- Useful basis for debate and reflection
The World Development Report 2011 draws on a range of views and evidence to show how conflict and fragility undermine development. It provides a useful reflection about the cyclical nature of conflict and violence.
Its main approach suggests a prioritization of institution-building to create and foster citizen security, justice, and jobs. This view coincides with advocates who have called for quick impact projects as part of a ‘peace dividend’ after peace agreements.
Four core points for further debate and action in the WDR are 1) scaling up job creation; 2) layering the quality of approach; 3) redefining partnership between donors and recipients; and 4) adopting pragmatic realism about time.
The WDR does have weaknesses and gaps, for instance failing to critique the lack of policy coherence among advanced economies and aid agencies.
The WDR sets out to prove how conflict and fragility undermine development. Not a new idea, particularly for post-conflict peacebuilding institutions and their proponents. But the authors of the report draw on a range of views and evidence to show why this is so. A major finding, widely cited in literature about the WDR 2011 is that “no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single UN Millennium Development Goal”.
The methodology of the report carefully involved consultations and input papers from scholars and practitioners around the world. In this respect, the findings should not surprise the peace and conflict community, since the WDR is a useful reflection of a general consensus about the cyclical nature of conflict and violence. So, while the findings of the report are unsurprising, the recommendations are eye-opening. Taken from the position that countries in conflict and fragility are unlikely to emerge from poverty, the authors propose a prioritization of institution-building to create and foster citizen security, justice, and jobs, a trinity of factors that the WDR deems essential to stopping cycles of armed violence, and thus increasing the likelihood of development.
Arguing that violence is perpetuated by internal and external stressors – where economic, political or security-driven effects undermine fragile states – the WDR contends that a major priority should be helping governments provide access to justice and employment in particular. This view coincides with advocates who have called for quick impact projects as part of a ‘peace dividend’ after peace agreements and those behind the creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. But the WDR further argues for changes in development practice, both by recipient countries and donors.
I found four core points for further debate and action in the WDR. These are 1) scaling up job creation; 2) layering the quality of approach; 3) redefining partnership between donors and recipients; and 4) adopting pragmatic realism about time.
- Scaling up job creation : A major problem for states emerging out of conflict is that there is no evidence that peace will bring a better life for all. To counter this, the WDR encourages scaling up large-scale community-based public works for job creation, and thus signalling change and delivering a ‘peace dividend’. Programmes that bring electricity and transportation or develop businesses are good sources of jobs. Through these, new responses to the economic and political stressors that create instability can be addressed. The point is not to approach such initiatives as purely development-oriented, but as critical to peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. Moreover, expanding the scale of such activities, that is doing things that have a wider impact on societies, is essential .
- Layering the quality of approach : The WDR contends that the quality of aid programmes is important, not just in terms of ensuring that new roads last or electricity lines work, but that initiatives involve many people, from all sectors of a society as well as at different levels of interaction. First, the report signals that gender matters, and applauds programmes that involve women in security, justice and economic empowerment. Second, it calls for more heightened collaboration between the private and public sectors, even in underdeveloped economies. Third, the authors call for action at the local, national, regional and global levels. This is a best practice strategy and widely remarked upon in various policy processes. But the WDR seems to place added value on the links between these levels, with local and national actions less likely to succeed without regional infrastructure and integration programmes and, globally, reduction of food price volatility and illegal trafficking.
- Redefining partnership between donors and recipients : The WDR makes a strong case for taking on the difficult tasks, those ‘hard to track’ results. But, reform of a defunct or corrupt police force can be elusive during the rocky period after conflict, just as job creation is unlikely to happen overnight. The report suggests that donors accept the risks of development in post-conflict and fragile countries, while recognizing the increasing demands by their domestic constituencies for accountability and results. Recipient and donor countries are urged to jointly carry risk and address the demands of their respective constituencies through mutual branding and follow-up of results. While this recommendation is less innovative than existing practice, it is important that the WDR clearly states why results are critical to continued assistance.
- Adopting pragmatic realism about time : Perhaps one of the most exciting and troubling findings presented is how long transitions from conflict or fragility really take and why expectations for rapid results in institutional transformation are unrealistic. The report provides evidence that transformations of institutions have never happened in one generation, and that reforms have taken between 15 and 30 years: “It took the 20 fastest-moving countries an average of 17 years to get the military out of politics, 20 years to achieve functioning bureaucratic quality, and 27 years to bring corruption under reasonable control”. Countries that have crossed this divide quickly, such as Portugal and Korea, had much more experienced institutions and higher levels of literacy than conflict countries such as the DR Congo or fragile states such as Haiti.
The WDR does have weaknesses and gaps. It argues that countries with undiversified economies – dependent on natural resources and vulnerable to global commodity price volatility – are particularly likely to experience violence; however, it does not provide policy recommendations to tackle the protectionist measures by advanced economies that negatively affect these countries. And when critiquing the fragmented approaches of multiple diplomatic, security, development and humanitarian actors, the WDR fails to acknowledge other policy processes intended to create coherence among aid actors, such as the Paris Agenda.
Overall, the WDR 2011 is worth debate and reflection. What do its findings mean for our expectations of post-conflict peacebuilding and development? Is frustration at the recurrence of conflict assuaged by realising that we have underestimated how long it will take to make countries such as the DR Congo governable? Or should we hold donors and recipients accountable in new ways, and ask whether or not initiatives that promise security sector reform really lead to citizen security; road works do create local jobs; and budget assistance actually builds more responsive and effective state institutions?