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Mariela Baeva
Mariela Baeva
Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria
2007 - 2009
(first direct EP elections in Bulgaria);

LEED to OECD partner (Nanotech)

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A Climate of Change (A Special Report by The Economist Concerning the Arab Spring)

Conflicts and Fragility – next chapter

                                 Conflicts and Fragile States*


The past decade has witnessed a proliferation in the range and complexity of armed violence.

There are linkages in certain countries and cities between socio-political conflict and crime. In conflict-affected countries such as, for example, Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan, armed groups often fragment and seek to control illicit markets. In many cases these groups are not just locally connected; rather, they are aligned with transnational criminal networks and global supply chains.

From the anarchy of Somalia to the relative stability of Nepal, fragile and transitional situations represent a broad spectrum of contexts. However, they share some common features: these are risky environments – for the people who live there, for their governments, for neighbouring countries, and for those who seek to provide assistance. Positive outcomes are hard to achieve and the risk of regression in countries emerging from armed conflict is high.

International engagement in these situations presents significant risks for donors and implementing partners, but also holds the potential for substantial rewards in terms of improved results and outcomes. Indeed, more often than not, the risks associated with not engaging in these contexts – both for the countries themselves and for the international community – outweigh most of the risks of engaging in the first place. The question therefore is not whether to engage but how to engage in ways that are context-specific and do not come at an unacceptable cost.

Conservative estimates indicate that at least 740 000 men, women, youth and children die each year as a result of armed violence, most of them in low- and medium-income settings. The majority of these deaths occur in situations other than war, though armed conflicts continue to generate a high incidence of casualties. Approaches to preventing and reducing these deaths and related suffering are becoming increasingly important on the international agenda. In spite of the global preoccupation with the costs and consequences of armed violence, comparatively little evidence exists about how to stem its risks and effects. Virtually no information is available on Armed Violence Reduction and Prevention interventions, much less their effectiveness.

*the extracts above stem from different papers of OECD concerning conflicts and fragile states, armed violence trends, managing risks, investing in security, etc.

Conflict and Fragility Analysis and Future Global Shocks – Social unrest

Challenges such as poor security, weak governance, limited administrative capacity, chronic humanitarian crises, persistent social tensions, violence or the legacy of civil war require different approaches nowadays. This need is supported by an increasing body of knowledge, evidence and high-level policy guidance on how to engage on a number of critical areas in conflict-affected and fragile states (e.g. World Bank, 2011; OECD, 2011a).*

The international community is increasingly concerned about slow progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) resulting from state fragility and violent conflict. A third of the world’s poor live in countries where the state lacks either the will or the capacity to engage productively with its citizens to ensure security, prevent conflict, safeguard human rights and provide the basic functions for development.

International actors seem not to take the time to understand the context adequately and tend to apply “pre-packaged” programming rather than tailoring assistance to local realities (CDA, 2011).


The 2011 Survey demonstrates that the last two years have seen little progress on the implementation of the principle of an overall strategy of crisis prevention, broader development partner engagement and recognition of the links between the security, political and development dimensions.

Paul Collier**, Professor of Economics at Oxford University, argues that three economic factors make countries prone to conflicts like civil war: low income, slow growth and reliance on the export of a commodity like oil (the latter can both provide a funding source for conflicts, as with the “blood diamonds” in Angola, and spark disputes over control of revenues).


There’s also been a debate over the impact of humanitarian aid in war-torn regions, with claims that it may in some cases be “subsidising” and extending conflicts. Journalist Philip Gourevitch*** sums up the case: “Humanitarianism relieves the warring parties of many of the burdens (administrative and financial) of waging war, diminishing the demands of governing while fighting, cutting the cost of sustaining casualties, and supplying the food, medicine, and logistical support that keep armies going.”


Worldwide, 1.5 billion people live in fragile states or areas afflicted by conflict or large-scale, organised criminal violence, according to the most recent edition of The World Bank’s World Development Report. Such failures are disastrous for development: no low-income fragile state or country afflicted by conflict has attained even one of the MDGs, while people in such countries are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those in other developing countries. But conflict is only one aspect – governance is another. This is about the capacity of countries to govern themselves in a decent way****, transparently and accountably. It’s also about their ability to create a public space where all citizens, regardless of their backgrounds, can help to shape the decisions that will determine their country’s future.


The impact of the remarkable shift that the world economy has seen over the past couple of decades is already having profound effects on all our lives. It’s also helping to reshape the global agenda, providing a new source of funding, ideas and development partnerships.

It seems that the society as a whole, national governments as well as other major actors on the field are not well prepared to monitor the triggers for social unrest and to design the appropriate risk management measures to contribute to de-escalation.


*Excerpts from Conflict and Fragility Analysis – © OECD 2011 and OECD/IFP Project on “Future Global Shocks” – “Social unrest” report of The International Network on Fragility and Conflict (INCAF). INCAF is a subsidiary body of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).


**Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at Oxford University; his book “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It”.

***Philip Gourevitch, an American author and journalist, is a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker and the former editor of The Paris Review.

****Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute identified six core principles that they argue are now widely accepted in both developing and developed countries as being essential to good governance:

Participation: Do people who are affected by decisions have a say in how they’re made?

Fairness: Do the same rules apply equally to everyone?

Decency: Do the rules of society humiliate or harm people or segments of society?

Accountability: Are politicians, officials and other political actors held accountable for what they do?

Transparency: Are decisions made in a clear, open way?

Efficiency: Are human and financial resources put to good use, without waste, delay or corruption?

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