Collecting perception data in hard-to-reach areas and fragile contexts can be extremely challenging, but is necessary to better understand who is excluded, who feels excluded, and to measure horizontal inequalities. Doing so requires the use of innovative methodologies. In particular, technology is a valuable tool with which to access remote and conflict-affected areas where exclusion is likely to be the worst.
Since the end of World War II, we have experienced a shift in conflict dynamics, from inter-state to intra-state conflicts. In 2016 alone, the world witnessed 47 intra-state conflicts. Today, wars are fought within state borders between a multiplicity of actors over the distribution of political power and national wealth both at and between the center and subnational governance levels. Marginalized groups are vying for greater autonomy at the local level, while those in control of the state—be they majorities or dominant minority groups—seek to consolidate political power at the center. Such intra-state conflicts with subnational dimensions are among the most protracted and violent conflicts.
The recent joint UN-WB report on preventing violent conflict, Pathways for Peace, highlights the need for more inclusive efforts to proactively manage the risks of violence.
As one of the authors of the report, which recommends the use of Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment (RPBAs) for prevention purposes, I was curious as to how the model offered by the joint UN-EU-World Bank RPBA could be used earlier in the evolution of the conflict by developing joint platforms for prioritizing areas of risk and more proactive planning for addressing them. In fact, there is already much in the RPBAs that resonates with the study’s main findings. The example of Cameroon, where RPBA methodology has been used successfully to help the government respond to subnational pressures and spillover of the security and displacement crisis created by Boko Haram, suggests the value-added that this engagement approach offers for violence prevention. Other RPBAs offer examples of specific methodologies that could play an important role in shifting RPBAs upstream. For example, in Central African Republic the use of perception data was instrumental in the design and finalization of the 2016 National Plan for Recovery and Peacebuilding. As the Pathways study illustrates, statistical measures of inequalities do not always neatly correspond to the perceptions of these inequalities. Understanding perceptions, through surveys, focus groups, community mapping, or key informant interviews therefore play a critical role in targeting the groups and issues at highest risk, and building a common narrative for prioritization.
The role of media in fragile and conflict-affected societies has changed enormously in recent years, as media landscapes and technologies have transformed. The background paper to the Pathways for Peace report, “Media Noise and the Complexity of Conflicts: Making Sense of Media in Conflict Prevention,” seeks to identify and discuss the various roles media may play in governance, accountability, and the conflict cycle with regards to conflict prevention. Such a discussion is timely and relevant given the changing nature of both conflict and media technology, and the use of these tools in heralding change in conflict-prone and fragile states.
Transnational organized crime (TOC) is a widespread phenomenon that leaves no region untouched. Illegal trafficking—TOC’s most lucrative manifestation—has taken multiple forms, ranging from the most traditional trade in narcotics and weapons to smuggling counterfeited medicines and endangered wildlife. As these illicit flows cut across multiple national borders, they become interconnected with local security, political, social, and economic dynamics. At times, they are so embedded that the line between licit and illicit is significantly blurred. The same applies when TOC intersects with conflict situations.
Can inclusive approaches prevent the escalation or recurrence of violence, as the subtitle of the recent UN–World Bank report, Pathways for Peace, suggests? If so, how? And what are the pitfalls of inclusion? Qualitative case study research conducted at the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative (IPTI) offers answers to these complex questions.
During my dissertation and post-dissertation fieldwork in Kenya and India, I was often struck by how my interviewees—including political elites—framed the issue of electoral violence. For many, such conflict had come to be a normalized aspect of their nations’ politics. Rather than denying that major episodes of election-time violence involved political machinations, respondents typically displaced the blame for such violence onto rival parties and candidates. And yet, there was also an explicit recognition that election-time conflict had come with significant human costs for ordinary Kenyans and Indians. In short, although there was an understanding that the overlap between elections and violence in these countries was far from ideal, there was also an acknowledgement that this was simply how “the game had to played.”
How can countries emerging from civil war be supported on their path toward sustainable peace? Besides the finding that multidimensional peacekeeping reduces the risk of civil war recurrence, little systematic knowledge exists on the effects of international efforts to foster peace. Therefore, debates over priorities, sequencing, and other questions regarding the design of international support in postconflict contexts are far from concluded. At the same time, recurring violence continues to haunt many countries that have experienced civil war.
The upsurge in violent conflict since 2010 has led to renewed calls to promote the use of preventive diplomacy. But what do we mean by preventive diplomacy? Who can do it? And what methods are effective? As a contribution to the joint United Nations and World Bank study on preventing violent conflict, the European Institute of Peace (EIP) looked further into these questions. As a first step, we undertook a “rough and ready” review of available academic literature to see what the data sets used by social scientists might have to tell us about the issue. The picture is far from clear.
Since 2016, the United States budget for United Nations peacekeeping has been reduced by 40 percent. This is a reflection of how many view the United Nations and it’s record on peacekeeping. Data on the effectiveness of UN peacekeepers, however, don’t support this perception. In fact, they find that the opposite is true. Numerous statistical studies have explored the role of third-party peacekeeping in reducing violence around the world. They all come to the same conclusion: Peacekeeping works better than almost anything else we know. Using different datasets and statistical models, leveraging slightly different time periods, and measuring peacekeeping in somewhat different ways, the most rigorous studies have all found that peacekeeping has a large, positive, and statistically significant effect on containing the spread of civil war, increasing the success of negotiated settlements to civil wars, and increasing the duration of peace once a civil war has ended (see here, here, here, and here). More recent statistical studies have found an equally strong relationship between large-scale peace operations and the spread of civil wars, within and between states (see here, here, and here).
Since Dag Hammarskjold first articulated the concept of preventive diplomacy more than half a century ago, the idea that diplomatic engagement can head off violent conflict has been at the heart of the UN. But over the past 30 years, the nature of armed conflict has changed dramatically, and today’s diplomats are faced with a far more complex array of actors, intra-state dynamics, and global risks than ever before. Violent conflict is growing and becoming more difficult to resolve. As a result, the need to prevent violent conflict before it starts has become the UN’s overriding priority.
Yet while the UN Secretary-General has called for a “surge in diplomacy for peace,” very little is actually known about what preventive diplomacy really is, and what makes it work. In a paper to support a joint UN-World Bank project on prevention, Alexandra Pichler-Fong and Adam Day set out to answer the question, “Under what conditions does UN diplomacy help shift the calculus away from violent conflict?”
The World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings, held April 17-19 in Washington D.C., offered an opportunity to take stock of progress on our work to end fragility, conflict and violence (FCV), as well as to embrace the renewed commitment expressed by the Bank Group’s shareholders.