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Conflict

Social media: Using our voice to end adversity

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
When was the last time you used your mobile phone camera? Yesterday, this morning, or a few minutes ago? How did you use it? To snap a photo of your child or pet, or maybe to identify a problem in your community to bring it to public attention?
 
Have you ever thought that your camera phone can actually capture more than the ordinary? Did you know that with just one snap you might be able to save lives and lift people out of hardship and poverty?
 
Yes, you can! At least one stranger in downtown Beirut believed so.

 

Making the 2030 sustainable development agenda work for fragile and conflict affected states

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture

At a technical meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states, participants from Haiti to Timor Leste gathered with a mission: to sift through the many proposed indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and select 20 indicators for joint g7+ monitoring.
 
Hosted recently in Nairobi by the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, it was the first time that 17 out of 20 g7+ members were present, including senior officials from the National Statistics Offices and others. West African countries were particularly well represented. Their discussions were passionate: “We were mere spectators to the Millennium Development Goals. Now we want to actively push our specific challenges to the center of SDGs implementation,” said one.  “Our motto is that no one is left behind,” said another.

Fragile to fragile: How the g7+ is bringing optimism to the Central African Republic

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
School children in the Central African Republic
Credit: © Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

At a meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states recently held in Nairobi, Bienvenu Hervé Kovoungbo looked back on his time in the same city, two years ago.

Back then, the citizens of his country, the Central African Republic (CAR), were caught in a fight between different militia groups. Bienvenu, who is the Director of Multilateral Cooperation and former Head of the Investment Budget Division in the Economy, Planning and International Cooperation Ministry, flew to Nairobi to attend a steering meeting of International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. There, he appealed to g7+ colleagues and to donors to come to their assistance.  After the meeting, he could not get back to the capital Bangui for two weeks, held up in Douala, Cameroon while his family had to flee their home and live with thousands of others in makeshift camps on the outskirts of the city.

Don’t shut your doors to refugees

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية
The author on the day of his graduation from the Master of Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 2008. © Jenny Spinner

I walked among dead bodies of people blown up by bombs. I ducked and covered from bullets falling around my feet, and I was almost choked to death by an angry mourner. One of millions of Iraqis, I was trying to survive a brutal reality that never seemed to end.

I still cannot escape these images. I still smell the dead. I had to go to where death lay due to my job as a reporter. That job left many journalists, including one of my former colleagues at the Washington Post, dead.

As rewarding as it was, that job cost me my country. I had to seek refuge. Armed groups had taken every chance to attack journalists and their families, especially those who worked for American media. They kidnapped them, tortured them, and asked for ransoms to spare their lives. I did not want this to happen to my family.

#Music4Dev guest Rahim Alhaj: We have a responsibility to end the refugee crisis

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

He learned to play the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, at an early age in his hometown of Baghdad. He grew up writing protest songs against the dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually forced to leave his beloved Iraq in 1991. He later found refuge in the United States.

Missed our #16Days campaign against gender-based violence? Here’s your chance to catch up

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign started on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on International Human Rights Day, which was celebrated on December 10.
 
Throughout those #16Days, the World Bank’s message was clear:  Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that has or will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Violence is not only a personal struggle for the victims, but also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes.
 

Migrant or refugee: What’s in a name?

Xavier Devictor's picture
What is the difference between an economic migrant and a refugee? In principle, the response is clear: economic migrants are essentially people in search of opportunities for economic betterment, while refugees are fleeing a peril for their lives and their specific status is defined under the 1951 Geneva Convention.In the face of such despair, traditional mechanisms for managing economic migration simply do not work, while refugee law does not apply.

Why men for women: Engaging men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence in conflict

Verena Phipps's picture
Sexual and gender-based violence is an all-too common and devastating challenge emerging in the context of conflict and instability. A global study of 50 countries revealed significant increases in incidence of gender-based violence following major wars.  In Somalia, for example, more than 10,000 cases of various forms of gender-based violence have been assisted by humanitarian partners since 2011.  In Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the 2012-13 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that more than half of women have ever experienced physical violence since the age of 15, while nearly 30 percent of women have ever experienced sexual violence. These figures, however, likely belie the extent of the challenge as most survivors are unlikely to seek formal support or care due to fear of stigmatization, rejection or re-victimization.

While the context of conflict and the climate of impunity that prevails create an enabling space for violations, perpetration of gender-based violence is ultimately tied to pervasive norms and dynamics that exist prior to conflict that sanction and reinforce men’s dominance over women and girls (or in some instances, marginalized or socially weaker men). 

Numerous studies demonstrate that even after conflict ends, violence often continues in the home, as men who have experienced high levels of trauma and displacement during conflict are often likely to use violence against women and children. Dislocated from normative roles as providers and protectors, men’s experiences of conflict, trauma and deprivation contribute to feelings of disempowerment and loss of respect and authority.

Feelings of frustration, loss in self-esteem, depression, and disaffection can all manifest in negative coping behaviors, including aggression and partner conflict—whether physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence—as men attempt to reassert themselves and their authority in the home.

In order to address the drivers of gender-based violence, therefore, prevention and mitigation initiatives must tackle these entrenched dynamics and in particular should engage men and boys as critical partners in facilitating pathways for positive social change.  This emphasis recognizes the multiple roles men play not just as perpetrators, but also as husbands and family members, as witnesses, as service providers, as community leaders and decision makers, and in some cases, as survivors themselves. 

Importantly, attention to men’s experiences in conflict should not obviate the need to address the enormous challenges confronting female survivors of violence, nor is it meant to distract attention or resources away from gender-based violence response and empowerment programming targeting women and girls.  But in order to better protect women and girls in these fragile spaces, we need to improve our understanding on how to work more effectively with men and boys to transform harmful dynamics that perpetuate, rationalize and justify violence.

Responding to this need, the World Bank supported several innovative initiatives working with men to address conflict-related gender-based violence in the Africa region. Through the LOGiCA trust fund, we partnered with Promundo—a leading organization working globally with men and boys to advance more equitable gender norms and positive models of masculinity—to test operational approaches on effective engagement of men and boys in gender-based violence programming in Goma and Luvungi in DRC, and in Burundi.

In partnership with Care Burundi, Women-for-Women International, Heal Africa and the Institute for Higher Education in Mental Health, Promundo developed and piloted group therapeutic and psycho-educational tools drawing from global best practices. Group therapy meetings were held weekly for 10-15 weeks with training modules intended to improve social bonds, promote shared decision-making and respect, promote positive, non-violent models of conflict resolution and coping mechanisms, and heal individual trauma.  While the program predominantly targeted male participants, group sessions sometimes included female partners as well.

Findings from associated evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating improvements across a range of behaviors including reductions in stress and violence in the home, reductions in alcohol abuse and drinking, improved ability to manage frustration and aggression, increased sharing of income between men and women, and improved couple relations. Creating a safe space for men to engage also enabled formation of social relationships between participants, and many groups elected to continue the weekly meetings even after formal conclusion of the program.  

Given the success of the pilot interventions, Promundo has since xpanded this work into a new initiative, entitled Living Peace: Men Beyond War, which currently is being implemented in DRC. Evidence emerging from this work also has important implications for post-conflict recovery programming in other fields, including demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, migration and forced displacement and interventions targeting youth at risk of engaging in violence.

While questions remain about sustainability of behavior change in the longer run, as well as effectiveness when brought to scale, this work presents an important contribution to our understanding of how to effectively engage men in preventing and mitigating against violence in communities and critically, within the home.  

How violent extremism links to violence against women

Alys Willman's picture
(This is part of the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. Look here for a new blog post on this topic over the next two weeks.)

The events of the past two weeks -- the high-profile extremist violence in Beirut, Paris and Mali –challenge us to  think about what it means to be female in groups that endorse or endure these appalling atrocities.   As a social scientist who has spent decades studying gender-based violence, I am reminded of a recent discussion at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where a panel of experts looked at “Integrating a Gender Dimension in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Policy and Practice.” 

Violent extremist groups “have attacked women and imposed limits on their dress, mobility, and freedom of expression for a long time. We know women’s full participation in society is good for everyone. We cannot let the lack of a gender focus be a barrier to progress anymore,” said Ingvild Stub, State Secretary in the Norwegian Prime Minister’s Office.   

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

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