Ismail Serageldin


The Transition from War to Peace: A Regional Workshop

 19/02/1997 | Opening Remarks Delivered at Carter Center


Ladies and Gentlemen,


As I join in welcoming you to this workshop, I am most honored to stand beside the foremost peacemaker of our time, President Carter, who has taught us to "wage peace" and eschew war.


Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5.9)


Mr. President,


The UN charter called for the abolition of the scourge of war, but the machinery of the UN, of the international agencies, was designed to deal with wars between states, but now, most wars tend to be within states. Indeed conflicts exist in about 40 countries worldwide today, many now lasting 10-20 years. As we all know the conflict in Guatemala had been going on for over 30 years.


While these conflicts do not have the same firepower that we have seen deployed in formal wars, they are more brutal and wreak havoc with greater intensity and barbarism. Indeed it seems that

fierce civil strife unleashes "Domestic furies" and (in the words of Shakespeare):


Blood and destruction shall be so in use,

And dreadful objects so familiar,

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,



We cannot allow the familiarity of the grotesque pictures or the numbing effect of the endless sequence of images and numbers to accustom us to the horror or to the misery. We must remain engaged and morally committed.


A. The Conflict Situation Globally.


Consider the magnitude of the task today:


- Over 70 million persons have been displaced (about 30 million are cross-border refugees and 40 million internally displaced persons) by such conflicts, with about half of these in Sub-Saharan Africa. About two-thirds of the population of Liberia alone is said to be displaced.


- There are now an estimated 100 million war orphans worldwide resulting from such conflicts, and innumerable widows who are now singularly heading households.


- The level of militarization has been enormous with more than 1 million combatants in Africa alone.


- Landmines are estimated to blanket over 22 countries in the world with nearly a quarter of these in Africa and 9 million in Angola alone. A $3 mine can cost $1000 to clear.


- casualties are predominantly civilians. Unlike earlier world wars where 90% of the casualties were combatants and 10% civilians, current civil wars have reversed these proportions.


- The participation of informal combatants, guerrilla armies, child soldiers and natural resource traffickers (gold, diamonds, etc.) along with the availability of large numbers of automatic weapons (a legacy of the cold war days) has resulted in the privatization of violence, criminalization of economies, and the militarization of entire societies.



- Not only is physical capital destroyed and financial capital flight common in the course of such struggles, but equally devastating is the loss of human and social capital. Many of the best trained are killed or flee, families are separated, commercial and social networks are fractured, and trust is diminished. The tasks of reconstruction are thus further complicated.



B. What is the Bank currently doing?


Against this background you may well ask what is the World Bank doing? Just yesterday, we discussed with our Board how to improve Bank involvement in post-conflict situations. Even today, my colleague Mamadou Dia is in New York participating in the discussions on Liberia. We are engaged, and have been engaged:


- The Board approved two $20 million special emergency grants to Somalia and Rwanda during the height of crisis in these countries. These grants essentially provided financing of critical inputs such as food and medicine, administered by such agencies as UNICEF and UNHCR, and delivered by NGOs.


- The Bank is coordinating multi-donor reconstruction efforts both West-Bank/Gaza and Bosnia. Special Trust Funds have been established in both areas, administered by the World Bank.


- We have expanded our work in the demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants over the past two years with programs in Cambodia, Uganda, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Chad, and elsewhere.


- Operational guidelines for financing mine clearance were approved in January 1997 and we have mine clearance components ongoing in operations in Bosnia, Croatia, and Cambodia with a project for mine clearance under preparation in Azerbaijan.


- We are increasingly cooperating with UNHCR, UNDP and other development partners to address the needs of returning refugees and internally displaced persons with a recent joint Bank-UNDP assessment mission to Rwanda, an earlier one to Liberia, and close cooperation with UNHCR in Tajikistan, Bosnia, and Azerbaijan.



- More recently, the Bank provided technical assistance on military demobilization and economic advice during the Guatemalan Peace Negotiations.



- The Operations and Evaluation Department of the Bank (OED) is currently undertaking a review of our experience in post-conflict situations.



- Our Economic Development Institute (EDI) is organizing workshops to share experience on the reintegration of displaced populations.



- A Framework Paper on the Role of the Bank in Post-Conflict Situations was discussed by our Board yesterday. We considered, among other things, how to focus our efforts, improve the quality of our interventions, and build and share our knowledge and experience. This meeting is a part of our effort to reach out and join others in working together in conflict situations.



C. What will/can we still do?


- The Bank needs to become more nimble, maintaining watching briefs during conflicts to enable us to act swiftly and flexibly when conditions permit.


The traditional view is of a sequence: conflict- settlement- humanitarian assistance- reconstruction- development.


This paradigm is changing.


The gray area between the end of the humanitarian relief and the beginning of the formal reconstruction is more protracted.. advances tend to be uneven over the territory, and ambiguous in terms of solidity. Thus while the gap between relief and sustained development has to be closed, we need to carefully learn how to do so, and how to accelerate the empowerment of the most vulnerable persons that they may take charge of their own lives.


Also we must think in terms of the development strategy itself as one contributing measure to prevent conflict: equity, social cohesion, mobility and participation being the hallmarks of a more stable society.




The measure of our ultimate success must be when we have lived up to the lofty words of the UN charter and peace prevails everywhere.


Failing that, surely, we must not fail at reducing the misery and horror that accompany civil strife, to help the destitute and the marginalized regain a foothold into decent living.


This requires:

 That we bear witness


... there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

 That we contribute

 That we recognize the comparative advantage


The Bank recognizes both the limits of what it can do, peace making being beyond our mandate. But we also recognize the moral imperative of doing the utmost within these limits to move rapidly in post-conflict situations, to participate with others in the assistance of those in need.


That was the mission of the Bank in post-war Europe and Japan, it has to adapt to do it in different circumstances.


We are here to learn how to do that... To listen and exchange views, and I look forward to our deliberations.


Thank you.



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