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ModernDiplomacy.eu: The Role of Sustainable Development in Preventing the Relapse of Conflict in Africa

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 12 February 2018

The Role of Sustainable Development in Preventing the Relapse of Conflict in Africa

By Charles Matseke

 

Authors: Charles Matseke and Bhaso Ndzendze

In this paper we will discuss the interplay between violence and development and lack thereof and then lay down the framework from which we situate the relationship. Secondly, we will articulate the role of sustainable development in preventing the relapse of conflict through two empirical studies (China and Rwanda). Then lastly, we will lay out some suggestions which the case studies point out in terms of future policies by South Africa as a leader in the continent, the AU as a continental multilateral body and the United Nations’ various organs.

The Peace-Development Nexus

Three disturbing patterns exist regarding civil wars and their recurrence. First, civil wars have a surprisingly high recidivism rate. Of the 103 countries that experienced some form of civil war between 1945 and 2009 (from minor to major conflict), only 44 avoided a subsequent return to civil war. That means that 57 percent of all countries that suffered from one civil war during this time period experienced at least one conflict thereafter. This confirms what Collier and Sambanis (2002) have called the “conflict trap;” once a country experiences one civil war, it is significantly more likely to experience additional episodes of violence.

Second, recurring civil wars have become the dominant form of armed conflict in the world today. In fact, since 2003 every civil war that has started has been a continuation of a previous civil war. Third, civil wars are increasingly concentrated in a few regions of the world. Prior to the end of the Cold War, civil wars were spread over almost every continent, in countries as diverse as Bolivia, Greece, Indonesia, Lebanon and Nicaragua. The end of the Cold War, however, brought an end to many of these conflicts, especially those in Central America and Southeast Asia. The result is a greater number of civil wars concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

The interplay between conflict and poverty is a storied one. With very few exceptions, where there is conflict, there is more often than not grinding poverty which acts to bring about conflict in a variety of ways:

Poverty leads to unemployment which in turn leads to a lack of opportunity cost for those youths especially who are both dis-incentivised away from being good and law-abiding citizens and in turn are drawn to violent groups, be they rebel militia and terrorist groups. Religious terrorist groups throughout the continent, capitalizes on local conditions by offering envisioned solutions to the grievance shared by the surrounding communities. They portray the situation in terms of an impoverished Nigerian Muslim population  as being oppressed by non-Muslim rulers, and “apostates” backed by sinister forces that intend to keep the local Muslim communities subservient.

According to James J. Forest, terrorists and criminals thrive in a climate of sustained grievances. It is no coincidence that the worst forms of political violence in Nigeria today originates in the most socio economically disadvantaged part of the country. In the north, where unemployment and poverty are the highest, radical Islamists and the imposition of Shari’ah have challenged the authority of the state (Forest, 2012: 45).In the south, where environmental destruction resulting from oil extraction in the Niger Delta has made local Nigerians traditional groups and armed militant gangs often consisting of unemployed youth have engaged in kidnapping, extortion, car bombings, murder, and other forms of violent attack against the government and the nation’s critical oil infrastructure. This shows that issues like ideology and ethnical grievances are merely benchmarks or contingents and that the real issue at the core of conflict is (1) a lack of resources, (2) a lack of opportunity and (3) therefore a lack of development. And allowing violent groups to provide the first two can lead to a complete shutoff of the third because civil violence in turn has developmental implications in several ways:

Firstly, terrorist attacks enhance uncertainty. This comes to limits investments and diverts FDI to “safer venues” (Gaibulloev and Sandler, 2011).

Secondly, augmented security outlays by a targeted government led to the crowd-out effect on what would otherwise be productive public and private investment.

Thirdly, an anti-terrorism campaign increases “the costs of doing business” through, for example, more expensive insurance premiums, higher wages, and higher security expenditures, which can themselves plummet profits, undermine productivity, and therefore economic growth.

Fourthly, in relation to the first point, terrorist attacks can lead to the undermining of growth through the destruction or degrading of social overhead capital that “facilitates commerce (for example, transportation, communication and electricity) and daily routines.”

Finally, terrorism tends to impact specific industries airlines and tourism and this may directly limit growth; “this may be especially true when terrorists target export-sector assets in an export-led-growth economy”. For example, states that purchase the target country’s export(s) may take their business elsewhere to states that have more reliability. (Gaibulloev and Sandler, 2011: 91-92).

The 2011 World Development Report’s authors argue that violence is not just one cause of poverty among many: it is becoming the primary cause. Countries that are prey to violence are often trapped in it. Those that are not are escaping poverty. This has profound implications both for poor countries trying to pull themselves together and for rich ones trying to help.Conflict in impoverished states thus becomes a self-reproducing loop which needs to be interrupted. Misunderstanding this relationship is what many states and organisations have done best, however.

The NATO aid budget for Afghanistan, for example, is focused almost entirely on military expenditure – about 90% — whereas only 10% is on developmental issues. And the shift in the White House’s rhetoric to further prioritise militant means over social ones and to not understand the factors leading to the need for violence in the first place further undermine multilateral efforts at culling conflict through development.

This section will now detail case studies wherein the logic discussed above has been lent some weight.

Brief Case Studies: In War and Peace, Poverty and Development

China: Performance Legitimacy and Beyond

Pre-1949 China, under the Qing was a political anomaly.Its feudal arrangement was one which the citizens were not entirely citizens and had no productive capacity. This, in addition to a lack of a stable and strong state, and one, moreover under increasingly intrusive Western control, lent itself to massive violence and chaos that resulted in a Warlord era, under which various civil insurgencies vied for control over the corpse of the once great empire.

But even when the People’s Republic was declared, and stability was brought onto the land, there was still the potential for massive citizen dissatisfaction and therefore of major uprising. Indeed, some scholars have argued that the Cultural Revolution only took place because youths were not incentivized away from violence. China is too big, and therefore preventing insurgency can only be done through massive development output and that is just what China has done since the 1970s.

To begin with, the Communist Party, has carried out what is labeled as “performance legitimacy” by political scientists through which it maintains its hold on power and brings about stability due to the wide approval it maintains due to its economic output. To that end, some 90% of Chinese society approve of the CCP; and some 60% of Chinese people believe their country is a democracy.

Additionally. In order to fight the perceived socioeconomic roots of terrorism, China has launched a number of development initiatives. Beijing is trying to stabilize the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by improving the living standards of Uyghurs, creating jobs and integrating Xinjiang with the Chinese economic heartland. These efforts intensified with the proclamation of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative in 2013.The Silk Road initiative has also brought about stability in the Asian continent outside of China’s borders to include the states of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan; Pakistan is a particularly interesting case in point because of the well-documented history is has had with terrorism.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) constitutes one of the largest foreign investments China has made in the framework of the OBOR initiative. The expenditures planned for the coming years in the amount of approximately $46-billion will further intensify relations between China and Pakistan as well as provide Beijing with access to the Arabian Sea, increasing its trade with Europe and the Middle East and Africa. On the other hand, there have been benefits for Pakistan, a country whose median age is 22.7 years, in terms of its fight against terrorism on which the government spends $67.93 billion per year fighting.

Already, this has been described by Pakistani officials as a “fate changer for Pakistan”; Pakistani economist Dr Gulfaraz Ahmed has estimated that some 700,000 jobs will be created along the silk road and through the newly created infrastructure and special economic zones and industrial zones. This is especially so in transportation, energy and some manufacturing.

Thus despite fears that the belt and road would be disrupted by violence, the Pakistani and Central Asian cases show the extent to which the violence can be pre-emptively halted through development.

Rwanda: Optimism, Economic Incentives and Social Responsibility

On 6 April 1994, with the world’s media focused on the election of Nelson Mandela, a plane was shot down in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It had been carrying Rwanda’s president, Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi. The double assassination triggered the state-sponsored genocide of approximately 800,000 of Rwanda’s minority Tutsi population and moderate Hutus. The mass slaughter was carried out in 100 days by government-backed perpetrators in the army, police, militias and by thousands of Hutu civilians across the country.

In 1996 an OECD report stated that the Rwandan government and international financial institutions face a major challenge: “maintaining macroeconomic policy in favour of growth and development.”

One of the first things the new government did was to eliminate the reference to ethnicity in identification documents. From then on, the country’s inhabitants were all “Rwandans.” In fact, children are educated in schools that are strongly encouraged to desist from using potentially divisive labels. Pupils are discouraged from identifying themselves as Hutu or Tutsi and are instead asked to focus on building the future of a common Rwanda. To this end, in 2001, the government unveiled a new flag and national anthem.

The practice of doing regular community work, which was grounded in the Rwandan tradition of “umuganda,” was reintroduced not only as part of the effort to rebuild the country but as a way to foster a community spirit. Once a month, Rwandans are called upon to perform communal tasks such as building a house for the needy, laying a road or sweeping a square. On a national level, traditional community courts called “gacaca” were revived in 2001. Between 2005 and 2012 these courts tried almost two million people across the country.

For several years, the members of the community of Simbi have been organized in an agricultural cooperative called “Duharanire Ubumwe N’Ubwiyunge” – “Working Toward Unity and Reconciliation.” Together, the members of the cooperative want to boost agricultural production – for them, a sign of development.

The government in Kigali is also counting on economic progress to help the country achieve lasting reconciliation. A poverty reduction program, with measures such as the introduction of health insurance for all, the targeted improvement of educational opportunity as well as a promotion of the private sector had already yielded results

Rwanda had reduced its poverty rate by 12 percent within 5 years. It now stood at 45%, adding that in comparison to other African countries that was an extremely good result.

The capital, Kigali, has 1.2 million inhabitants. It is regarded as a symbol of Rwanda’s progress. In the city center, one commercial skyscraper after the next is being built. Mayor Fidele Ndayisiba is convinced that “if the pace of development continues, in 10 years time Kigali will be a modern, flourishing city.” Even if the people beyond the city center still have to wait for modernity to arrive, Rwandans are patient and optimistic about the future. Today D’ Artagnan Habintwali, the traumatized boy from Butare, is 25 years old. He has almost completed his studies and wants to become a writer. “There will come a time when everything will be alright,” he says confidently.

Today, the country can boast that 97% of its children attend primary school – the highest rate in Africa. UNESCO noted this by naming it as one of the top three countries globally for improving access to education. Yet with the youth unemployment rate persisting above 40%, there is clearly much to be done to support the people who will drive the country’s economic growth.

The youths are no longer susceptible to being Interahamwe, and pursuing violent means through which to voice their grievances – there is optimism and therefore there is peace. Which is in turn another more positive feedback loop; and one to be built on.

Multilateral Policy Implications

From the case studies it is clear that there is a role for the international community to play in terms of bringing about sustainable development. In China, the international community has served the capacity of consumers. In Rwanda the international community is playing the role of the consumer but also that of developmental partner in terms of developmental aid

As we look at various conflicted and post-conflict societies in transition, we must acknowledge the role to be played by regional organisations and leaders such as South Africa and African Union in Africa, and international organisations – primarily the UN.

Sustainable peace, development and democracy have three mutually reinforcing dimensions, namely; societal reconciliation, democratization and economic reconstruction. Henceforth, greater coordination during post-conflict reconstruction is of greater need not only within the UN coordination but also within the entire aid community. Prospectively, it requires bringing together economic aid and political assistance, and thus have more comprehensive and integrated methods by the UN organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions. The Carnegie Commission report on Preventing Deadly Conflicts recognizes the symbiotic tensions between economic conditionality and the peace imperative, and look more into the binary distinction between neo-liberal economic reforms advocated by the international financial institutions and the contingencies of post-conflict countries (Patrick and Salomons, 1999). It thus calls on the Bretton Woods financial institutions ‘to establish better cooperation within UN’s political structures for economic inducements to facilitate a more central position in terms of early prevention and in post-conflict reconstruction. For example, the peace agenda of El Salvador has been diminished by the competing neo-liberal economic agenda and the prospect for peace in Guatemala continue to depend largely on the adaptation of the neo-liberal economic prescriptions.

Inside the UN structures, the UNDP facilitated a leading role with the UN in as far as to support recovery from conflict and sustaining democratic peace. The peace settlement of 1972 in El Salvador and the 1996 peace settlement of Guatemala together with the transitional election of 1990 Nicaragua were formidable in the sense that they intertwined peace and development, thus creating a key role for UNDP. In its efforts to secure good governance and reconciliation, programs in post-conflict countries, the UNDP took full appreciation of ‘the peace process of Central America were the first instance of UNDP involvement in overtly political and diplomatic, as well as developmental activities’. These experiences had a profound effect on the developmental philosophy of the UNDP and the stage whereby an organization vests its focus on countries with special circumstances (UNDP, 1999). At the Ibero-American Summit of 1996, a ‘Democratic Governance and Development’ resolution was adopted, UNDP made flagship for a more robust ‘Political Cooperation for Democratic Governance’, which at a later stage subscribed to policies and strategies on UNDP regional bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNDP, 1996).But how primed are these actors for such responsibilities, and what policy prescriptions can be given in relation to this particular context we find ourselves in?

The first thing to note about the UN peacekeeping budget is how small it is, at least when compared with the defence budgets of national governments.At $8bn, the entire peacekeeping budget is equivalent to one month of US military spending in Afghanistan at the height of the conflict in 2010, or just 1.4% of the current US defence budget, which stands at $573bn.

At the same time, peacekeeping operations are not considered as purely military interventions. United Nations Peacekeeping and Health noted there was a problem “of peacekeepers providing healthcare to the local population in situations where the quality of medical care provided to the mission’s own personnel is not always in accordance with WHO guidelines”.

While Monusco, the UN Peacekeeping mission in the DRC, is the most expensive operation, Minusca, the mission in Central African Republic, received the biggest increase in funding in 2016; rising 220% to over $800m, amid an intensification of fighting in the country.

Military and police personnel costs have increased by more than 300% to more than $350m, while spending on consultants, has increased by over 1,000% to $462,600. Medical spending increase to $9m, up 712% on the previous year, but this dwarfed by the $20m spent on communications, an increase of 37% on 2015. But despite the increase in funds, the missions faces numerous problems.

Area-Based Development Approach to Conflict

An area-based developmental approach significantly represent a precise instrument for conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and has been extensively implemented in conflict regions. In order to evaluate the applicability of the Area-based developmental approach in addressing conflict situations, the comprehension of conflict and its nature. Conflict is endemic in human society, and conflict of interest is inherent as well, this calls for all societies to introduce a range of norms and institutions to prevent the tension from developing into an open conflict between the groups or various government bodies. In order to systematically arrange various characteristics and conditions of conflict, this section will illustrate literature found in Brown’s categorization and clustering of the main factors of conflict divided into four categories, namely; structural, political and governance, economic and social, and cultural and perceptual (Ross, 1986).

Structural factors

Structural factors as most scholars would suggest, include inter-state security objectives including location in war-prone neighborhoods and undemocratic regions, mountainous country or rough terrain, size of the population, military capability, ethnic demographics including high ethno-linguistic and religious diversity. Collier and Hoeffler discovered through their lengthy econometric analysis that the risk of conflict is proportional to a country’s population, siting both opportunities and grievances increase with the size of the population (Collier and Hoeffer, 2007). The tradition of conflict and time difference since the previous conflict including ethnic dominance, understood as one ethnic group being a major stakeholder of the population also have a significant effect on the risk of conflict. On the other hand, one structural factor that is often omitted is the role of neighboring countries. Refugee problems, economic contestation which often leads to the disruption of trade, communication and production networks and military problems including the use of a neighboring state’s territory for shipment of arms and supplies and as a base for operation, can all substantially contribute to regional instability (Brown, 1996).

Political and governance factors

Political and governance factors are most likely to include issues such as a weak or failed state, exclusionary national ideologies and inter-group, elite and identity politics, and discriminatory political institutions. Weak or failing states both from the perspective of political legitimacy and its capability to exercise authority over the population and the overall territory under its jurisdiction and provide services for its citizens, is an important factor potentially contributing to conflict. Eroded elite and public confidence in the legitimacy and capability of government is one of the factors, which in combination with economic and social factors increases the probability of civil violence (Nafziger and Auvinen, 2005). Reiterating the significance of political factors and the weakness of the conventional economic illustration of inter-ethnic tensions. Horowitz influential work on Ethnic Groups in Conflict maintains that the developing elite of a subordinate group generally aspire not to economic power and business opportunities, but are focused on political power. Violent eruptions of conflict is therefore generally linked to the political system and in a particular degree in which the institutions of government are discriminatory or based on exclusionary ideologies Hegre and Sambanis, 2005).

Economic and social factors 

This crucial and comprehensive category of conflict factors is in academic writing portrayed by failed microeconomic policies, limited access to the market, low level and slow growth and structure of income, vertical inequalities such as income inequality, economic and social horizontal inequalities, failure of social contract, role of the Diaspora and male secondary education enrolment. According to Collier and Hoeffler, the key supporters of economic or feasibility theory of conflict, maintains that economic attributes such as the level, growth and structure of income are significant in the analysis of war initiation (Collier and Hoefer, 1998). Moreover, the Diaspora holds the potential to significantly increase the risk of conflict renewal, being a possible source of finance and having more sentimental views than the domestic population. An examination of the ties between humanitarian agencies and their hypothesized source in less-developed countries by Auvinen and Nafziger also confirms that stagnation and decline in real GDP, high income inequalities and a high ratio of military expenditure to national income are associated with the emergencies (Auvinen and Nafziger, 1999).

Environmental factors

Environmental factors can be broadly defined into three groups including threats related to scares resources, such as water, energy, sea passage and fishing grounds, to environmental externalities and those relating to social upheaval or environmental refugees. Environmental externalities consist of issues such as upstream river and trans-boundary air pollution and illegal trade in toxic waste. Environmental refugees and social upheaval result from forced migration in response to ecological disaster or chronic shortage of natural resources (Rawabizambuga, 2007).

Cultural and perceptual factors

Finally, these are factors which illustrates patterns of cultural discrimination, inequitable educational opportunities, legal and political constraints on the use and teaching of minority languages, religious freedom as well as problematic group histories and incendiary perception (Brown, 1996). Many if these attributes are linked to the structural, political and social factors and horizontal inequalities mentioned above.

Conclusion

Coordination among international organisations and states so as to not undermine one another’s developmental efforts. A case in point is the IMF and World Bank’s advocating for the rollback of the state via structural adjustments and therefore taking away of the social nets and developmental efforts being done in those countries. Likewise, blindly giving aid by the UN, AU and South Africa is counterproductive when it cannot be guaranteed that it is actually going to the advertised core issues. Policy should therefore be framed around sustainable development; development which yields results. Indeed the most important result of development is its self-reproduction and therefore a positive feedback loop in terms of peace and development; and therefore development and peace.

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