Drones for Development
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental program called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.” With a name and a mission like that – and given the spotty ethical track record of drone warfare – it is little wonder that many are queasy about the continued proliferation of flying robots. But the industrial use of the lower sky is here to stay. More than three million humans are in the air daily. Every large human settlement on our planet is connected to another by air transport.
Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance
Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance
Today’s global challenges, from mass violence in fragile states and runaway climate change to fears of devastating cross-border economic shocks and cyber attacks, require new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions if they are to be effectively managed. Climate change, economic shocks, and cyber attacks are likely to have lasting and far-reaching consequences, and the marked and visible increase in mass atrocities in one country after another has reversed the trend of declining political violence that began with the end of the Cold War. Dealing with each of these issues calls for policies and actions beyond the writ or capabilities of any state and threatens to escape the grasp of present international institutions.
Drones for Development
A young Palestinian participating in a violence prevention session during a recent World Bank Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GSURR) staff retreat, reminisced that not that long ago the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the only “hot-spot” in the Middle East. Now, the region is a complex mix of insurrection, armed conflict, political upheaval and displacement. Even for him, unbundling and explaining the drivers and implications of these dynamics can be overwhelming – and a full-time job.
Increasingly, development actors are asked to take on this task, yet many of the World Bank’s standard analytical approaches are not suitable for this kind of complexity. Meanwhile, academics including Ben Ramalingam (Aid on the Edge of Chaos), Thomas Carothers (Development Aid Confronts Politics) and Lant Pritchet (Escaping Capability Traps Through Problem-driven Adaptive Iteration) all highlight the dangers of external intervention in these “difficult operating environments” without sufficient understanding of the underlying context.
Ongoing work over the last few years in the Bank’s GSURR Global Practice, completed together with the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Group, has focused on in-depth analysis of why and how particular countries descend into conflict, the impact of violence, and the factors that can build resilience against these shocks. Some 25 of these “fragility assessments” have been completed and they are all part of an effort to strengthen the overall understanding of the “context complexity” in these countries.
DFID really is an extraordinary institution. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the annual get together one of its professional cadres – about 200 advisers on governance and conflict. They were bombarded with powerpoints from outside speakers (including me), but still found time for plenty of ‘social loafing’, aka networking with their mates. Some impressions:
They are hugely bright and committed, wrestling to get stuff done in some of the most difficult places on the planet, familiar with all the dilemmas of ‘doing aid’ in complex environments that I talk about endlessly on this blog. A visitor muttered about the quality and nuance of discussion compared to the uncritical can-do hubris of much of what they hear in Washington.
In fact, since the Australians and Canadians wound up their development departments, DFID looks pretty well unique in the international scene – heroic keeper of the flame or aid’s Lonesome George heading for species extinction? We’ll find out over the next few years.
One of my favourite Oxfam programmes is called (rather arcanely) ‘Within and Without the State’(WWS). It is trying to build civil society and good governance in some pretty unpromising environments – Yemen, South Sudan, Afghanistan and OPTI (Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel).