One billion people live in countries where conflict has devastated health, education, economic systems, and lives. Citizens of "fragile states" need rapid and effective help. But too often international aid produces only short-term gains that do not last, is not responsive to local conditions, or is slow in arriving. For more information on these challenges, read "Fragile States: 'Toughest Development Challenge of Our Era.'
Development experts believe longer-term success hinges on helping weak governments build the capacity to provide critical services and govern effectively. Alastair McKechnie, Director of the World Bank's Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group and former Country Director in Afghanistan, answers your questions on new efforts to help countries break out of a cycle of ineffective government, poverty and conflict.
Can globalisation help those backward countries?
As we can see, most of the third world countries that suffer a lot merely try to struggle to imporve to survive on thier own while aims from developed countries is their utimiate target!
Fragile means wek in economy, poor living standard, terrible political situation.....you can help them with food and water, but how to help them to build up a stable political and positive social structure while most of those ppl in power only aim at personal interest!
The World Bank is constrained by its charter from interfering in political matters. It therefore cannot do much, if anything, about the quality of political leadership in a country. Political issues are more within the mandate of the United Nations and in countries where there is a special UN mission the Special Representative of the Secretary General is the point person for dialogue between government and international community on political matters like elections. Within international fora there is some discussion about how the international community should intervene in countries where the government is not benevolent towards its citizens, recognizing that any intervention such as delivering some limited services outside the government has implications for national sovereignty. However, the World Bank is not in the lead in such discussions.
What efforts does the Bank envisage to work with academics and practitioners to maximize lesson learning, and documentation of emerging better practice, in relation to health and health systems building in fragile states? Is there scope for more widespread and independent engagement in critical review of such experience? How central is building in-country capacity to critically reflect on, and analyse experience, even if this causes some discomfort for donors?
The World Bank is adapting its strategy for engagement in situations of fragility and conflict based on research done by academics and think tanks, its own research and the lessons of experience gained from the operations on the ground of the Bank and others. We are reaching out to those doing research in a number of countries, as well as international experts and practitioners, and our development partners. We are currently having a number of small seminars for our staff to interact with international experts. In addition, we are distilling some of the lessons of our operational experience through review sof successful programs and from staff returning from country assignments. Research, knowledge management and staff learning is one of the key planks in implementing World Bank’s strategic theme of fragility and conflict.
How does a Western country assist a fragile state without sparking nationalistic responses from one or another political or ethnic factions?
Multilateral institutions like the World Bank are essentially international cooperatives owned by nearly all the countries in the world. In other words, the Bank is the development face of the international community. Although our shareholding is skewed by the size of their economies towards the industrialized countries, decisions at our Board are almost always taken by consensus. Therefore, the interests of individual shareholders are muted and the Bank offers advice and assistance based on analysis and its empirical research. It is fundamentally a technocratic institution that tries to understand domestic politics within a country without seeking to meddle in them.
In conflict affected countries the Bank is very concerned to be “conflict sensitive”, i.e. not to do anything that makes conflict worse – the “do no harm” principle. This is done by social analysis of the situation on the ground and the social implications of interventions such as investments we finance, and by ensuring that some of the underlying grievances that fuel conflict, such as poverty are addressed. We also support activities such as community driven development where there is evidence that mobilizing communities to solve their problems can reduce tensions within a community.
The world bank was created to help rebuild countries after wars. What is the world bank doing in Afghanistan and other places where conflict is a daily reality? how does the bank's work respond to local conditions?
In Afghanistan the World Bank has provided more than $1 billion to support government and community owned programs that enable the state to provide services to at least some extent in all 34 provinces of the country. Much of our assistance has flowed to communities in block grants, especially through the National Solidarity Program, but we are also financing the government to provide basic health services to rural areas through NGOs working under contracts with the Ministry of Public Health. We see our role in Afghanistan as helping Afghans to rebuild their state and all World Bank finance and finance from the trust funds we administer, goes through the government budget to support capacity building and ownership. Facilitating development in a country affected by conflict where the international community is a potential target is a risky challenge. However, we have found that if Afghans are in charge and delivering services accountable to the people, these risks are reduced. Schools built with the local community are protected by the community.
How to make sure those countries will utilize aims in positive ways?
How to elimninate corruption in those fragile countries?
No matter what aims you provide, how to tackle with their cuktural barrier in order to have the ordinary ppl that suffer most can be benefitied from the aim?
You are correct that fragile countries often suffer from the worst corruption. The World Bank tries to address this in two ways: helping countries to put in place systems that make corruption more difficult; and protect the money it provides from being diverted to improper uses.
Much of our work in fragile states has been to help them put in place public financial management systems to strengthen procurement and accountability. Another critical area is to stimulate the demand from citizens for good governance by strengthening their involvement in service delivery such as through school parents committees or in community development councils. So far as funds managed by the Bank are concerned, we have strong rules on procurement, financial management, and audits. In some countries we have employed accounting firms to provide an extra layer of accountability, particularly when we are finance salaries and the recurrent costs of government. However, development is not culturally determined and countries that have successfully developed have usually changed traditional practices such as patron-client relations in, say, civil service employment.
I am a PhD student working on the analysis of the effects of conflict on households and local firms and the management of post-conflict situations to make peace sustainable.
I am interested in the economic reintegration of former rebels/soldiers. I think those programs should be evaluated with great caution since it would allow the capitalization of the good experiences and the learning about the mistakes.
My question is then: are impact evaluations of programs funded by th Bank systematically undertaken ? If they are, what were the lessons derived from those studies and what actions were undertaken to improve their quality, and thus their effectivement ?
Thank you for your response.
The World Bank has financed the Reintegration part of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs. We are currently carrying out a review of such programs and will most likely publish the results on our webpage in a few months.
In my experience of developing countries, I noticed that the international financial institutions as the Bank and the IMF often impose the implementation of many economic measures that did not have such a great impact on the populations of those countries but made their situation get worse.
According to many studies about the causes of civil conflict, the economic aspects are really important in explaining the emergence of conflicts.
My point is that the Bank should have tried to impose economic measures on the developed countries, many policies of which have hindered the economic developpement of many poor countries, like for instance the maintaining of high tariffs on farming products strangling the development of their exports...
The World Bank is continually adapting its policies and practices based on research and lessons of experience. One clear lesson is that policy conditionality forced on unwilling countries does not work. Country ownership is critical to achieving development results. This doesn’t mean that we will finance things that experience elsewhere has shown clearly will not work. In fragile and conflict affected situations the Bank has often financed things that we would not normally finance elsewhere. An example is industrial parks in countries where land with clear ownership is difficult to find, security is bad and where infrastructure is very weak. In fragile situations the Bank puts its money through government systems to maximize the opportunities for administrations to learn by doing and to strengthen the accountability of government for delivering services to citizens.
Michel Del Buono:
Alastair, I see you have moved from energy... well, so have I, without leaving it totally.
BUT: Has the Bank/IDA done anything in/for South Sudan recently? I mean since the JAM in 2005/6.
Thanks and regards.
Hi Michele. Nice to hear from you. The Bank has an active program in Southern Sudan and an office in Juba. This covers a wide range of services ranging from providing advice, e.g. on how to implement the government’s decentralization program, to financing infrastructure such as the Juba water treatment plant. Because Sudan overall is in arrears in its debt service on old Bank loans, resources flowing to Sudan that are administered by the Bank are provided around a partnership with donors and government through a multi-donor trust fund (MDTF). MDTFs are a common instrument in post-conflict countries that enable donor resources to be pooled so as to finance government priorities. They lower transaction costs to governments that do not have much capacity to deal with multiple donors and their requirements. MDTFs are very much in the spirit of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the recent Accra Agenda for Action to improve aid effectiveness.
Someone recently told me that "The best ideas are found in the graveyard". Nigeria Government has been found wanting in executing projects to the benefits of average Nigerians, but the Worldbank activities in Nigria seem focused on Government despite the well known corruption issues. How can intellectual property that could change the paradigm of Nigeria's transportation sector be protected and funded in the private sector? And how can the Worldbank assist with developing such project into fruition if a person lacks the financial ability? Thank you.
Best ideas in graveyards! What a depressing thought, even if true. The private sector has a clear role to play in situations of fragility, but we need to recognize the difficulties that investors face if the business environment is poor. There has been a lot of private investment in mobile phones in even conflict affected countries. A good regulatory environment, which the World Bank Group often supports through its advisory services, has been shown to attract more investment and lead to lower phone charges through competition. At the other end of the spectrum, microfinance has been useful in supporting small enterprises that generate employment and reduce poverty. The challenges are more for mid sized firms and those wishing to invest in infrastructure where the rule of law and a transparent, predictable business environment are important. This is not always found in fragile situations and is a governance problem. Our private sector arm, IFC, does provide technical assistance and training to strengthen the skills of the local private sector.
Dr. Ashish Manohar Urkude:
Let me ask you one Question. Is development of one or two countries that will make this earth worth living or development of all countries?
If development of few countries is at greater speed than other then, in 1969 USA goes to Moon, 2009 India and China goes to moon, and 2100 A.D. some other country will go to moon. Is it development of a country or humanity? In fact such Research and Development should be inclusive and cumulative addition to previous efforts, and not disjoint efforts of humanbeings around the world.
Another point arises is better we set up some standards like ISO 9000 for Political Governance in all the countries. Otherwise political system, business, military, health system, and supporting government services of all countries will never be at par with each other, even if they follow any political idealogy.
Hence I firmly believe that it requires lot of local and global level efforts to develop people from all the countries we are talking here so that they can sustain and survive.
Already global environmental problems and other explosive problems are there that we need to tackle and we have lesser time left to achieve that.
Hence unless we find some permanent solution over this problem, survival of humanity will be at stake.
+ Dr. Ashish Manohar Urkude.
While there is not ISO standard on governance, the World Bank does publish governance indicators for all countries of the world. These are available on our website www.worldbank.org
and search for "WBI governance indicators". The Bank also has an "IDA Resource Allocation Index" for the countries receiving assistance from our soft loan/grant facility that is also available on our website.