The Role of Parliaments in Conflict

The Role of Parliaments in
Conflict-Resolution and
Mitchell O’Brien
Governance Specialist
Team Lead – Parliament Program
World Bank Institute
[email protected]
The CPA-WBI Process
Central message
Trends in conflict
Structural conditions conducive to
Conflict trap
The complexity of conflict
Parliaments as the Cornerstone
Parliaments’ best conflict prevention tool
– the national budget?
The CPA-WBI Knowledge Capture
Knowledge Development Process:
 Study Group on the Role of Parliaments in ConflictAffected Countries – Sri Lanka 2004
 Conference on Parliaments and Conflict - Wilton Park
 Parliaments as Peacebuilders in Conflict-Affected
Countries – 2008
 West Africa Regional Conflict Prevention Research
Project - 2010
 Workshop on the Role of the Parliaments in ConflictAffected Countries – Vienna 2010
 WDR 2011 on Conflict, Security and Development
 2012 – Global Seminar on Parliaments and EI
 2013 – Parliaments, PFM and Fragility?
Central Message
 Strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to
provide citizen security, justice, and jobs is crucial to
break cycles of violence.
 Restoring confidence and transforming security, justice,
and economic institutions is possible within a generation,
even in countries that have experienced severe conflict.
 This requires determined national leadership and an
international system “refitted” to address 21st-century
risks: refocusing assistance on preventing criminal and
political violence, reforming the procedures of
international agencies, responding at a regional level,
and renewing cooperative efforts among all countries
 Parliaments are central to local, national, regional,
and international efforts to curb conflict
Trends in Conflict
Transformation in the nature of conflict - Type and rate of conflict changing
Traditional inter-state (Kashmir) and ethno-national conflicts (Sri Lanka) are
becoming rarer – deaths from civil wars are still unacceptably high, but are onequarter of what they were in the 1980s (WDR)
Nontraditional intrastate conflicts still continue to be waged with potential for
spillover into neighboring countries (Afghanistan/ Pakistan)
Recent trends show a diffusion and fragmentation of violence perpetuated by a
number of actors (what constitutes the security sector?) targeting non combatants
and citizens (West Africa/ Kenya/ Uganda)
One in four people on the planet, more than 1.5 billion, live in fragile and conflict
affected states or in countries with very high levels of criminal violence.
Due to the successes in reducing interstate war, the remaining forms of conflict and
violence do not fit neatly either into “war” or “peace,” or into “criminal violence” or
“political violence” (WDR)
Explosions of social grievances despite good economic indicators (Arab Spring)
Many countries and sub-national areas now face cycles of repeated violence, weak
governance, and instability.
This makes it difficult for the international community to intervene and places
greater emphasis on national institutions to act
Structural Conditions Conducive to
• There is a correlative relationship between poverty and conflict
• Nations with a high levels of dependence on commodity
exports are at a higher risk of experiencing conflict
• Meanwhile countries with higher levels of secondary schooling
and economic growth have reduced rates of conflict
• Low-income countries with a per-capita income of less than
US$2,000 experienced conflict approximately one in every five
• Drops to one in every 33 years when per capita income is in
excess of US$4,000
• New poverty data reveal that poverty is declining for much of
the world, but countries affected by violence are lagging
behind. For every three years a country is affected by major
violence (battle deaths or excess deaths from homicides
equivalent to a major war), poverty reduction lags behind by
2.7 percentage points (WDR)
• No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet
achieved a single MDG
Conflict Trap
• A country with these conditions is statistically
more prone to conflict than a country without
these structural conditions
• The impact of conflict on an economy lingers
well beyond the cessation of conflict, making a
country more prone to a reversion to violent
conflict – this is known as the conflict trap
• Conflicts often are not one-off events, but are
ongoing and repeated: 90 percent of the last
decade’s civil wars occurred in countries that
had already had a civil war in the last 30
Conflict is getting more complex
New forms of conflict and violence threaten development: many
countries that have successfully negotiated political and peace
agreements after violent political conflicts, such as El Salvador,
Guatemala, and South Africa, now face high levels of violent crime,
constraining their development.
Different forms of violence are linked to each other. Political
movements can obtain financing from criminal activities, as in the
Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Ireland
Criminal gangs can support political violence during electoral periods,
as in Jamaica and Kenya.
International ideological movements make common cause with local
grievances, as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus, the large majority
of countries currently facing violence face it in multiple forms.
Grievances can escalate into acute demands for change—and the
risks of violent conflict—in countries where political, social, or
economic change lags behind expectations, as in the Middle East and
North Africa.
Parliaments as the Cornerstone (1)
• That risk of conflict and violence in any society (national or
regional) is the combination of the exposure to internal and
external stresses (including CC and EI) and the strength of the
“immune system,” or the social capability for coping with stress
embodied in legitimate institutions
• But transforming institutions is particularly difficult in fragile
• In countries with a track record of violence and mistrust,
expectations are either too low, so that no government
promises are believed, making cooperative action
impossible—or too high, so that transitional moments produce
expectations of rapid change that cannot be delivered by
existing institutions.
• Many institutional changes that could produce greater longterm resilience against violence frequently carry short-term
risks. Any important shift—holding elections, dismantling
patronage networks, giving new roles to security services,
decentralizing decision-making, empowering disadvantaged
groups—creates both winners and losers.
Parliaments as the Cornerstone (2)
• Persuading stakeholders to work collaboratively requires
signals of a real break with the past—for example,
ending the political or economic exclusion of
marginalized groups, corruption, or human rights
abuses—as well as mechanisms to “lock-in” these
changes and show that they will not be reversed
• Parliaments are the most representative democratic
• Parliaments can seek to prevent conflict by addressing
the root causes of tension and addressing the structural
conditions (poverty) that permit underlying tensions to
escalate to violent conflict
• Parliaments’ have many tools at their disposal; however,
one of the most effective tool for coping with internal and
external stresses is the national budget
Objectives of Budgeting
• Public resources are always limited and
inevitably fall short of meeting all the needs of
• A well-functioning budget process helps to
assess competing claims on the budget and
facilitates difficult tradeoffs
Assists in
ameliorating tensions in society and address
economic causes of conflict
• Meeting this challenge successfully requires
that budgeting achieves:
– Affordable budget totals
– Strategic prioritization of public funds
– Sound operational management
» Next step Global Seminar on Parliaments and
Extractive Industries
Some principles of good budgeting
• Comprehensiveness: The budget must cover
all the fiscal operations of government.
• Predictability: Spending agencies should
have certainty about their allocations in the
medium term to enable them to plan ahead.
• Contestability: No item in the budget should
have an automatic claim to funding.
• Transparency: Accurate, timely, reliable and
comprehensive information.
• Periodicity: The budget should cover a fixed
period of time, and follow a clear schedule.
Over to you…
Does parliament in your country
undertake activities aimed at
preventing conflict?
Does parliament in your country use
the budget process as a mechanism to
reduce conflict in the community?
Are there additional aspects that you
think are relevant and have worked in
your parliament that you would like to
comment on?

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