Crisis prevention: where can international development cooperation have an impact? – World
Authors: Dr Dominik Balthasar, Julie Brethfeld, Joachim Heidebrecht
Publisher: Heide Kühlken
In previous years, the donor community has allocated around 65% of all official development assistance (ODA) to the implementation of projects in “fragile contexts” (as defined by the OECD). The majority of these funds have been used for acute crisis response and management. However, there is increasing pressure from development agencies, experts and politicians to invest funds in crisis prevention. This not only avoids a lot of human suffering, but also a better economic sense: according to the study “Pathways for Peace” of the United Nations and the World Bank, each euro invested in prevention saves several times that amount. would have been necessary. then to devote to crisis response and management.
Objective: avoid violence in conflicts
Crises can have a wide variety of causes: governance deficits, economic upheavals, climate change, etc. In the context of development policy discussions, crisis prevention usually involves avoiding outbreaks of violence in socio-political conflicts. However, conflicts of this type are usually inevitable in change and development processes, as they almost always involve a transfer of power and resources that does not benefit all stakeholders to the same degree; there are (relative) winners and losers who generally oppose change processes. Crisis prevention therefore aims to identify and address the conflicts underlying development processes in a timely manner, so as to avoid violence.
The role of causes and drivers of conflict and building resilience
‘Causes of conflict’ generally refer to the longer-term structural factors that underlie a conflict, in particular:
– conflicts of interest linked to access to power and resources;
– insufficiently effective state actors and structures;
– the lack of involvement of certain population groups in political decision-making processes;
– inequality between population groups (horizontal) from a social and / or economic point of view.
Conflict drivers, on the other hand, are the dynamics that contribute to an acute escalation of (latent) conflicts. These can be very specific factors, such as suspicions of electoral fraud, high-profile corruption cases or human rights violations such as political assassinations or restrictions on freedom of expression. Often, however, they also include large-scale phenomena, like persistent economic crises or a widespread lack of future prospects, which ultimately tip people off. The result: an escalation of violence, often in conjunction with forced displacement and migratory movements. In reality, it is often difficult to clearly differentiate the causes and drivers of conflict.
In addition to managing the causes and drivers of conflicts, building resilience to crises can also contribute to crisis prevention: these are essentially measures that put the population in a better position to face the consequences of a crisis. crisis. However, these measures can also have an impact before a crisis erupts, preventing situations from escalating into a crisis point.
Specific approaches that international DCs can use to prevent crises
International development cooperation (DC) can have an impact on the causes and drivers of conflict, and on building resilience to crises. An essential prerequisite for CD measures to have an effective impact on crisis prevention is always a thorough understanding of specific contexts, especially relevant conflict lines and dynamics. Depending on the context, CD measures in the following areas can help prevent crises:
– if there are fundamental governance deficits: strengthening participation, transparency and social cohesion (for example by promoting institutions, processes and political reforms that support the rule of law, inclusion and peaceful reconciliation of interests);
– in contexts where state actors lack efficiency or legitimacy, exacerbating violent conflicts: support for the provision of basic public services (health, education, water and electricity distribution) and strengthening of local administrative structures ;
– in situations where the lack of economic prospects is an important factor of conflict: employment programs for young people and promotion of the private sector in order to quickly create opportunities to generate income and earn a living;
– if socio-economic inequalities between population groups are a key element of the conflict: dismantling of infrastructural inequalities and creation of social compensation mechanisms (eg social security systems).
Conclusion: exploit potential opportunities
While it is often true that CD can only have a limited impact on the root causes of conflict, CD measures can help prevent crises in many contexts. It’s about seizing those opportunities.
Note: This article reflects the opinions of the authors and does not necessarily represent the position of KfW.