Next steps for the World Bank’s new strategy for fragility, conflict and violence: what does the evidence say?
Evidence from evaluation can ease the transition from theory to practice.
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.
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