NAIROBI, February 23, 2012 -- With more than 1.5 billion people living in countries afflicted by repeated cycles of conflict and violence, the World Bank has opened a new Global Center on Conflict, Security and Development to make its financial support and expertise work better for poor and vulnerable people living in fragile countries. The center will also help to establish a stronger community of practice and knowledge-sharing across the worldwide network of practitioners who work on development issues confronting fragile and conflict-affected countries.
The Bank says that more than 30 countries, mostly in Africa, are affected by conflict and that its new center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, will allow the Bank to provide their communities with more flexible, transparent help.
At its opening ceremony in Nairobi, attended by Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, government ministers, UN and development agencies, and NGOs active in post-conflict development, the Bank said the world is now witnessing a number of countries that are navigating their way out of war and conflict -- Sierra Leone, Liberia, Timor Leste, and Bosnia -- by resuming education, health, and other key social services, and creating stable, elected governments which in turn have drawn development support and local and foreign investors.
However, according to the Bank, millions of people across Africa, South Asia, and other regions still face perilous, isolated, lives in war-torn situations.
“Political and criminal violence should not be the chains that shackle people for life. We know violence knows no borders. We know the impact of violence can last generations,” said Dr. Caroline Anstey, the World Bank’s Managing Director for Operations, who officially opened the Nairobi center. “Our challenge is to provide more support and make development work more effectively in fragile and often violent places. Not to do so would be abandoning our development mission.”
Anstey said that too often in the face of violence and conflict, “the international community has offered fragmented, short-term, and ‘ear-marked’ support,” and that the Nairobi hub will connect with other agencies and groups working in fragile and conflict affected situations worldwide, as well as reinforce its partnerships and innovative practices on the ground, while improving development coordination.
Anstey noted that the Bank had mobilized more than 690 staff to work in fragile countries across the globe, and had provided more than US$5.9 billion in zero-interest in reconstruction support to these countries since 2000 from the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, the International Development Association (IDA), and the Bank-administered State-and Peace-Building Fund, which fosters peace-building in fragile and conflict countries.
“Our Nairobi ‘hub’ represents a strategic shift in the way we help fragile and conflict affected countries, and will make us more flexible and smarter about how we can improve people’s lives in desperate situations,” Anstey said.
Fragile and conflict-affected states are a key priority for its poverty-fighting mission, the World Bank says. These countries face severe development challenges -- weak governments, corruption, political instability, and frequently, ongoing violence or the legacy of past violence -- and while people living in fragile and post-conflict countries make up 15 percent of the world’s population, they represent more than 30 percent of all people living in dire poverty. Their poverty rates are twice as high as people living in other low-income countries.
"Sierra Leone has made significant progress in recovering from conflict, and could offer some useful lessons for other post-conflict countries and development partners. As a result, we commend the World Bank for this new Nairobi hub, and going forward, we hope that it will attract other partners and communities to provide us with more flexible financial aid and advice, and help us build up the stronger national and local institutions that empower countries to journey towards lasting peace and security,” said The Honorable Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, who spoke at today’s Nairobi launch.
Networking vital for better post-conflict results
The Director of the Nairobi hub says that it is essential for the Bank to work closely with a wider variety of experienced partners, including aid agencies, NGOs, and conflict-affected countries and communities -- to deliver better, lasting development results for people living in the turmoil of conflict.
“Issues of citizens’ security, justice, jobs, and rooting out corruption, in fragile countries are highly political and difficult challenges and if we want to make a difference, we need to network with other experienced partners and communities in the field of state and peace-building,” said Joel Hellman, Director of the Bank’ new Global Center on Conflict, Security and Development in Nairobi.
The Nairobi center, which will operate out of the headquarters of Africa’s leading affordable housing NGO, Shelter Afrique, will also unveil a new online and face-to-face knowledge web portal called The Hive to connect practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and networks of people and organizations working on violence, conflict, and fragility around the world.
Hellman says The Hive will network frequently with key groups, such as grassroots leaders, local government officials, and experts working for NGOs, think tanks, and the private sector, on new developments and to ask for their insights and advice for better development results in difficult fragile and post-conflict situations.