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Building for Peace: A New Approach to Break the Cycle of Violence and Conflict

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Tragic levels of death, destruction, displacement and disorder from ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen require a new approach focused on building — not rebuilding — to support transitions to sustainable peace. This is the key message of the new World Bank report, Building for Peace: Reconstruction for Security, Sustainable Peace, and Equity in MENA (B4P), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Examining nearly a decade of reconstruction and peacebuilding approaches that have mostly been centered on top-down state-building, experts from the World Bank and BMZ joined efforts to take a fresh look at reconstruction, development and the transformation process to sustainable peace in the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond.

The resulting report, Building for Peace: Reconstruction for Security, Sustainable Peace, and Equity in MENA, utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to develop a thorough understanding of how conflict is embedded within complex national, local and regional dynamics and political and economic power structures. This approach helps map a long-term vision for sustainable and inclusive peace, recognizing the tradeoffs and risks that policymakers and practitioners face to build after conflict.

After a decade of conflict that has inflicted severe and senseless suffering, we need a paradigm shift from ‘building back better’ to building sustainable peace,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “Building for Peace shows, in grave detail, the importance of addressing past grievances; rethinks the entire approach to building after conflict; and gives us a roadmap for helping create sustainable economic opportunities for all.

Building for Peace urges policymakers and development practitioners to focus on bottom-up, inclusive engagement to build stronger physical infrastructure and central government institutions. It suggests supporting legitimate and inclusive institutions at all levels, restarting local economies to create sustainable economic opportunities, and leveraging resilient assets. This approach ensures that interventions are anchored in the priorities and assets of the communities affected by conflict to promote social cohesion and build social capital.

The report makes the case for broadening our knowledge and creating a long-term vision based on more comprehensive and dynamic assessments to lay the foundation for interventions in these complex environments. These assessments should identify local, subnational and regional dynamics, institutions, and structural factors and how they interact with political and economic dynamics over time. The assessment should go beyond a snapshot of conditions at one point in time and should be a living narrative — an ongoing, multidimensional process of analysis.

A comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground can help prevent ‘blinders in policy design’ and ill-conceived interventions that could undermine the future of peace,” said Francesca Recanatini, a member of the core team behind the report. “Developing such an understanding requires much broader outreach to a wide range of stakeholders and informants and the creative use of new technologies and innovations.

The report benefited from the inputs and collective thinking of more than 15 think-tanks and policy institutions; academic researchers; policymakers; government officials; practitioners on the ground; and colleagues from other international organizations and NGOs, from the MENA region and globally, which worked collaboratively over a period of two years. It has also benefited from the views and collective feedback of citizens, experts, and practitioners through a series of consultative workshops and online surveys conducted anonymously in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

This regional and cross-sectoral project has shown the importance of pursuing a multi-dimensional, collaborative approach that brings together a variety of stakeholders with a range of different perspectives and backgrounds. This is exactly what is needed in crisis contexts, and we should apply it in other regions beyond MENA,” said Volker Oel, Commissioner for the Middle East, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, and Latin America at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “Meeting the challenges of protracted conflict and violence requires more effective partnerships between different actors and informed interventions driven by international commitment and backed by predictable resources. We are looking forward to establishing a platform for further learning and the operationalization of the Building for Peace approach together with the World Bank.”

Building for Peace links to the new World Bank Group Strategy for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence 2020-2025, and it is anchored on its pillars II and III by offering approaches to remaining engaged in situations of active conflict and violence and helping countries escape the fragility trap. The report also resonates strongly with the new Transitional Development Assistance strategy of BMZ, which has just been released.

The report will officially launch on July 15, 2020 as part of the virtual Fragility Forum 2020.

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Public Transport Can Bounce Back from COVID-19 with New and Green Technology

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Public transport must adapt to a “new normal” in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and adopt technologies that will render it more green and resilient to future disasters, according to a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The report, Guidance Note on COVID-19 and Transport in Asia and the Pacific, details the profound impact of the pandemic on transport, as swift lockdowns forced millions this year to work from home overnight, schools to shift to e-learning, and consumers to flock to online shopping and food delivery.

While public transit may have been previously perceived as a mostly green, efficient, and affordable mode of travel, initial trends in cities that have re-opened have indicated that public transit is still considered to be relatively unsafe and is not bouncing back as quickly as the use of private vehicles, cycling, and walking.

“The two key challenges ahead are addressing capacity on public transport to maintain safe distancing requirements, and how best to regain public confidence to return to public transport,” said Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “In the short term, more effort is needed to reassure public transport users of safety and demonstrate clean and safe public transport. In the longer term, technological advances, big data, artificial intelligence, digitalization, automation, renewables and electric power can potentially offer fresh innovations to tackle changing needs, giving rise to smarter cities.”

While drastic lockdown measures around the world have brought world economies to their knees, satellites have recorded data on how the concentrations of CO2 and air pollutants have fallen drastically, bringing clear blue skies to many cities.

But as cities have reopened, traffic levels have increased. For example, Beijing traffic levels, by early April 2020, exceeded the same period in 2019. If this trend is seen on a wide scale, it could set back decades of effort in promoting sustainable development and more efficient means of urban mobility.

The report says there is a short window of opportunity for cities to promote the adoption of low-carbon alternatives to lock-in the improved air quality conditions gained during the peak of the pandemic lockdown. Public transport can play an important role through more active promotion of clean vehicles, provision of quality travel alternatives in public transport, and a better environment for non-motorized modes such as walking and cycling to enhance overall health and wellbeing.

The confidence of passengers on public transport should be restored through protective measures such as cleaning, thermal scanning, tracking and face covering, the report says. Further study to explore how protective and preventive measures can be stepped up to allow relaxation of safe distancing requirements would help mitigate capacity challenges. A possible future trend may be consolidation of services and rationalization of routes to better serve the emerging travel demand patterns and practices.

As countries enter the “recovery” phase, further preventive and precautionary operating measures and advanced technology should be implemented to enable contactless processes and facilitate an agile response. Demand management measures can facilitate crowd control in public transport systems and airports. As a complementary measure, non-motorized transport capacity could be expanded to absorb spillover demand from public transport.

Since mass public transport is the lifeblood of most economies, government policies and financial support are essential during this period, to enable public transport operators to stay viable and continue to support the movement of passengers and goods in a sustainable way.

For ADB, which committed last year $7 billion to the transport sector, behavioral trends linked to COVID-19 may require a review of the short-term viability of passenger transport and operational performance to meet changing demand for public transit systems. “Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic it is clear that developing Asia will continue to have a large need for additional transport infrastructure and services,” the report concludes. “It would take several years before the projects currently in the pipeline would be operational and much can happen during these years.”

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Zero emission economy will lead to 15 million new jobs by 2030 in Latin America and Caribbean

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In a new groundbreaking study , the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) show that the transition to a net-zero emission economy could create 15 million net new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. To support a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic , the region urgently needs to create decent jobs and build a more sustainable and inclusive future.

The report finds that the transition to a net-zero carbon economy would end 7.5 million jobs in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated for new employment opportunities: 22.5 million jobs are created in agriculture and plant-based food production, renewable electricity, forestry, construction, and manufacturing.

The report is also the first of its kind to highlight how shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets, which reduce meat and dairy consumption while increasing plant-based foods, would create jobs and reduce pressure on the region’s unique biodiversity. With this shift, LAC’s agri-food sector could expand the creation of 19 million full-time equivalent jobs despite 4.3 million fewer jobs in livestock, poultry, dairy and fishing.

Moreover, the report offers a blueprint on how countries can create decent jobs and transition to net-zero emissions. This includes policies facilitating the reallocation of workers, advance decent work in rural areas, offer new business models, enhance social protection and support to displaced, enterprises, communities and workers.

Social dialogue between the private sector, trade unions, and governments is essential to design long-term strategies to achieve net-zero emissions, which creates jobs, helps to reduce inequality and delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals .

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Women Gain Key Economic Benefits from Greater Trade

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Trade increases women’s wages and helps close the wage gap between men and women while creating better jobs for women, a new World Bank Group report concludes. Countries that are open to international trade tend to grow faster, innovate, improve productivity, and provide higher income and more opportunities to their people. Countries that are more open to trade, as measured by the trade-to-GDP ratio, have higher levels of gender equality.

The report, produced in collaboration with the World Trade Organization, marks the first major effort to quantify how women are affected by trade using a new gender-disaggregated dataset. The dataset, developed by the World Bank Group, allows researchers to understand how women are employed, in which industries they work, how much they earn, and whether or not they are involved in global trade. This analysis helps governments see how trade policies can affect women and men differently.

“Over the past 30 years trade has been the engine of poverty reduction. This report shows that, provided the right policies are in place, it can also provide an engine to reduce the gender gap,” said World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu. “Trade can expand women’s role in the economy and decrease disparities with men by giving women more and better employment opportunities. Seizing these opportunities will be even more important in a post-COVID-19 world.”

The report, Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Women’s Equality, offers several key findings. Firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs) employ a greater percentage of women (33 percent) relative to non-GVC firms (24 percent). When countries open themselves to trade, women’s share of wages in the manufacturing sector increase by 5.8 percentage points on average. When women are employed in sectors with high exports, they are more likely to be formally employed. Formal employment means better job benefits, training, and job security.

The report also highlights the importance of addressing discrimination against women in trade policy. Although no country overtly imposes tariffs according to gender, implicit biases can amount to “pink tariffs” that put women at an economic disadvantage. The report shows that products specifically consumed by women face a higher tariff burden than men’s products. In the textile sector, for instance, tariffs on women’s apparel are US$2.77 billion higher than on men’s clothing, a consumption gap that grew about 11 percent in real terms between 2006 and 2016. Disparities like this can hurt women consumers all over the world.

Targeted policies can help women maximize the benefits of trade. These include removing trade barriers that impede women’s access to international markets and improving women’s access to education, financial services, and digital technologies. Governments can design trade facilitation measures that remove gender-specific barriers to trade. These measures could address burdensome customs requirements, limited access to trade finance, and exposure to extortion or physical harassment at borders.

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