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Joachim von Amsberg, the World Bank's country director for Indonesia, published an interesting op-ed in today’s Washington Post: Out of Aceh's experience, hope for rebuilding Haiti. Despite the many differences between these two conflict-affected countries, he draws lessons from post-tsunami Aceh for a possible recovery in Haiti. “Local and national leadership count," he writes, "and empowering people is key. In Aceh, strong top-down leadership was complemented by the empowerment of the people and communities. Victims became development workers. Aid recipients and former combatants became community facilitators. Displaced families became workers who rebuilt their houses. By channeling a large share of reconstruction funds directly to communities, the people of Aceh's problems were transformed as they became part of the solution. Their hard work meant that houses were built faster, at a lower cost, and better met the needs of the people.”
|Photo © 'Paul Jeffrey'|
I visited Haiti just before Christmas with Nik Win Myint from the WDR team. I talked to community groups in some of the slums that have been most ravaged by drugs and gang-related violence—Cite de Soleil, Martissant, Bel-air.
|Visiting a poultry farm in Haiti. Photos © Henriot Nader|
The people I met had great hope for the future—after decades of a debilitating cycle of poverty, violence and state inaction, they finally felt that things were improving. The young men in the pictures here had just started their own farm for chicken eggs, funded through small grants from the government. "Security is better. The police are better. We are still worried about the future, but this is the first time the state has done something for us. People in this community just need the chance to work, to get training" they said.
Who knows how many of the people I talked to are still alive. Tens of thousands have died in the earthquake, and those who survive have lost family members, their houses, their possessions, their jobs. This would have been a tragedy at any time—it is more so at a period when the country seemed to be regaining hope and some confidence in the future.
On 8 and 9 October, 2009, I was fortunate to participate in a lively discussion on issues of conflict and development between leaders from countries affected by conflict and academics in Berlin. This group of practitioners and experts had been brought together as part of an event jointly organized by the World Bank and Germany's InWent to generate thinking at the early stages of the WDR development process. What made this event unique for us was the frank and constructive dialogue between two groups of participants that often work in separate realms: on the one hand leaders that had grappled with difficult issues in conflict in their daily lives, such as Timor-Leste's Minister of Finance or the Governor of Afghanistan's Bamyan province, and on the other hand leading academics in the field of conflict analysis.
In the run up to the event, we had some worries about how such a diverse group would mix—would leaders listen to academics? Would experience bear out theory—and would a group this diverse identify common themes or only a mosaic of problems? In the end, we spent two days in rich and deep discussions. The exchange between and among leaders and academics combined theoretical frameworks and empirical analysis with a rich description of how these issues play out in practice. This sharing of experience was an ideal starting point for the WDR: the desire to do better by learning from and connecting with diverse communities to enhance our understanding of conflict. The interviews of some of the participants at this event should give a good sense of the discussions we had:
I have just returned from Jerusalem. It was my first visit to this part of the Middle East, and now I see why people always say that you have to go there to get an idea of what it is really like. It is complicated.
|Interviewing a displaced family in Gaza for the WDR 'Witness' project.|
It helped to be traveling with Nigel Roberts, Yezid Sayigh, and Rex Brynen. They combine decades of field experience and academic research, with intimate knowledge of every detail and latest twist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After spending two weeks with them I am convinced, between the three of them they likely know the shoe size of every actor in the region.
We went to Tel Aviv, Gaza, Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, and Jerusalem again for our consultations on the upcoming World Development Report. We met dozens of people, individually and in groups: journalists, political scientists, human rights activists, doctors, businessmen, students, civil servants, among others. There were hawks and doves, moderates, people who had given up any hope for peace and others who refuse to let frustration win over their beliefs that a solution and peaceful coexistence are possible.
Worldwide / General
Forward Operating Base Delhi, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan—December 7
|Flying into Snake’s Head the name given by the US and British soldiers to a patchwork of canals in Helmand province, Southern Afghanistan. Photos © Ed Girardet.
We’re in the Snake’s Head, the name given by the U.S. and British soldiers to a bulbous patchwork of canals in the Helmand desert in Southern Afghanistan, part of a ribbon of fertile land running south from the Malmand Mountains and commanded by the irrigation network built with U.S. assistance in the 1960s. The Helmand River valley is at the frontline of the current episode in Afghanistan’s Thirty-Year War.
Field Marshall Gerald Templer said of the 1952-4 conflict in Malaya, “The answer lies not in pouring more troops into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the people.” This philosophy animates the counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan set out in General Stanley McChrystal’s recent Initial Assessment. McChrystal is quoted as saying that "the shot you don't fire is more important than the one you do."
British forces have fought in this area since 2006. In July this year, in the biggest airlift operation since the Vietnam War, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force joined them and drove the Taliban further down the snake’s tail.
I've just returned from a very interesting conference on measuring violence hosted by UNDP and the Small Arms Survey/Geneva Declaration. Measurement issues are always vexing in this field and the people that work on conflict are well aware of the challenges. It turns out that there are very few statisticians running around battlefields, tracking gangs and trafficking or monitoring coups and political instability.
First, let me say, we met for two days. The first included 12 (twelve!) presentations on challenges and approaches for measuring armed violence, and during the second day participants broke in to working groups to develop a list of "Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-like" indicators for violence reduction.
Both days were really helpful to our work on the World Development Report 2011. The first validated the measurement techniques we are using to quantify violence (core indicators being direct battle deaths, one-sided violence and homicides, complemented by other sources), and the second day challenged us in group exercises to try to come up with some MDG-style indicators on violence.