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Conflict

WDR launch - Continuing the Conversation

Sarah Cliffe's picture

Yesterday we released the 2011 World Development ReportClick on the image to watch the video. on Conflict, Security and Development. The report isn’t an end in itself -- it’s intended to fuel a continuing conversation on ways in which societies can escape destructive cycles of violence.

The report describes how injustice, corruption,unemployment, bad governance and human rights abuses can precipitate violence, and how confidence between the state and its citizens and the creation of legitimate institutions can resolve it. These findings emerged less through our analysis and policy documents than through the consultations we held around the world.

What I Learned from the WDR

Nigel Roberts's picture

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.

Modern violence

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.

What I Learned from the WDR

Nigel Roberts's picture

I came to the WDR 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.

Modern violence

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.

Accidental agents of change

Nicholas van Praag's picture

In places where conditions are ripe for political change, actually unseating tyrannical regimes requires a spark to light the tinder of revolution. But where does that spark come from?

    In the vanguard

The upcoming World Development Report argues that there is no one push factor. Rather, it shows how a wide range of domestic and international stresses—including economic inequality, political oppression and corruption—can eventually bring a country to its knees if its institutions are unable to mediate tensions and overcome stresses.

But, absent an institutional set-up capable of heading off the pressures before they boil over, when does enough become too much?

Many people are wary and their natural reticence may win out.

I was reading last weekend that most people in the UK pay parking fines—even when they are given erroneously—rather than go through the hassle of complaining.

If that is the case in the UK, what does it take to ignite direct action in places where the dissuasive powers of the authorities are used to scare people into submission?

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.

Universal principles in revolutionary times

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

   Demonstrating for the right to rights

I remember a Russian diplomat in Geneva in the 1980s telling me that his country believed strongly in the centrality of human rights. It was just that back in the USSR the hierarchy was different from countries on the other side of the iron curtain: individual rights mattered, but less than people’s collective rights to health, education, jobs and so on.

I was not much impressed; and the collapse of the Soviet Union soon gave the lie to that regime’s paternalistic take on the relative significance of different categories of rights – political, social and economic.  

 

The medium and its message: how new media is changing the dynamic of dissent

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

    Grand old man of the medium Photo: Reckon, Chris Weige

The role of cell phones and new media in mobilizing people on the streets of Egypt and Tunisia has evinced as much interest in some quarters as the grievances that lie behind the unrest.

Some commentators dismiss this fascination as a cliché driven by the born-in America phenomena of Twitter and Facebook. But make no mistake: these new types of media are flattening the hierarchical media environments long held in the iron grip of governments and elite owners of the means of communication.

Their grip on these levers of control remains strong, as we have seen in Egypt these past few days, but the advent of new media threatens the continued dominance of top-down communication.

That’s a big change; one that empowers ordinary people in a potentially revolutionary way. According to Jason Liebman, co-founder of Movements.org, “these technologies not only shrink the world by allowing us to communicate with more people than ever—but they enable every person to be an activist for peace and human rights”.

His organization provides a go-to site for movements around the world where they can find how-to guides, case studies, and blog posts about digital activism.

Democracy and the foundations of legitimacy

Nicholas van Praag's picture

This post is part of a series of interviews with members of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council.

With the ongoing protests and calls for democratic reform in Egypt -- and in other parts of the Arab world -- there is a lot of interest in the grievances and aspirations that lie behind the unrest. In this interview, Mr. Louis Michel, a member of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council and member of the European Parliament, discusses the role of the state and the foundations of legitimacy.

WATCH:


South Sudan: the dangers within

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

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    Rational exuberance? Photo: RRS

With a large majority in favor of independence in South Sudan, according to preliminary results from the independent poll body in Juba, the threat of conflict with the North is receding. The main challenges the country faces going forward are likely to come from within.

As we have seen, from Timor-Leste to Liberia, it takes time, strong national leadership and appropriate international support to escape the kind of violent conflict South Sudan has known for more than half of the past 60 years.

We also know there are many false dawns. Fragile states are wracked by repeated cycles of violence that come in a dizzying array of forms—with civil war often coexisting with criminal or gang-related violence.

How to stop these cycles of violent conflict is the focus of the 2011 WDR. Its central thesis is that resilient institutions are the best available antidote to the economic, political and security stress factors that overwhelm fragile states and trap them in repetitive violence.

But before you can start bolstering institutions with any likelihood of success, you need to win public confidence. In most places this means instilling a sense that things will change for the better.

That’s hard when hopes have been dashed many times over. Finding the right narrative and taking actions that will persuade people to suspend their disbelief is a huge challenge for leaders trying to prevent further violence.

From finger pointing to building confidence in Haiti

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

   

Waiting for a signal. Photo: Haiti's Tent City. Edyta Materka.

The first anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake has seen a lot of finger pointing. The country's Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, faults the donors for failing to open the tap on promised funds. Others blame his government and the legions of NGOs and aid workers for not getting their act together.

As the recriminations reverberate, the bottom line is that ordinary Haitians—with 800,000 of them still living in temporary shelters—don’t see much improvement in their lives. Many, it is reported, feel abandoned by both their government and the international community.

The Prime Minister recognizes things need to move faster and blames the donors who, he says, insist on funding things like education, infrastructure and transport. If the government had its way, the focus would be on clearing the rubble that still dominates the cityscape in the capital Port au Prince and other parts of the country, he says.

What to do to seize the initiative in a country which has known only trauma and deceptions for the past many decades?

There’s no right answer but actions that build confidence would be a big first step. This finding from research for the 2011 WDR—which looks at violence, security and development—certainly resonates in Haiti.

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