Speaking at an IEG session on fragility and conflict, hosted as part of last week’s IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson painted a grim picture of the human toll and financial costs, resulting from ongoing conflicts.

Eliasson said more than 65 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced – the highest number since World War II. Globally, it is estimated that over two billion people currently live in countries where development outcomes are affected by fragility, conflict, and violence.

And the economic costs are just as staggering. According to Eliasson, in 2015 alone, violence and conflict around the world cost more than $13 trillion – or around $1,800 for every person on this planet.

More than ever before, the development community now recognizes that conflict and violence are global issues – and not just limited to low-income countries or the 35 countries that the World Bank Group lists as fragile and conflict-affected states.

Lessons from Evaluation…

Watch a Re-play of the Live Event


Last week’s IEG event presented an important opportunity to highlight the development challenges of working in fragile and conflict situations, and to share findings from IEG’s recent evaluations of the World Bank Group’s work in this important area.

Over the last few years, IEG has looked extensively at the World Bank Group’s efforts to address fragility, conflict and violence. Our 2013 evaluation – World Bank Group Assistance to Low-Income Fragile and Conflict-Affected States – assessed the World Bank Group’s performance in low-income fragile and conflict-affected states. This year, we completed a follow up evaluation, World Bank Group Engagement in Situations of Fragility, Conflict and Violence, looking at middle-income countries that are experiencing localized or externally imposed situations of fragility, conflict, and violence.

While the World Bank Group has made important progress in many areas, its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states is clearly a long-term agenda with several challenges and constraints yet to be overcome. In this blog, I highlight just a few of our key findings and recommendations.

Strategic Approach: IEG’s evaluation findings suggest that the World Bank reviews the institutional setup and interaction of various Bank Group units dealing with fragility, conflict and violence, to ensure more coordination on strategy and policy in this area across the World Bank Group.

Strong Partnerships: Strengthening partnerships and coordination not just internally across the World Bank Group institutions, but also externally with the United Nations and other international agencies is critical for enhancing effectiveness.  IEG calls for institutional and staff incentives to strengthen on-the-ground presence or promote collaboration with other partners, particularly in countries where there are stronger development partners.

The Right Instruments and Resources: Providing assistance in middle-income countries can be a challenge for the World Bank Group, with country clients often reluctant to borrow money for what may be seen as a localized or temporary problem. Often, the Bank’s operational response tends to be constrained by a limited menu of instrument choices.

In low-income fragile states, IEG’s evaluation calls for a tailored approach that takes into account the conflict drivers and local political economy, and is able to adjust objectives and results if identified risks materialize.

The World Bank’s strengths: IEG’s evaluation findings conclude that the Bank Group’s comparative advantage is supporting countries in tackling longer-term development challenges, including early engagement and a sustained presence in conflict-affected areas, as well as continuous dialogue with the parties to violent conflicts, where possible.

The Bank can further enhance its impact in fragile states by exploring opportunities beyond supporting livelihoods in conflict-affected communities, including support for private sector development, using its expertise in public financial management more effectively, and improving its monitoring and evaluation frameworks.