I came to the World Development Report with years of field experience in conflict-affected countries, but I learned some startling things from the exercise.
One is that violence today is very different from the violence of the Cold War era. Another is that how to escape from persistent violence isn’t something we can really learn from academic or policy literature — we need to listen to those who have managed actual transitions from violence to stability.
When I joined the Bank in 1981, Cold War politics dominated the debate on violence. Proxy wars between the US and its allies and the Communist Bloc were playing out across the world. Researchers and policy-makers, caught up in this global contest, focused on the wars that formed the pieces of this jigsaw. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the eclipse of Soviet power, a great deal changed. There was a brief surge in the number of civil wars in the mid-1990s, but since then the incidence of “conventional” civil war (wars for political control of the state) has declined. Inter-state warfare is also rare now.