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Navigating the maze to peace

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Photo © istockphoto.comWhile much of the world has made rapid progress in building stability and reducing poverty over the past 60 years, states beset by persistent violence and fragile institutions are being left far behind.

Today, 22 out of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the Millennium Developing Goals, or MDGs, are conflict ridden or emerging from some form of turmoil. The MDGs, which have a deadline of 2015, cover hunger, poverty, child mortality, maternal health, and other key challenges.

The plight of those 22 countries—and how prosperity eludes them—was foremost in my mind when I was in New York earlier this week to take part in a debate at the UN General Assembly on "UN Peacekeeping: Looking into the Future." The proceedings were webcast.

My session focused on the nexus between security and development and you can read my intervention here.

Let me tell you more about the daunting challenges faced by those 22 countries. They account for two out of three of all infants and children dying. They also account for three out of four of all mothers who die in childbirth.

My panel talked about these countries in the context of the challenges of multi-dimensionality of peacekeeping, peace building and development. We talked about how, after conflict, the process of reform can create stresses that reignite violence. We also touched on the dissolving boundaries between institutional mandates and the challenges this poses for international organizations.

At the center of our debate was peace in its labyrinth. I use that analogy because the path from conflict to peace is akin to the intricate structure of interconnecting passages through which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze with many back tracks.

At the World Bank we are increasingly struck by the centrality of conflict to the development agenda. In this spirit, I reported to member states on the key messages from consultations on the upcoming World Development Report 2011 on Conflict, Security and Development.

We are faced with a Catch 22: “Early recovery” and humanitarian relief stretch on for years, and many countries cycle through repeated violence. This challenges our current tendency to artificially divide conflict into linear phases and to try to adhere to relatively short timelines as laid out in agency plans and structures.

Historical data show that it takes a lot of time to transition to peace. Countries which have achieved the fastest turnarounds took at least one generation, and based their transformation on approaches that suit their own local conditions.

Given this longer time horizon, a better sequenced, broad-based approach to peace building and development makes sense. This is because treating political conflict, local conflicts over land, gang activities, and organized crime and trafficking as discrete challenges is unlikely to work. And the transnational nature of violence may require that agencies go beyond country-focused solutions.

Also, from the work on the WDR 2011, we’re learning that approaches based on security alone have shown poor success. Without the hope of economic progress, it is difficult to persuade combatants, gang members or local warlords to follow a legal, peaceful path.




Submitted by Anonymous on
this was a good observation it would be a lie to assume that conflicting societies would be resolved by humanitarian approaches and empowering current governments only with out considering the involvement of combatants in the economic productivity of such communities. we can donate and give them food but if do not engage them into production. shall we raise a self sufficient generation of young ones if parents are not engaged lets encourage the private sector as much as possible

Submitted by Manuel Mollinedo on
Why institutions like the WK do not take a look to university/professionals which currently are in universities working. They may have ideas to improve many social problems on which politics can do any more than they are able. So my comments goes thrugh the call to pay atention to university brains which may have ideas to improve all problems which involve to all in our society.

Submitted by Salihu Sani on
The possibility of attaining world peace must emerge out of our deliberate attempt to shift from academic theories to practicality. It is time to engage civil societies to go all out there to do the the business of beating swords into ploughshere. It is strictly their portfolio.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Bravo for the statement given at the UNGA debate! The MDGs are given such tremendous attention by the international and donor community - but it has been very rare to see any attention to the impact of conflict on the possibilities for reaching the goals. It would seem rather obvious but I can testify that it is very, very difficult to get most development or humanitarian agencies to make this connection. I have tried for years (with only moderate success) in my own agency --- now I hope to add Justin Lin's statement to my advocacy toolbox!

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