Title: World Development Report 2011 - Overview – Conflict, Security and Development
Institution: World Bank
Publication Date: 2011
Keywords: Conflict, Stabilisation
The World Development Report (WDR) 2011 is essential reading for those working in policy and programming on conflict and development issues. The report contains a vast amount of primary research which it uses to explain why the development community has to find more effective ways to work in conflict-affected and fragile contexts.
Those who work in international development institutions will recognise the messages in the WDR represent a major shift as they challenge the very nature of how international development is conceived and delivered in conflict affected and fragile contexts. Although the WDR raises as many questions as it answers, it is vitally important as it challenges some of the comfortable assumptions which have underpinned international development thinking and action of the previous decade.
“The central message of this report is that strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizens security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence”.
The report asks what spurs risk of violence, why conflict prevention and recovery have proven so difficult to address, and what can be done by national leaders to help restore a stable development path.
Central to the WDR is the emphasis on weak institutions being responsible for relapses into violent conflict, and it argues convincingly violent conflict occurs when a society’s institutions are inadequate to deal with the internal and external stresses. It also asserts international development institutions must accept the establishment and emergence of institutions is almost entirely an endogenous one - they cannot make institutions happen. The WDR clearly recommends if the international community are to contribute more effectively to development in fragile and conflict-affected countries, they need to learn how to enable the emergence, strengthening and transformation of these institutions. A major part of this is to avoid getting in their way, by purposely or inadvertently reinforcing the elements which obstruct them.
Although much of the focus is on institution strengthening the report also helps undermine the widely help assumption that working on the symptoms of underdevelopment will somehow address the causes of conflict. It addresses these by commenting on wider issues of security and justice, the economy and imposed programming time-frames.
For security and justice issues the report stresses the importance of responsive state structures for citizens. It recommends if international development organisations wish to make a difference, they need to find ways to create and improve confidence by improving security and fair access to justice.
In terms of the economy, the WDR challenges the assumption economic growth is the key to progress. The report instead emphasises the importance of the level of participation in the economy - it is not enough to rely on boosting growth domestic product through mining etc, since these sectors will not provide enough jobs or self-employment opportunities for all. The report recommends there needs to be a wider acceptance that long-term subsidies for labour-intensive public sector work can be a good investment in the sustainability of the polity itself.
The WDR also undermines the assumption that change can be accomplished at a pace defined by the international community’s need to show results. Stability takes time and development practitioners have to come to terms with longer time-frames and use vision based approaches rather than fixed deadlines. Stability should run at a pace defined by local factors, recognising the reality that building a new relationship between citizen and state takes many decades. What this means for the international community is looking at what works in the context, rather than trying to fit the context to international project planning models. It is hoped this will allow space for innovation and for the right processes and institutions to emerge, providing the right incentives and support are present.