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In 2015, the United Nations Member States set ambitious goals for the world with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which offers a unique framework to come together around a renewed effort at preventing human suffering. The Agenda, which is universal, integrated and indivisible in nature, not only aims to end poverty and hunger, to ensure healthy lives and quality education and to protect the environment—but also to reduce inequalities and promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Violent conflict is increasingly recognized as one of the big obstacles to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Its dramatic resurgence over the last few years has caused immense human suffering and has enormous global impact. Violent conflicts have also become more complex and protracted, involving more nonstate groups and regional and international actors. And they are increasingly linked to global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, cyber security and transnational organized crime. It is projected that more than half of the people living in poverty will be found in countries affected by high levels of violence by 2030. This is utterly contrary to the promise contained in the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind. As the human, social and financial costs and complexity of violent conflict and its global impact grow, we must ask ourselves: how can the global community more effectively prevent violent conflict?
At the United Nations, we believe that prevention means doing everything we can to help countries avert the outbreak of crises that take a high toll on humanity, undermining institutions and capacities to achieve peace and development. We mean rededicating ourselves to the United Nations Charter, the mandate of Agenda 2030, protecting and respecting human rights, and ensuring that our assistance goes to those who need it the most. Prevention should permeate everything we do. It should cut across all pillars of the United Nations’ work and unite us for more effective delivery. This study is a contribution to our internal refl ection on the broader challenges of prevention. At the World Bank Group, we believe that preventing fragility, conflict and violence is central to reducing poverty and achieving shared prosperity. Social and economic development have important roles to play in this effort, so we are doubling the amount of resources to address issues of fragility, confl ict and violence as part of the 18th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA), our fund for the poorest countries. We are ensuring that all of our operations can contribute to this effort in several ways: by introducing more fl exibility and adaptability in our programs; by increasing our focus on the risks of fragility, conflict and violence, and on various crises faced by our clients; by improving our regional efforts; and by addressing some of the worst consequences of conflict such as forced displacement.
Each of our institutions brings a unique and complementary set of expertise and tools to the table in accordance with its mandate. We can already see the results of our intensifi ed collaboration around conflict, violence and fragility in several countries. But we can achieve more together. We need to better harness our institutions’ instruments and resources to support this shared agenda. This joint study on the prevention of violent conflict—a first in the history of our institutions—was initiated in 2016 and conducted by a team of staff members from the United Nations and the World Bank Group, in a spirit of fostering closer collaboration to deliver at the country level. It reflects a process of research and intense global consultation aimed at providing ideas on how development approaches can better interact with other tools to prevent violent conflict.
This study, principally based on academic research, benefited immensely from consultations with a variety of actors including governments. It is therefore our hope that some of the findings will usefully inform global policy making. This study is one element of a much broader partnership and a first step in working jointly to address the immense challenges of our time. We look forward to continuing the pursuit of knowledge together and to applying that knowledge together in support of the people we serve.
Jim Yong Kim
World Bank Group