governments rather than with civil society. But over 1000 local journalists were jailed worldwide in 2009 and thousands more were silenced by censorship and violence. While some may be scoundrels who deserve to be behind bars, this cannot be true for the overwhelming majority. So if we really believe building stronger civil society is at the heart of good governance and peace-building, we should take a harder look at the way governments repress their own media. With the crisis in international media, far fewer foreign correspondents being sent abroad to cover conflict and development. So this is a good time to start empowering local journalists and bloggers to report their own stories of conflict and development first hand - turning them into foreign correspondents in effect. That way the reporting that comes directly from authoritative locals, rather than filtered through diplomats and other interested parties, adding depth and texture to complex international issues. Its a very practical solution to a rather important problem and one which unfreemedia.com is pursuing. It can be a game changer for foreign news reporting as a rising group of thoughtful professionals around the world become engaged in quality independent journalism. But it would be good to hear what the authors of the World Development Report 2011 have to say about this issue. One way of thinking about media repression is to think of it as domestic violence. There's a lot more of it about than you ever imagine. Far too many governments which put their best foot forward when they engage with international institutions, are prone to putting the boot in back home.

Submitted by Shanthi Amarasekara on
Dear Madam, I am from SRI LANKA I was worked in North and east in civil war time with victims women and children s.now the time Reconciliation and rebuilding the Nation.and good governance political wheel, implementing contusion and ACT's International singed convention.so my English very poor.any way you can get my point Thank you , Best regards, Shanthi Amarasekara

Submitted by Sie.Kathieravealu on
If peace is to be made, it's up to committed individuals willing to make the commitment to see it through. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” It does confirm a truth about human nature: no fallible and feeble human individual should be entrusted with too much power, and hence, the need for checks and balances. With the Doctrine, it is possible to replace the Rule of Man with the Rule of law. One of the root causes for the emergence of “terrorism” is the non-consideration of the genuine grievances of sections of society by the “democratically” elected governments.. In my humble opinion “true democracy” is practiced by the direct participation of a large number of persons in the “governance” of the country by giving due recognition to the aspirations of the people to develop and safeguard their life and their area of living. "In a civilized society, the people must be empowered and enabled to directly participate in the governance of the country and the best way for the people to empower themselves is, a system of governance that would address the problems faced by various sections of the society - particularly the poor, the politically weak and the various categories of “minorities” who do not carry any “political weight” - would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives of the people by separating the various powers of the Parliament and by horizontally empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers at different locations and thus throughout the country (a small fraction of the Parliament with defined powers and duties functioning in each and every village, division, district and region)".

Submitted by Sie.Kathieravealu on
If peace is to be made, it's up to committed individuals willing to make the commitment to see it through. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” It does confirm a truth about human nature: no fallible and feeble human individual should be entrusted with too much power, and hence, the need for checks and balances. With the Doctrine, it is possible to replace the Rule of Man with the Rule of law. One of the root causes for the emergence of “terrorism” is the non-consideration of the genuine grievances of sections of society by the “democratically” elected governments.. In my humble opinion “true democracy” is practiced by the direct participation of a large number of persons in the “governance” of the country by giving due recognition to the aspirations of the people to develop and safeguard their life and their area of living. "In a civilized society, the people must be empowered and enabled to directly participate in the governance of the country and the best way for the people to empower themselves is, a system of governance that would address the problems faced by various sections of the society - particularly the poor, the politically weak and the various categories of “minorities” who do not carry any “political weight” - would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives of the people by separating the various powers of the Parliament and by horizontally empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers at different locations and thus throughout the country (a small fraction of the Parliament with defined powers and duties functioning in each and every village, division, district and region)".

Submitted by Anonymous on
It is excellent to note that your consultations have highlighted the urgent need to understand the motivations of young people in pre- and post-conflict situations. Indeed, if one looks at, for example, the Sierra Leone war, it is clear that a major factor was the widespread alienation of youth. Given the demographics, this is a critical dynamic. It is also important to look at youth as a resource for peacebuilding. I hope that you are aware of the "Youthzones" project and film... Keep up the good work. I very much look forward to reading the 2011 report. And I hope that it also has sufficient attention to women and girls. (I note one chapter/bkgd paper on gender....yet surely this is mainstreamed throughout, as well?) Thanks, Pam DeLargy, UNFPA

Dear WDR team Is anything going to be written about in situations like Nepal and Darjeeling, woman were actively recruited or joined resistance movements? Some of the reasons why women played a relatively active role in these conflicts were: 1. They joined voluntarily, and believed in the cause 2. They were forced. 3. They joined in some cases in frustration perhaps, or desperation as they lost loved ones. 4. In the case of Maoists, it is said that the leadership believed that women made better leaders than men and had more discipline. Look forward to hearing about any material that you will be covering, the debates, issues and concerns, particularly about the challenges of reconciliation and reintegration during the transition period. Best Rima

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