Speeches & Transcripts

Post-conflict Peace-building: A Comprehensive Peace-building Strategy to Prevent the Recurrence of Conflict

April 16, 2010

Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank Security Council Debate New York, United States

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Chairman
Distinguished Ambassadors
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring greetings to you all from the President of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick, who regrets that he cannot be here today.  I particularly want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together to discuss this most important issue, and for inviting the World Bank to contribute.

As 2015 fast approaches, the world’s attention is turning to progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The analysis that the World Bank has commissioned to inform its 2011 World Development Report on Conflict and Fragility confirms a disheartening fact:  countries that are racked by conflict and that suffer endemic fragility are not making the progress they need if the MDGs are to become a reality for their people.

We are all aware of the desperate needs of these countries.  Our research suggests that fragile states and those recovering from fragility account for only 37% of the population of developing countries (if we exclude China, India, and Russia).  However, they account for 58% of the poverty in the developing world, as well as 67% of the infant deaths and 69% of the deaths of children under five.

Our analysis indicates that no fragile state has yet achieved a single MDG.  By 2015, only 10% of fragile states are expected to achieve the goal of halving poverty and hunger.

Against this backdrop, today’s debate is a most timely one.  These findings are a stark reminder of the enormous and complex challenges that lie ahead, but they are also a call to mobilize our combined resources on behalf of the poor and powerless.

Violent conflict is one of the most profound of development challenges:  without peace and security there can be no sustained development. However, focusing on peace-building alone is not sufficient.  Just as development cannot occur in the absence of peace, peace without development is a peace that may not last.

In recent years, the international community’s discourse about addressing violent conflict and its consequences has become more nuanced.  We increasingly recognize that humanitarian action, peace-making, peace-keeping, peace-building, state-building, and development do not happen in a mechanical linear sequence, but are closely interlinked and overlapping.Such a complex landscape calls for cooperation and coherence among actors.  It challenges us to address the short-term demands of a deeply damaged society while making sure that our actions do not compromise the longer-term goal of building an effective state.

Against this background, I would like to propose one overarching principle that must inform all that we do:  results matter.

By this I mean that all we do must contribute directly to results on the ground.  Whether we are working in our headquarters offices to shape a new policy, or engaging with a partner government on a national development plan, or rebuilding a road for a war-ravaged community, we must constantly ask a single question—How will these actions provide people with a better life now and in the future?

The Government of Burundi clearly understands the importance of results.  Since 2006, with support of the World Bank Institute it introduced a rapid results approach.  This approach, which breaks down long-term development plans into manageable 100 day chunks, is now applied in 80 government projects.  A pilot in the Ministry of Education resulted in the distribution of 250,000 textbooks to primary schools in 60 days when previously this took an entire school year.  In a health care pilot, 482 pregnant women visited health centers and were subject to HIV/AIDS screening in one month – far in excess of the previous monthly average of 71.

As we debate here on some of the best ways to get results, I would like us to focus on three crucial areas - country context, partnership, and accountability.  I believe that if we pay attention to these three areas, we will be able to contribute something substantial and enduring toward the immense challenges of helping countries create an environment of peace and security.

Let me briefly elaborate on these three points.

First, it’s about country context.  Of course we must learn from and build on our experience, but in the urgency of a post-conflict environment, it is often too tempting to simply apply a solution that worked elsewhere.  We must guard against trying to replicate what we have done in the past without ensuring that it is appropriate to the present context; we must guard against any prescription that prevents adaptation and flexibility.  We need to do a better job of understanding the drivers of conflict (both those that are endogenous and those that stem from regional and global dimensions); we need to understand the structure of elite incentives; and we must identify each country’s fundamental strengths and comprehend the limits of its capacity to absorb change. And we must act on what that knowledge tells us.

The World Bank supported Justice for the Poor Program works to support the development of context-specific approaches to improving access to justice in South-east Asia, Africa and the Pacific.  In Sierra Leone the program, along with other national and international bodies, is helping scale-up grassroots justice services.  Trained community paralegals employ a combination of mediation, education, advocacy, and occasionally litigation to seek redress for violations of rights. They engage both customary and formal institutions and provide a flexible, cost-effective method for delivering justice services that is tailored to Sierra Leone's particular socio-legal context.  The Government is establishing a legal aid board which will recognize and certify the paralegals and it is expected that within five years; about 100 community paralegals will serve all 154 chiefdoms in the country.

Our coordination efforts must be driven by our need to deliver meaningful results.  I know that some see comfort in predictability – that our response in post-conflict situations would be improved by pre-determining who does what.  I must challenge that notion.  While it is important that we recognize where our overall comparative advantage may lie, it is essential that our response should be determined by the dictates of the situation and our relative capacity to deliver in the particular context of the partner countries. Pre-determination could easily result in inflexibility at a time when adaptability and nimbleness is most needed.  Decisions must be delegated to where the best information is, and they must be made at the lowest level that will be effective.  This means that we need to put our best people into the field—for it is our field staff who are best placed to decide, in consultation with their country partners, who should do what, and when, and how.

Second, partnerships are key.  We must recognize that achieving a sustainable peace and setting in train a broad-based agenda for development is ultimately the work of a state and its citizens.  We in the development community need to be humble and remind ourselves that we play a supporting role.  We provide our resources, our expertise, and our security assistance so that a people may be able to take back the reins of government.

The only credible coordinator of a state-building process is a legitimate sovereign government.  Our assistance must be shaped to support the country in mobilizing the human and material capital it has at its disposal to provide the services its citizens need.  This will mean many things for us.  For example, we must pool our funding wherever possible to maximize coherence and reduce the burden on the government, such as through multi-donor trust funds.  We must support and work through the national budget, and strengthen country fiduciary systems.  We must use our comparative advantages and tailor our efforts to local needs and preferences.  And we must reach agreement with our country partners on when it is appropriate to press for change and when we should stand back to allow a population to determine the speed of reform. 

And just as we need to strengthen our partnership with the countries we seek to assist, we need to look too at our own partnerships.  Are we working together effectively to achieve the results expected of us?  The World Bank has recently appointed a senior envoy to Haiti and a similar appointment to Sudan is expected soon. These will strengthen our partnerships in the field in countries in particular need.  And we are heartened by the support that we and the United Nations have received from the Swiss Government that will enable us to exchange senior officers between the UN Peace Building Support Office and the Bank’s Fragile and Conflict-affected Countries Unit to help facilitate and deepen our complementary efforts.

My third point is that we are all accountable.  While Governments must ultimately be accountable to their citizens for what they do, we must do everything we can to reinforce that line of accountability.  Running a parallel service delivery program may give us results in the short term, but it will not contribute to, and may even undermine, efforts to build the social compact that lies at the heart of a well-functioning state.

Shifting accountability also requires us to change the way we monitor our efforts.  We must get away from our traditional preoccupation with tracking inputs and focus our attention, and that of our partners, on achieving outcomes.

Confronted by an uncoordinated and poorly performing health care system, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health has established a Basic Package of Health Services delivered through community health workers and health centers.  For the first time in many years Afghans, particularly in rural areas, are seeing the delivery of valued health services being made possible by a committed partnership between government and local providers.  Access for people living in districts where the program is being implemented has increased from 9% in 2003 to over 80%.  The most recent data for 2008 shows a 4-fold increase in the number of outpatient visits to a level three times higher than in a neighboring country. The program has also seen a decrease in the under-5 mortality rate from 257 per 1000 in 2000 to 161 in 2007-2008.

And in the spirit of mutual accountability, we too should be held accountable for what we deliver.  For example, if we demand transparency in our partners, we should expect to provide transparency ourselves.  In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that the World Bank has adopted a new Access to Information Policy that will open up the Bank’s work even further enhancing public ownership of the development agenda, strengthening partnerships, and encouraging greater participation in Bank-supported operations.

So as we turn to our deliberations today, I would ask us all to keep these three points in mind:  the importance of country context, of true partnership, and of appropriate accountability.  I know that these ideas may sit uncomfortably with our limited appetite for risk and our need to demonstrate to our domestic constituencies the quick wins expected in an immediate post-conflict period.  It is clear to me that addressing the challenges of development through these lenses will require fundamental changes to the way we do business.

Fortunately, the next few months will bring a number of opportunities to reshape and improve the way we do business.  For example, the Secretary General will report on progress since launching his report last July on Peace-building in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict, and at the end of the year the World Bank will present its World Development Report on the themes of conflict and fragility.

Let us make no mistake:  if we are to deliver real results for the people living in fragile and conflict-affected situations, these areas deserve our full attention.  We know that the costs of failure are great, but let us also bear in mind that the benefits that flow from success can be even greater.  Beginning with our deliberations here today, let us take every opportunity to ensure that success.

Thank you.