Speeches & Transcripts

Justin Yifu Lin on UN Peacekeeping and Development

June 22, 2010

Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin GA Thematic Debate on UN Peacekeeping: Looking into the Future New york, United States

As Prepared for Delivery

1. [Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen]. It is my honor to take part in this debate, and to reflect on the decade of experience in peacekeeping since the Brahimi Report was issued in 2000.  It is a privilege to do so in the company of national and international leaders who have been on the frontlines of efforts to build sustainable peace in some of the world’s most challenging political and security environments.  Certainly our moderator Jamal Benomar, and my co-panelists, Ashraf Ghani, Andrew Mitchell and Ellen Margrethe Loej have committed their professional lives to the search for coherent strategies, partnerships, political will, and resources that accompanies the difficult work of promoting a lasting peace.

2. The challenge of peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict is a shared one. The impacts of conflict – from poverty and refugee flows, to the spread of epidemic disease and the rise of transnational criminal networks – reverberate across borders.  No one is immune:  the world’s poorest, middle-income, and richest countries are all affected.  Failure to consolidate peace, facilitate economic growth, and ensure social justice is not just a national concern.  It has global repercussions. 
3. It is in this context that we meet today and I would like to cover two themes in my remarks: First, how do we infuse peacekeeping efforts with attention to the longer-term work of promoting sustainable development and statebuilding?  Second, what role can international actors play in reinforcing national efforts to marry security and development for progress?

4. But to begin I would like to explain the background to our interest in this set of issues.  Much of the world has made rapid progress in building stability and reducing poverty in the past sixty years, but areas characterized by persistent violence and fragile institutions are being left far behind. Our research indicates that conflict is the central constraint to development. We have found striking findings that 22 out of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the MDGs are in or are emerging from conflict. Conflict-affected and post conflict populations account for between two out of three of all infants and children dying. These same war torn or post conflict countries account for three out of four of all mothers dying in childbirth.  In the lead up to September’s Millennium Development Review Conference, it is important to underline both that fragile and conflict-affected sates represent the majority of the challenge of meeting the MDGs. On the positive side, in countries such as Mozambique where peace has been consolidated, social and economic conditions have improved very quickly.

5. As an institution, the World Bank is increasingly seized with the centrality of conflict to the development agenda.  In his determination to address this complex set of issues, Mr. Zoellick asked me to focus the 2011 World Development Report on the inter-related themes of conflict, security and development.  The report will be released in January next year.

6. In preparation for the 2011 WDR, we have sought to learn from the diverse experiences of many regions and from reformers in conflict-affected countries.  There are three reasons for these extensive and early consultations.  First, this subject is very fast-moving: we are all learning lessons in real time from the evolving situation in countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, and Sudan.  Second, and central to the topic of our panel, conflict merges issues of diplomacy, security and development: the World Bank represents only one side of this triangle, so we need to consult with those who have more expertise than us in the other areas.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, this is an agenda where the OECD countries had traditionally dominated the policy debate.  We felt that it was critical to expand the dialogue to ensure that the countries most directly affected by conflict -including middle income countries and regional organisations in the developing world that represent them - be involved in helping us to frame the questions addressed in the forthcoming WDR.

7. The Report’s early consultations and analysis reveal three aspects of violence relevant to the role of early peacebuilding perspectives in the design of multi-dimensional peacekeeping.

8. The first is the non-linearity of conflict.  WDR analysis demonstrates the rise in violence after formal peace settlements, up fivefold as a percentage of global deaths in battle since the mid-1990s.  This confirms what many of us will know to be the case: that many countries which have been labelled as “post-conflict” cases are in fact experiencing on-going fighting and insecurity. The UN missions in Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the UN and joint missions UN-African Union (AU) missions in Sudan demonstrate the challenges that this poses.  Peacekeeping missions, “early recovery” and humanitarian relief stretch on for years, and countries cycle through repeated violence. This challenges our current international architecture which attempts to neatly divide conflict into linear phases with associated agencies, timelines, goals and response mechanisms.  It also points to the need to inject the principle of prevention into our peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.

9. Second, there is a link between different types of violence – in particular between political conflict, local conflicts over land, international ideological movements that often link in to localised grievances, gang activities, and organised crime and trafficking. Afghanistan is an obvious example, but we see the same linkages and blurring of lines in all regions. Several of the countries of Central America which had achieved successful peace settlements, for example, now face extremely high rates of violence linked to gang activity and drug trafficking. This is important because we tend to treat these forms of violent challenges separately, with different government ministries, different communities of experts and different international agencies dealing with each.

10. The third aspect which we think is under-emphasised is the transnational nature of violence today, including the spread of localized armed movements across borders, and illegal trafficking of drugs, arms, natural resources and human beings. This aspect is important because our international instruments still tend to be very much focused on individual national states.

11. What lessons have we learned about addressing the linkages between security and development, particularly in the peacekeeping phase?

12. First, our research suggests that peace-keeping offers significant economic benefits. In the first three years after conflict, the presence of a UN Peacekeeping force translates into growth rates that are 2.4 percent higher than in a post-conflict country without a UN peacekeeping force.  Missions with multidimensional mandates are particularly effective in increasing growth which, in turn, lessens the likelihood of a relapse into conflict as economic development and reconciliation create the conditions for future prosperity.  

13. Second, we know that approaches that rely on security alone have a poor track record of success.  No matter how strong the law enforcement approach, without economic prospects, it is too difficult to persuade those who see opportunities to profit from violence that they and their families will prosper from following a legal, peaceful path.  Growing youth unemployment around the world is a structural risk in this regard which needs urgent attention. 

14. Yet economic growth will be insufficient if some groups are perceived to be excluded from access to power, opportunities and resources.  Effective management of the political economy of development, of power relations and of expectations of justice, fairness and inclusion are also important: every politician knows this, but perhaps we are slow in catching up to it in the development world.   In peacekeeping operations, early efforts to signal progress and inclusion across these three areas – promoting citizen security, increasing economic hope, and confidence in social justice – has been shown to be critical in taking advantage of windows of opportunity for progress.

15. Third, greater efforts are needed to sequence and tackle politically difficult reforms which, while potentially de-stabilizing in the short-term, are key to sustainable peace. These include anti-corruption efforts, security sector reform, political reform, economic and administrative restructuring, justice reform and transitional justice, and empowering disadvantaged groups.   However, all too often, the international community pushes for national leadership to tackle all these issues at once, over two or three year timeframes: reform police, hold elections, set up an anti-corruption taskforce, disarm and reintegrate combatants, begin a truth and reconciliation process, draft a constitution.  In the western world, with highly developed and well-resourced institutions, such ambition would be political suicide and undoubtedly destabilizing.  In peacekeeping environments, national and international stakeholders need a better dialogue on a strategy for sequencing reform efforts, and building on a rhythm of repeated successes.

16. Fourth, and on a related point, we have to be realistic and make space for locally-adapted approaches.  We have looked at the time it has taken in practice for developed and middle income countries to transition to peace.  In all cases, we find that the countries which have achieved the fastest transformations have still typically taken a generation. Further, they have created approaches that suit their own local conditions –Portugal, South Korea or South Africa, to name three countries which made fast transitions in the 20th century, for example, did not purely mirror the existing institutions of the US or Europe.  Rather, they came up with their own approaches to suit their circumstances.

17. These days, in hopes of quick fixes, the international community is less patient and tends to import detailed models that are applied regardless of country context –yet experience shows how imported models crowd out local innovation and often overwhelm nascent national and local institutions.  This is not to diminish the role of cross-country learning – there is in particular a great potential for south-south learning and hybrid approaches which remains untapped – but we must avoid one-western-model-fits-all solutions.  We also need to learn to be more realistic in our expectations of the timing of reform – our research, for example, indicates that the fastest 20 countries to achieve lasting institutional change in the areas of democratisation and security sector reform, corruption and the strength of bureaucratic institutions in the late 20th Century took a generation to do so, but our benchmarks for progress these days expect much faster change.

18. Finally, the WDR is assessing gaps in international strategy and financing to support efforts to prevent and recover from conflict.  Complex conflict environments require communication across political, security, and development interventions as well as improvements in the speed, duration, and predictability of international assistance.  We tend to use volume of aid as our only instrument to tackle the twin challenges of poverty and poor governance in conflict environments.  Instead, we should explore diverse modalities of assistance based on country contexts, combining a consistent long-term commitment in the volume of aid with flexibility to change modalities.

19. Peacebuilding environments may be best served by high-risk, high-reward entrepreneurial forms of aid. However, our rigid aid architecture can sometimes thwart necessary innovation and speed of response.  There is a challenge in targeting international assistance to fill key gaps, particularly in the areas of institution-building in the justice and police sectors and for job creation.  There is also considerable untapped potential to improve regional and global approaches to minimise external stresses on fragile countries – from strengthened action against trafficking in drugs or natural commodities to protection against volatility in commodity markets and investment in cross-border infrastructure and trade.

20. Let me conclude by summarising my argument. I have suggested that insecurity and conflict constitute a global crisis, with significant national, regional and global consequences. I have argued economic prospects and security are now recognised as being interlinked and interdependent, and there is an important “third pillar” in addressing balancing of power relations, and perceptions of justice and inclusion. And I have sketched out some of the early questions, analysis and directions for action raised in the 2011 WDR based on a far-reaching consultative process over the past several months. I leave you then with several questions for our discussion:

  • With the challenge of repeated, interlinked, and cross-border forms of violence, how do we encourage regional strategies and apply a prevention lens in our peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts in the aftermath of conflict?
  • How do work together as political, security, and development partners to better sequence and promote reforms that are key to long-term stability and peace but can create risks in the short-term? How should we best inject a sense of humility and realism over timings in our strategy development processes and financing mechanisms to support these reforms?
  • And how do we move toward this more realistic approach that allows for local approaches while also recognizing international and regional standards and lessons learned?  
    I look forward to our discussion, and thank you for your kind attention.