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IDA: Securing a more resilient future in fragile and conflict-affected settings

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A 14 year old refugee girl, who is eight months pregnant, receives care at a hospital in the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Over the last few years, situations of fragility and conflict have been increasing globally, and the countries impacted are being particularly hit by poverty – and now by COVID-19.  We estimated earlier this year that by 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extremely poor people will live in countries impacted by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV), and the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved in these fragile settings, where the challenge is to secure peace and the chance for inclusive and sustainable development.

At the same time, the international community is called upon to do its share both in facilitating the peace but also in providing development assistance. And this is exactly what the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s fund for the poorest – has been doing. 

Under the 18th replenishment of IDA (IDA18), which ended in June, we have more than doubled our support in fragile and conflict-affected situations over three years, from $10.2 billion to $23 billion. Thanks to this, over 38 million people have accessed essential health services, more than 15 million children have been immunized, and over 17 million people have benefitted from social safety net programs.

This is great progress – but so much more needs to be done. 

Helping address the impacts of COVID-19

I am extremely concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing health, economic and social vulnerabilities, while threatening lives and livelihoods in some of the most fragile environments.

“Countries impacted by FCV are experiencing their worst recession on record, and an additional 18 to 27 million people are being pushed into extreme poverty.”

Remittances from cross-border migrants and refugees are expected to decline by an average of 20 percent this year.  Remittances were greater than international aid for countries impacted by FCV in 2019, and have been a key lifeline for many of the poorest communities in these settings.

As of the end of August, our COVID-related support through IDA has reached 28 countries impacted by FCV, helping to strengthen social safety nets to support the most vulnerable.  These investments help address the causes of fragility while also directly tackling the pandemic and strengthening country health systems, to lay the foundations for a more resilient recovery, from Haiti and Afghanistan to Burkina Faso and Papua New Guinea.

Harnessing the power of partnerships

With our COVID-19 response and beyond, we work with a broad range of partners to leverage our comparative advantages and maximize impact.  In the Sahel, for instance, we have provided around $6 billion, and partnered with humanitarian, peace and security actors – notably the G5 Sahel and the Sahel Alliance – to support peace and stability in the region. This development support has focused on providing critical services and strengthening institutions. In response to increasing food insecurity in Somalia in 2017, we partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through a $50 million program that improved access to food for 767,000 Somalis and helped avert famine.

IDA18 was also lifechanging for refugees and the communities that host them, with a $1.85 billion investment supporting 35 operations across 14 countries. In Cameroon, Chad, Niger, the Republic of Congo, and Uganda, we are strengthening country systems to provide services like health, education, social safety nets, and water and sanitation. Our partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) complements essential humanitarian relief with the longer-term development assistance needed to create economic opportunities, strengthen livelihoods, and put in place more inclusive policies in host countries to support refugees.

An innovative approach used by IDA18 is the $2.5 billion Private Sector Window (PSW) that has helped create jobs and economic opportunities in the most challenging low-income and fragile contexts. In Afghanistan, for instance, an $89 million public-private-partnership brings together the different arms of the World Bank Group to increase Afghans’ access to energy by boosting domestic electricity generation by up to 30 percent.

Looking ahead: FCV will be at the center of IDA19

This strong foundation is being expanded during IDA19, which launched in July 2020 and will run through June 2023.  Our estimated $25 billion in financing for FCV will be tailored to meet diverse country challenges. This includes support to help prevent the escalation of conflicts, remain engaged during crisis and post-crisis situations to preserve human capital and key institutions, and to help create development opportunities for refugees and host communities.

Conflict prevention is a key pillar of our approach as a development institution , emphasized under the first World Bank Group FCV Strategy released earlier this year.

“Every $1 invested in prevention saves $16 down the road, which means that addressing the drivers of fragility is one of the best ways to target development support.”

Going forward, we will focus our financing to help governments proactively address risks and grievances – including those caused by exclusion, gender and other inequalities, and lack of access to jobs and services – before they turn into full-blown conflict.

We are also adapting the way we implement operations in the most challenging environments through an increased staff presence and enhanced use of technology. Since 2017, more than 150 additional staff now work in fragile and conflict-affected situations, from Goma to Juba to Kabul—and we will add another 150 staff over the next three years.  However, it’s not just about staff presence—project implementation and supervision in insecure areas can be extremely challenging. This is why we are leveraging simple and low-cost technology solutions to enhance the Bank’s capacity to have eyes on the ground where we cannot always have feet on the ground. Our Geo-Enabling Initiative for Monitoring and Supervision (GEMS), for example, builds capacity among our clients, local partners, and  project teams to use simple open-source tools to collect and analyze geo-tagged field data in real time.  GEMS has now been implemented in more than 450 projects in over 40 countries, with a strong focus on fragile settings as well as COVID-19 response operations.

As we support countries to tackle the health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 in FCV settings, IDA will be more important than ever.  With IDA’s ability to provide long-term development support to complement our partners’ humanitarian interventions, we have an opportunity to support the most marginalized and vulnerable communities and help build resilience as countries recover.  


International Development Association (IDA)

World Bank Group and COVID-19

World Bank and Fragility, Conflict and Violence


Axel van Trotsenburg

World Bank’s Senior Managing Director (SMD)

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