As the adage goes, prevention is better than the cure. This wisdom applies as much to public health crises, and to security and development challenges, as it does to the prevention of violent conflict. Not only does prevention save lives and protect development gains, but it is also highly cost-effective. Last year, Mozambique signed a peace agreement to end its long-running conflict with RENAMO. While presenting a real opportunity for a durable and sustainable peace, this agreement also marked a shift in conflict dynamics in the country and focused attention on an emerging – and potentially more intractable – front in the Northern-most province of Cabo Delgado. The escalating insurgency there has claimed about 2,000 lives and displaced nearly 300,000 people since it began in 2017, and it risks spreading down the coast and into neighboring provinces, enabled by a north-south regional divide, perceptions of the capture of the state and its resources, and a sense of socioeconomic exclusion, particularly among the youth, who face a future with limited avenues for self-improvement or social mobility. Little is known about the perpetrators, their backers, or their intentions: however, what is clear is that the longer the conflict lasts, the more entrenched it risks becoming and the higher the costs will be in terms of destruction of human, social, and cultural capital; in terms of lives lost; in terms of young people who are hooked into extremist groups; and in terms of the loss of economic growth and development potential.
As has been seen in other countries, preventing the onset or escalation of violent conflict and managing crises is complicated by the confluence of multiple challenges that reinforce and amplify fragility. Fragility in turn reinforces poverty and limits efforts to level the playing field. The quest to end poverty and increase equality has suffered its worst setback globally this year since we started to track it consistently, with 88 to 115 million people worldwide expected to be pushed into extreme poverty, taking the total number of poor to 729 million. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mozambique just as the country was beginning to recover from the destructive trail left by the twin cyclones of 2019, highlights the role of pre-existing vulnerabilities in determining the capacity and ability of formal and informal institutions to mitigate the impact of shocks. A recent review reveals that 37 fragile and conflict-affected countries have 10 percent of the world’s population, but 40 percent of the world’s poor. Internally displaced populations, vulnerable populations, youth, women, the elderly, and those who eke out a living on the margins or in the informal sector, are already struggling to access basic services, a source of livelihood, shelter, and food security. It is these groups who will have been most impacted by these consecutive shocks and who are most at risk now from the impacts of violent conflict in Cabo Delgado. Focusing on Cabo Delgado and the underlying causes of fragility and conflict in Mozambique is not only an economic imperative, but also a moral one.
The human and economic costs of conflict require all those concerned to work more collaboratively through targeted, flexible, and sustained approaches to support national and regional prevention agendas. In the three months since I assumed the role of Country Director for Mozambique, I have had the opportunity to meet with and hear the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders. These conversations have reinforced that as partners of the Government of Mozambique, and of the people of Mozambique, and the country’s development actors, the World Bank has a key role to play in supporting the efforts of the Government to address the core development issues that underpin Mozambique’s fragility challenges. In light of the heightened fragility risks in Mozambique, and in a bid to align the efforts of the Government with those of the development community to mitigate the danger of an escalation in violent conflict, Mozambique is eligible to secure USD$700 million additional funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), specifically to address the underlying causes of fragility and conflict.
Global experience highlights a number of key lessons for successful prevention: that effective prevention is a collective undertaking – led domestically by the government, as the key actor in shaping a pathway towards sustainable development and peace, and building on existing strengths – with support from local and international partners across the political, humanitarian, security, and peace spectrum, to facilitate timely action. The most successful examples of prevention, including from Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, have involved extensive consultation with, and mobilization of, a coalition of domestic actors to leverage the comparative advantages of civil society, including women’s groups, youth, religious actors, and the private sector, while drawing on support from the international community. In response to subnational instability in Cameroon, Ukraine, and Nigeria, multilateral vehicles such as Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments have supported governments through technical capacity and policy dialogue to chart an inclusive post-conflict trajectory and development plan to address core socioeconomic grievances. These vehicles have also proved powerful at aligning domestic and international finance for a more effective recovery effort.
The most effective way to prevent societies from descending into chaos is to strengthen their resilience by investing in people through inclusive and sustainable development. Experiences from contexts as varied as Tunisia and Niger, Northern Ireland and Nepal, demonstrate that the often-fraught and uncomfortable process of strengthening and reforming institutions to foster greater inclusion is key to maintaining peace and stability, despite it being a long-term endeavor, sometimes taking generations. Similarly, opening spaces for contestation and for voice is neither easy and nor is it devoid of risk, but it is crucial for increased representation and for alleviating grievances related to perceptions of exclusion, particularly among the youth. In tandem, efforts to address inequalities and exclusion, addressing the legacy of past abuses, and redistributing resources, are all key avenues by which to preserve the social fabric, build social cohesion, and boost the capacities of individuals, communities, and society at large to mitigate impacts of crises and shocks.
For our part, as a friend and partner of Mozambique, the World Bank commits to accompanying the Government and people on the path towards building a more inclusive, transparent, and equitable society. We will support efforts towards peace and stability in Mozambique by leveraging global experiences, using policy dialogue and strong partnerships, and through the application of our technical capacity. The World Bank has in place and will ramp up interventions to address the causes of fragility, conflict, and violence, in Cabo Delgado, but also across the country. These include interventions designed to create opportunities for employment and training, particularly for the youth; delivery of quality services in a transparent and inclusive fashion; support to governance reform efforts and the devolution of power to subnational levels; provision of global best practices in relation to the management and governance of extractives industries and natural resources; support to building resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change; and efforts to boost the capacity of civil society actors and NGOs to build grassroots representation and increases spaces for dialogue and contestation. We are also pushing to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, by expanding social protection and safety nets, supporting efforts to increase access to quality education and health services, and boosting efforts to address institutional weakness and policy gaps.
We believe we have a role to act as part of a collective to work with the Government to address these core challenges that underpin fragility in Mozambique. We note with satisfaction the government strategy to address the socioeconomic grievances that feed the insurgency in the North, under the umbrella of the Integrated Northern Development Agency (ADIN). We are committed to working with the Government to ensure that every Mozambican, regardless of who they are and where they live, has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and hope and has the chance to realize their full potential as a contributing member of society.