The World Bank Group launched its first strategy specifically focused on fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) situations last week. With almost two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor projected to live in FCV countries by 2030, addressing their specific challenges is critical to advance the Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

The adoption of the new strategy is an opportunity to share lessons about how to engage in fragile environments and have lasting impact. As the Bank Group sets the new FCV strategy into motion, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) offers the following evaluative evidence to inform specific actions the World Bank Group can take to ease the transition from theory to practice.

Consider the essential elements of a differentiated approach and critical areas of engagement

Our evaluative work identifies several critical ingredients of a “differentiated” approach in FCV settings, which include: (i) understanding the drivers of fragility in each country; (ii) adapting instruments and tools; (iii) partnering and designing a clear division of labor among partners given the capacity constraints of FCV clients; (v) improving ongoing monitoring and evaluation to learn and course-correct in real time; and (v) adapting program objectives and implementation arrangements to the realities on the ground, including longer-term horizons to achieve sustainable development outcomes. 

Our work also indicates that four areas of engagements are essential to achieve progress in FCV settings and support  stabilization and resilience, notwithstanding the differences among countries: (i) building --or rebuilding -- the capacity of the state and of institutions; (ii) delivering vital basic services and building the capacity of people; (iii) supporting the private sector to foster jobs and economic opportunities; and (iv) paying special attention to gender issues.

Respond to the drivers of fragility

The Bank Group’s FCV strategy recognizes that each FCV country context is unique. IEG’s recent analysis has found that FCV country strategies and programs must consider—and become more responsive to—the specific drivers of fragility and conflict in each country. These factors may include security risks and violence, elite capture of resources, weak institutional capacity, and social exclusion  Country teams could take a leading role in diagnosing the drivers of fragility, and this diagnostic could be better tailored to provide operational guidance.

Integrate forced displacement into country dialogue

As forced displacement has emerged as a critical development challenge in both FCV and non-FCV countries, the Bank Group’s country strategies, policy dialogue and operations need to account for and calibrate support to the needs of refugees and host communities, women, children and other vulnerable groups.

Immediately prioritize the creation of jobs and economic opportunities

A lack of job opportunities and livelihoods, particularly among youth, is an important factor underlying fragility and conflict. Demobilized ex-combatants can add further pressure on jobs. In the short run, programs for jobs and livelihoods through public works, self-employment, professional and skills training, and even labor subsidies can relieve some of this employment-related pressure.  Remittances  can also help. 

Address the constraints to private sector growth

The Bank Group’s FCV strategy emphasizes the importance and potential of the private sector to contribute to growth and improved livelihoods.  However, in fragile environments, private businesses face constraints related to insecurity, access to power, corruption, access to finance and land. Furthermore, most private businesses are informal—making it more difficult to reach through the Bank Group’s traditional support channels. Donor strategies should therefore identify such leading constraints to, and opportunities for, private initiative and support mechanism tailored to the specific country context to overcome the barriers. This task requires both public and private interventions.

It has been challenging for donors to scale up support for private sector investment in FCV, and effective models and approaches of engagement have yet to emerge. As for Bank Group support, IFC’s investment volume in FCV has remained largely flat over the past decade. While its investments in FCV countries perform similarly to those in the rest of its portfolio, constraints related to IFC’s business model may explain the difficulties in scaling up, according to our evaluations.  These include the following areas that need attention: IFC’s risk appetite and tolerance and the instruments available to mitigate it; the operating costs of engaging in fragile environments; incentives and staffing for IFC staff to work on such projects; and IFC’s business model and instruments. Overall, making progress on this agenda will require continuous experimentation, adaptation of business models, and learning by doing.

Continuously monitor and evaluate to enable learning and course correction

In FCV settings, conditions on the ground change constantly and no strategy can fully survive the test of time. Yet, there is a dearth of evaluations for FCV and thus a limited database on what works and what doesn’t under which circumstances. Regular monitoring and evaluation in real time is important—not only of the outcomes of interventions but also of the specific drivers of fragility and conflict to know whether countries are progressing toward addressing the root causes of these vulnerabilities.


View IEG's reports, blogs, and resources related to Fragility, Conflict, and Violence


pictured above: A Somali boy jumps between to old fishing boats above Mogadishu's fishing harbour near the fish market in the Somali capital. photo credit: AU-UN IST PHOTO / STUART PRICE.


Related #WhatWorks posts:
Conflicting Results: Measuring outcomes in situations of conflict
Translating the Principles of the Global Compact on Refugees into Concrete Actions
What is blended finance, and how can it help deliver successful high-impact, high-risk projects?
Third Party Monitoring in Volatile Environments - Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?




I am imagining that when Aliko Dangote got his loan to do his business, the scale was up but now the scale is down so it's good for many. But the issues raised here point to social services that are grant related rather than a loan. Finally, mass movement of people for work is not displacement. US caravans from South America are not displaced despite undergoing severe difficulties including death: search for job and imaginable improvement in life cannot be seen as displacement in the same vien as war


A worthy initiative, particularly built around the appreciation of each country being unique. But how to integrate into WB systems? One option is what we do for USAID in Myanmar: A 5-year contract to do research to inform them. We do monthly events analysis, ad hoc 7-page papers on topical issues, and quarterly 25-page papers on themes (we develop the TOR together). In effect, USAID outsource targeted "digestible" learning about the complex situation in Myanmar. The research is targeted to "what they want to learn about" and their "information gaps". FCV countries are almost by definition incredibly complex political economy environments where "ODA as usual", with the best of intentions, can can easily add to chaos and feed conflict.

Many thanks for this helpful suggestion. It builds on our point on the need for proper diagnostics to inform the country strategy and program given unique circumstances, and for tailored approaches to address the root causes of fragility in each country.


I think the adoption of a new strategy is better because the World Bank can share several successfull experiences in all the world.


Thanks for the excellent, insightful blog. It is good to see a greater recognition of the need to focus on the drivers of conflict and fragility. Everything should be centered on those, both, as constraints of what could be done, and as opportunities to make things better in a sustainable way. For instance, not simply creating jobs and economic opportunities but in a way that helps address some of the drivers of fragility. That may mean creating jobs and economic opportunities in a way that (i) bridges ethnic divisions, when and where those ethnic divisions may be a source of conflict and tensions, (ii) is more inclusive and promotes economic justice; etc..

Stoyan, many thanks for your insightful comment. Indeed, one measure of success of the new Bank Group FCV strategy will be whether country strategies and programs systematically address the drivers of fragility and conflict. The private sector can play a role in fostering inclusive business models, resilience and stabilization; but it can also contribute to fragility. The upcoming IEG evaluation of IFC and MIGA support to private investment in FCV will be an opportunity to explore these issues further and contribute to this important debate about the appropriate role for the private sector in FCV.


Dear Stephan, many thanks for your blog. Much interested to learn more about IEG's upcoming evaluation of IFC and MIGA support to private investment in FCV - a delicate topic, indeed - as announced in your latest post. That said, I wondered whether your blog post was based on a specific recent evaluation at the part of the IEG on the World Bank's engagement in FCV contexts - and, if so, whether that report was accessible to the public? Many thanks already in advance and much looking forward to hearing from you.

Dear Dominik, thanks for your interest in our work. We will provide more details on the scope of the evaluation of IFC and MIGA support to FCS on our website in a few weeks. A complete set of our recent evaluations related to fragility are at this link Let me know if you need anything else.

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