World Bank targets conflict in war against poverty

Conflict and violence are holding back global economic growth and trapping 1,5-billion people in dire poverty, the World Bank said on Sunday, calling for an international effort to break the cycle.

In countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence, poverty rates are 20 percentage points higher than in other countries, the World Bank said in a new report.

“If we are to break the cycles of violence and lessen the stresses that drive them, countries must develop more legitimate, accountable and capable national institutions that provide for citizen security, justice and jobs,” said World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

The 2011 World Development Report examines how conflict and violence affect economic development and the lessons to be learned from countries’ successes and failures in overcoming those challenges.

The study ranges from Somalia piracy, continuing violence in Afghanistan and drug trafficking in the Americas to successful political transitions, such as in Northern Ireland and Indonesia.

All over the developing world, it was clear that repeated cycles of violence contributed heavily to the planet’s misery, the Bank said.

People living in fragile states are twice as likely to be undernourished and 50% more likely to be impoverished. Their children are three times as likely to be out of school, the economists found.

‘Stove-piped’ agencies
And 42-million people, about the entire population of Canada, are displaced from their homes due to conflict, violence or human rights abuses.

Zoellick, who took the helm of the World Bank in 2007, has made the issue of conflict and violence a key theme of the Bank’s work.

“As we are now seeing again in the Middle East and North Africa, violence in the 21st century differs from 20th-century patterns of interstate conflict and methods of addressing them,” he wrote in the report.

“Stove-piped” government agencies are ill-suited to cope, the report found. Instead integrated international action is needed on multiple levels.

The report offers a five-point roadmap for action, saying establishing institutional legitimacy was key to stability.

The bank also called for investment in citizen security, justice and jobs; reform of institutions to make them more responsive; and the adoption of a “layered” approach involving multiple levels in addressing a problem.

‘Cycles of repeated violence’
The fifth point stresses the need for an overarching awareness that the global landscape is changing away from the old model dominated by the rich countries.

The launch of the report “is most timely in view of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa in the past two months”, said Justin Lin, the World Bank’s chief economist, at the briefing.

“Conflict [and] security are not conventional topics for the World Bank and other international development institutions,” he said.

“However, conflict and security are closely related to development.”

The report, 18 months in the making, drew on resources including the United Nations, experts, national reformers and nongovernmental organizations.

“This past decade has seen the increasing penetration of instability in global life — in terrorism, an expanding drug trade, impact on commodity prices, and the rising numbers of internationally mobile refugees,” the authors said.

“Breaking cycles of repeated violence is thus a shared challenge demanding urgent action.” — Sapa-AFP

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