Rethinking Development in Situations of Fragility, Conflict and Violence
Fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) threaten to crumble hard-won development achievements in developing countries around the world. The World Bank is transitioning to an FCV strategy that can help maintain development progress amidst conflict through prevention, engagement, transitional assistance and mitigation techniques.

Effects of FCV on Development

Situations of FCV have risen significantly in the past 30 years. The number has grown from approximately 40 million forcibly displaced people worldwide in 1990 to more than 79.5 million people at the end of 2019. FCV has devastated countries’ economies and left millions in poverty, while threatening to crumble hard-won development achievements. A World Bank report predicted that in the next decade, two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will reside in countries that fragility, conflict and violence plague. Economies that fragility and conflict burden often have persisting poverty rates of over 40%, while countries that stabilized in the past decade have dropped their poverty rates by more than half.

About 20% of people living in situations of FCV experience educational, financial and infrastructure losses. Human capital development, a pivotal component of economic growth and poverty reduction also tend to decrease in conflict settings, as the health, education and skills of an entire population get put on hold. Human capital losses from fragility and conflict can decrease lifetime productivity and earnings. As a result, it leaves the youth population at a disadvantage even conflicts end.

The “New” Humanitarian Aid

Aid to situations of fragility, conflict and violence has traditionally focused on humanitarian interventions to save lives and fulfill basic needs, putting development planning aside until the restoration of peace. Although short-term humanitarian aid is crucial, situations of conflict have become increasingly protracted. This dilemma has stretched the operational capacity of U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), designed to provide short-term humanitarian assistance. However, the need for long-term solutions is crucial. The World Bank has concluded that securing peace is mandatory for extreme poverty eradication, and is rethinking the way it approaches development in settings of FCV as a result. In a five-year strategy, the Bank aims to assist countries before, during and after situations of FCV through four pillars of engagement.

4 Pillars of Engagement

  1. Preventing Violent Conflict and Interpersonal Violence: Prevention is a key pillar of The World Bank’s FCV strategy because of its humanitarian and economic efficiency. According to the U.N. and World Bank, approximately every $1 invested in preventing situations of FCV can save $16 in the future. Prevention starts with addressing the drivers of FCV and assessing the risks associated with FCV.  Discrimination, injustice, economic and social exclusion, gender inequality and demographic shocks can all play a role in igniting FCV. Therefore, addressing these issues is crucial to improving peace and resilience before tensions escalate. For example, The International Development Association’s (IDA18) Risk Mitigation Regime is helping countries like Niger identify FCV risks. Risks that include youth disenfranchisement, corruption and natural resource competition. IDA18 is addressing them through the provision of resources and programming.
  2. Remaining Engaged During Crises and Active Conflicts: The World Bank aims to remain engaged during crises and active conflicts. It hopes to protect development, strengthen community resilience and establish foundations for recovery. Continuing investments into places experiencing FCV will protect human capital development and strengthen institutions. The World Bank is cooperating with humanitarian actors in Yemen to strengthen its projects during the conflict and is continuing its assistance with energy and agricultural sector development by employing Yemenis and sustaining their livelihoods during the conflict.
  3. Helping Countries Transition Out of Fragility: Transition periods are often turbulent, consequently leaving populations vulnerable to socio-economic shocks that can trigger the return of FCV. The World Bank aims to strengthen institutions, develop the private sector and improve relations between citizens and the state. Improving relations between the population and the state will ensure a peaceful transition out of fragility. During Somalia’s transition, for instance, The World Bank is helping to improve financial governance. It is also providing economic support to manage debt, strengthen the banking sector and reform public financial management.
  4. Mitigating the Spillovers of FCV: Spillovers from situations of fragility, conflict and violence can have major humanitarian consequences and strain the capacity of nearby states. The most vulnerable and marginalized communities often suffer the worst from cross-border crises such as displacement, famines, environmental challenges and public health emergencies. In order to reduce FCV spillover, The World Bank aims to strengthen its assistance to refugees and host countries. Ethiopia’s refugee policy reforms serve as a key example of spillover mitigation. The World Bank is helping Ethiopia’s government transition towards a progressive long-term settlement framework, integrating refugees into Ethiopia’s socioeconomic system. In addition, giving refugees access to employment and essential services will help build self-reliance, improve living standards and develop human capital development. With help from The World Bank and other development partners, Ethiopia has received the tools necessary to support its refugee population.

The World Bank’s new strategy is redefining the way to approach development in situations of fragility, conflict and violence. Through prevention, engagement, transitional assistance and mitigation, The World Bank is helping FCV communities prepare for a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Flickr