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Preventing conflicts could save between 5 and 70 billion dollars, according to a study by the African Development Bank


“Prevention is better than cure”. This wise advice makes even more sense when you read a study entitled Pathways for Peace. Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict, presented on Monday 18 June at the African Development Bank Headquarters in Abidjan.

Introducing the meeting to present the work carried out by the World Bank and the United Nations, Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Transition States Coordination Office (RDTS) of the African Development Bank, praised the quality of the work done by the authors of the study, then underlined the challenges to be faced in better mastering the contours of fragility and resilience.

“This study comes at just the right time, to take stock of what we know about issues of fragility, peace, resilience and preventing conflicts. In the African Development Bank,  we work on this every day”, said Mr Tapsoba. “Today, we are delighted to be able to compare our analyses with those of our colleagues in the World Bank and the United Nations.”

According to Alexandre Marc, Chief Specialist for Fragility, Conflict and Violence of the World Bank , and Djordje Djordjevic, Sustaining Peace Adviser, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the study shows that the number of major violent conflicts has tripled since 2010.

“We are witnessing a change in the nature of conflicts, which now see a growing involvement of non-State actors and characterized by violence perpetrated far away from the battlefield, a resurgence of international interference, overflow into neighbouring countries and combat in urban environments” stressed the two presenters of the study.

Three times as many violent conflicts as in 2010

The study produced by the World Bank and the United Nations demolishes the received wisdom that violence and armed conflicts are primarily the prerogative of poor countries. 

Even if violence mainly occurs in low-income countries, some of the most brutal of the current conflicts are happening in States with the highest incomes and with more solid institutions, the report observes.

A worrying finding by the authors, “Between now and 2030, the deadline for achieving the sustainable development goals, over half of the poor countries on the planet could be living in areas affected by high levels of violence”.

They argue for a real paradigm change, calling for a shift from the current phase, which prioritizes tackling the outbreak and escalation of violence that has already occurred, to pure prevention.

A system of large-scale preventive measures could save between 5 and 70 billion dollars, argue the World Bank and United Nations. These resources could be used to reduce poverty and improve people’s wellbeing. To achieve that would demand greater emphasis on identification of risks and early actions to prevent violence.

After taking stock of the conflict zones and their origin, the study lists ways of ensuring that national development processes have an influence on security, diplomacy, justice and human rights, and avoid conflicts becoming violent. The study’s presenters cited the example of countries which had managed to put effective prevention in place.

“Thanks to good institutional organization, with the creation  of the High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace, a country like Niger has managed to put in place a system which has allowed it to avoid falling into a situation of violent conflict, despite the existence of a real threat”,  said Mr Marc of the World Bank, co-presenter of the study.

Creating effective synergies

However, if prevention is to be effective, the authors of the work continued, it must be home-grown and applied by local and national actors.

“In this sense, prevention enhances sovereignty, empowering each country to be in control of its own destiny and the State to build positive relationships with its citizens”, the World Bank and United Nations emphasize.

Apart from prevention, inclusion in all its forms is important in ensuring the stability of States and avoiding the eruption of violence and conflicts. Indeed, if you want preventative actions to be effective, you have to link them to policies focused on people so that citizens have the possibility of participating in the various programmes. 

Growth and combating poverty are essential, but they are not in themselves sufficient to preserve peace. To prevent violence, it is necessary to get away from traditional social and economic policies, when the risks are increasing or already very high, the study warns.

And the World Bank and United Nations add that it is also necessary to find solutions which benefit all by choosing dialogue, appropriate macroeconomic policies, institutional reform of the essential functions of the State and its redistribution policies.

Fruitful discussions followed the presentation of the study, Pathways for Peace. Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict, which took place in the International Commercial Centre of Abidjan (CCIA) where the Bank has offices, in the presence of Grégory Robert, representative of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Some speakers suggested that the study could be enhanced by taking account of radicalization and violent religious extremism, especially in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Others argued that the analysis should include the demographic challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, as they thought that it created not insignificant pressure in certain parts of the continent. Finally, other participants addressed the question of the role and place of the private sector in the context of fragility and violent conflict.

“We in the African Development Bank do an enormous amount to help transition States. The United Nations and the World Bank do the same. I think that we can and must work together”, concluded Mr Tapsoba.