“Pathways for peace”: putting prevention of violent conflicts at the center

Impuls 03/2018 by Alexandre Marc, Chief Specialist Fragility, Conflict and Violence at World Bank

The joint World Bank-United Nations report on pathways for peace was launched on March 1, 2018. It is the first joint report prepared by the United Nations and the World Bank. It is estimated that in 2030 between 45 and 60% of the world poor will be living in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence, and therefore no improvement in the living standard of the poor will be possible without reducing the occurrence of violent conflicts. Since 2010, the number of major violent conflicts has tripled, and fighting in a growing number of lower intensity conflicts has escalated. By 2016, more countries were affected by violence than at any time in nearly 30 years; most of these conflicts are driven by the rapid escalations of domestic instability, including in middle-income countries.

The Pathways for Peace study brings together evidence from regional consultations, thematic papers, and case studies of successful preventive action. The study reaffirms the recognition that conflict is a critical risk to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The report analyzes modern conflicts: conflicts today are more and more difficult to end, are more internationalized, in most case cross borders, see the involvement of an unprecedented number of armed groups of all sorts and are strongly influenced by global issues: ideology, trafficking of all sorts, illegal financing flows, climate change, fast movement of populations, increasing geopolitical competition.

The report makes several important comments:

Firstly, it makes the business case for investing in prevention. With the costs of conflict climbing, and efforts at conflict termination challenged by the proliferation of non-state armed groups and renewed internationalization, the case to take a systemic response to prevention is strengthening. Today an effective preventive engagement that cost $1 billion a year, and was unsuccessful 3 out of 4 times, would save on average $5 billion per year.

Secondly, it calls for an integrated approach to prevention. The study looked at 15 situations that have successfully shifted pathways from cycles of protracted conflict towards sustained peace. National cases demonstrate the importance of aligning security and diplomatic action with development policies and investments over the long term.

Thirdly, it calls for an inclusive approach to prevention. The primary responsibility for preventive action rests with states, and successful preventive action is undertaken by local or national actors. However, increasingly states are called to work together and with civil society and private sectors to address common risks and keep their countries on pathways for peace. In this sense effective prevention enhances sovereignty.

The report is not addressed only to the UN and the World Bank, it is first addressed to countries experiencing risks of conflict and then to the international community. Obviously, however, it contains many recommendations that are very relevant for the UN and the World Bank. The UN is taking up these messages in parts of its reforms efforts and the World Bank is preparing a note on implementation to identify the type of actions that it will take in response to the report. It is expected that the implementation report will be available by end of June.

The World Bank has already put in place some instruments, over the last couple of years, that are very relevant for prevention such as the IDA risk mitigation windows of one billion dollars to support countries addressing some of the risk of violent conflicts through a variety of investments. This facility is available now for Niger, Tajikistan, Guinea and Nepal.

Another instrument holds promises for joint actions by international actors for channeling investments to address long term risks of violent conflict and this is the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment.

A joint methodology between the UN, The World Bank and the European Union to work with government on identifying the main components of recovery after conflict that could be adapted effectively for prevention. Linking much better our policy dialogue between World Bank, UN and EU on early risks of violent conflicts and on addressing exclusion is another important area being explored.

Further Information:

Alexandre Marc, Chief Specialist Fragility, Conflict and Violence at World Bank

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