What will this year’s World Development Report say about Conflict?

June 8, 2010

     By Duncan Green     

The WDR is published in the fall, but this year’s WDR director, Sarah Cliffe, gave a preview of its contents at Harvard recently. The Report WDR2011-homepage-imagewill focus on ‘conflict affected countries’ (CACs). What most caught my attention was her typology of three types of ‘neglected violence’ that offer particular challenges for policy-makers (comments from Ed Cairns, our conflict guru, in square brackets):

1. Repeat cycles of violence: since the late 1990s, a high percentage of ‘battle deaths’ have occurred after ceasefires. [The proportion of deaths from direct violence and from increased, for example, disease and malnutrition/destroyed services seems to vary a lot from conflict to conflict.  In Iraq, most fatalities are ‘battle deaths’, but in the DRC it’s more typically the other way round.  And this point of course links to the point made by Collier et al that a sizeeable proportion of peace deals collapse and revert to armed conflict within a few years. There are cycles of violence, and many countries are stuck in a state of half war/half peace in between.]

2. Interlinked violence: Most CACs suffer multiple forms of violence, often 3 or 4 from a list of gang-based violence, local violence, political violence and organized crime. Yet typically different ministries are responsible for tackling different elements of these, producing serious coordination problems in already weak states. [Yes, and perhaps interlinked levels of violence as well.  For example, our work in Afghanistan has shown how local violent disputes feed and are fed by the national conflict between the government and Taliban  –  and therefore it’s been a big mistake of the international community not to put more effort into local peacebuilding.]

3. Cross-border violence is far broader an issue than terrorism (e.g. Uganda’s LRA, or organized crime), but is very hard for the aid system to tackle, as it works on the basis of nation states. [The LRA is not so much cross-border because it’s no longer based in northern Uganda.  It’s more like violence has itself become displaced – moved from Uganda to DRC, Central African Republic and southern Sudan.  But surely it’s true that aid needs to take a regional approach in response.]

Another tricky issue is the reform/risk profile: reforms that in the long term will reduce the likelihood of violence, eg by tackling inequality, typically increase risk in the short term, not least by provoking backlash and destabilization. So the WDR will spend some time considering what sequence and pace of reforms best minimise this risk.

For more, check out the WDR 2011 website or its blog

June 8, 2010
Duncan Green