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Smart Lesson: Combatting the Resource Curse in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries


  

Control over natural resources often plays an important role in armed conflicts, either because warring factions fight over access to natural resources or because natural resources help finance one or several of the factions. Recent examples include the several wars fought, in part, over access to oil in the Middle East and wars fueled by “blood diamonds” in West Africa. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) facilitates public control over the wealth generated by these natural resources and limits corruption.

The EITI, launched in 2002 and endorsed by the World Bank in 2003, has provided tangible governance improvements in resource-rich conflict-affected countries. It works with multiple stakeholders—a coalition of governments, companies, investors, international organizations, and civil society organizations — to manage a process of publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining.

To vote or not to vote

Nicholas van Praag's picture
  

A vote too soon?    Photo © Corbis

The wisdom of elections in fragile places is questioned by those who fear they will exacerbate tensions and provoke the kind of violence we saw in Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti last week.  This poses a big question: whether to plough ahead regardless or to hold-off on elections until conditions are propitious.

While some conflict experts argue it would be better to wait, many citizens are keen to vote. It’s humbling to see the determination of people in fragile countries who put up with threats to their safety and long lines at polling booths, as well as fraud and intimidation.

Is this another example of hope triumphing over experience?  Perhaps, but it also demonstrates people’s desire to have their voices heard and to influence the course of their lives. So we need to think hard before postponing plebiscites.

Electoral politics are always polarizing, no matter where.  I remember watching CNN night after night in my hotel room in Almaty, Kazakhstan during the hanging chad saga that followed the US presidential elections in November 2000.  Even at a distance of 10,000 kilometers, the negative energy was palpable.  After weeks of wrangling, it took US citizens a while to unwind and accept the outcome.

How to assist fragile countries challenged by weak governance

Nicholas van Praag's picture
 
      Alternative aid channels
 

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the headlines again. This time it’s not about rape and escalating violence in the eastern provinces but because donors are threatening to withhold aid as fears grow about governance, particularly in the mining and energy sectors where many foreign companies compete for concessions.

For most donors, turning the aid tap on and off is a standard response to what they perceive to be poor performance or bad behavior on the part of recipient governments.

Given the pressures from their stakeholders back home, it’s no surprise. Cutting foreign assistance to errant governments is a blunt instrument but it sends a clear message.

In some places it may work. In fragile states, however, it can set things way back.

The risk of violent conflict correlates closely with poor governance and weak institutions. Tampering with the aid spigot can make matters worse for countries that need external support to restore confidence and create institutions that are better able to manage violence.

Research for the WDR shows that the volatility of aid to fragile states is far greater than flows to countries whose situation is less precarious. For example, aid from the World Bank and other donors to Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and Haiti has seen major swings, with donor allocations reflecting competing priorities and short-term deteriorations or improvements in governance.

WDR 2011 launches new website!

Nicholas van Praag's picture

New WDR 2011 Website

We are pleased this week to unveil our newly revamped WDR 2011 website. Designed to be more user friendly and to make the World Development Report 2011 accessible to a wider audience, we hope the new website will be a boon to anyone interested in finding out more about conflict and development.

We are especially excited to introduce our Data Visualizer comprising our Conflict Database. Previously, information about conflict was dispersed.  The WDR team has brought it together in a single database covering civil war, homicides, terrorism, and trafficking, as well as socio-economic, demographic and political data – more than 300 variables in one place available online through the Bank’s open data initiative.

Among our other new features are Faces of Conflict, a series of video interviews with experts and people affected by conflict. We will be collecting footage through the WDR Flip Challenge in which 10 Flip cameras have been distributed to World Bank staff around the world to document their experiences with conflict and community efforts to reduce it. We will be putting up videos as we receive them, so be sure to check back for updates.

 

Our new interactive map allows users to acquaint themselves with the consultations around the world guiding the WDR and its thinking. Flags in the map indicate meeting locations with summaries of the consultation sessions with national and regional organizations, policymakers, experts and civil society just a click away.  

 

WDR 2011’s final stretch

Sarah Cliffe's picture
   

Sarah Cliffe at WDR Advisory Council in Beijing

The WDR team is in high gear. As the data collection, analysis and research phase of the WDR comes to an end, we have just held our latest round of consultations with our Advisory Council, which met in Beijing, and a session with Middle-East experts in Beirut. 

 

At the Beijing meeting, Bob Zoellick, who chaired the opening session, spoke of his desire for a report that goes beyond the conceptual and analytical work of previous WDRs – one that provides practical guidance for development action that will make a difference on the ground. 

 

In Beijing and Beirut our interlocutors supported the WDR’s focus on the links between conflict and organized crime, and the need to combine political, security and developmental measures to restore confidence in the short-term and transform institutions to prevent repeated cycles of violence in the longer-term. 

 

They want a WDR that pushes the envelope in addressing difficult issues, and offers concrete and practical approaches. 

 

Issues raised included the need to strengthen global and regional incentives to respect the rule of law and combat corruption and trafficking, provide faster procedures for international support in times of crisis, sustain support to national institution-building, and fill gaps in supporting the criminal justice system and employment creation.

 

Haiti Video: Six months after the earthquake

Natalia Cieslik's picture

We often forget that before we thought of Haiti as a place recovering from a devastating earthquake, it was a country struggling with conflict, limited services, and extreme poverty.

Haiti was on a slow road to recovery when the quake hit and more then 250,000 people died. For many Haitians their nation's double tragedy is far from over. Although there are signs of hope and improvement.

 

Haiti: Education for All from WDR Video on Vimeo.

Overcoming cultural barriers with sound economics

Zainab Salbi's picture

This post is the first in a series on "Gender and Conflict" which explores gender issues in the context of crisis and violence. Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International, discusses the cultural complexities involved in working to improve the lives of women in fragile and conflict-affected states.

   Photo © Women for Women International

Working to improve the lives of women in fragile and conflict-affected states raises complex cultural issues, but sound economic arguments paired with practical solutions can help overcome resistance. 
 
Culture and tradition are too often used to justify the stifling of debate about change, especially when it relates to women’s lives. As an Iraqi-American woman who grew up with Muslim traditions and ended up traveling the world through my work with Women for Women International, an organization that supports women in conflict-affected areas, I have had plenty of exposure to these attitudes.

The use of culture as a defensive weapon blights the lives of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Sudan and Afghanistan.  It is used as an excuse to silence opponents. Although the intention may be to respect cultural traditions, it often leads to policies that undermine the social and economic advance of women. 
 
A classic example of this occurred in the first year of the Iraq invasion, when the US governing authority switched food distribution from public stores to mosques. This policy was intended to respect Iraqi culture but, in fact the policy changed the role of the mosque from a private to a public role. For the mosque has played a public role associated with government actions in Iraq’s modern history.

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.

Absolute democracy

Nigel Roberts's picture

Trisuli Bazaar, Nuwakot District, Middle Hills of Nepal—November 19

    Nigel and Deepak (from left) in a Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) district office in Nuwakot.

Returning to Nepal after a gap of 16 years, I am struck by the explosion in political activity. The Nepal I knew was a politically literate country, and my memories of the Eastern Hills in the 1970s are peppered with intense discussions about landlordism, police corruption and the lifestyles of appointed district politicians.

But this is something different. I have arrived in Trisuli with Holly Benner of the WDR core team, and Deepak Thapa, our lead author for the WDR case study on Nepal. Three hours by winding road from Kathmandu, Trisuli is a town of perhaps 3,000 people, with one main street and a few simple shops. An hour’s walk up the hill is Nuwakot, the site of a glorious old Newar palace built in 1762, and soon thereafter occupied by King Prithivi Narayan Shah as his capital as he planned the unification of Nepal.

We find Trisuli consumed by politics, to an extent you would hardly ever see in a small town in Europe or the USA. In the course of the day we meet all three main national parties, as well as the government’s Chief District Officer and Chief of Police.

World Development Report 2011—Not a Cookbook

Nigel Roberts's picture

Many leaders and practitioners familiar with the challenges of delivering in fragile and conflict-affected states are urging us to come up with practical suggestions for them. We in the WDR Team feel we have to be careful not try and develop some set of 'conflict recipes', though: this would mean falling into the trap that characterizes a lot of institutional development work by external parties (i.e. that it is based on prescriptive models and is insufficiently adapted to real-life situations of fragility and conflict). Rather than a cookbook, then, we are shooting for an approach that shares insights and experiences from all types of situations, and points to those that have worked well and could prove useful elsewhere.

For a summary of the purpose and content of the upcoming World Development Report 2011, please take a look at my video:

WDR 2011 - Not a Cookbook from World Bank on Vimeo.