Security, justice and livelihoods key to addressing cycles of political and criminal violence in conflict areas of the Philippines—WB report

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In Manila: David Llorito (632) 917-3047 E-mail:
Erika Lacson-Esguerra (632) 917-3013 E-mail:
In Washington: Carl Hanlon (202) 473-8087 E-mail:

MANILA, MAY 10, 2011—Recurring cycles of political and criminal violence deprive people throughout the world of opportunities for a better life. Restoring confidence in the government, strengthening national institutions, and improving governance in ways that prioritize citizen security, justice, and livelihoods can help break this trap, says Nigel Roberts, World Bank Special Representative and Director of the World Development Report 2011 released recently.

Mr. Roberts is on a two-day visit in the Philippines to meet with government officials, particularly the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), to discuss the findings of the WDR 2011 focused on conflict, security, and development. The WDR is the flagship annual publication of the World Bank.

“The central message of the WDR 2011 is that strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, address injustice and help improve livelihoods is crucial to breaking cycles of violence,” said Mr. Roberts.

The WDR 2011 says that while much of the world has made rapid progress in reducing poverty over the past 60 years, areas characterized by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence, such as some areas in Mindanao, are being left far behind, their economic growth compromised and their human indicators stagnant.

In the Philippines, two of the most conflict-affected regions—CARAGA and ARMM—are also the country’s poorest.

Internationally, no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal, the WDR 2011 points out.

“Violent conflict has exacted a heavy social and economic cost on the Philippines, with over 120,000 people killed over the last three decades,” said Mr. Roberts. “While serious conflict occurs only in parts of the country, it affects the Philippines’ international image and, thus, is a national problem.”

Organized violence today, the WDR 2011 says, is spurred by a range of domestic and international stresses, such as youth unemployment, income shocks, tensions among ethnic, religious or social groups, and trafficking networks. Actual or perceived injustice and exclusion are the internal stresses most associated with violence. Risks of violence are greater when high stresses combine with weak capacity or lack of legitimacy in key national institutions.

Mr. Roberts said that there are no one-size-fits all solutions to end political and criminal violence of the types found in the Philippines. Home-grown solutions, he said, are essential, with many lessons that can be learned from the experiences of countries that have undergone promising transitions out of severe violence, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste.

“To break cycles of insecurity, national reformers and their international partners have managed to build legitimate institutions that provide a sustained level of security, combat injustice, and help improve livelihoods,” Mr. Roberts said. “These societies have been able to offer a stake to groups that might otherwise have received greater respect and earned a living from engaging in armed violence.”

Deliberate efforts are needed to build political coalitions that are inclusive enough to generate broad national support for change, Mr. Roberts said.

For his part, World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman confirmed the Bank’s commitment to working with the Philippine government and civil society to achieve peace and development in the country.

“The World Development Report states that breaking cycles of violence is slow work. It can take a generation or more,” said Mr. Hofman. “The World Bank has been working closely with the Philippine government and civil society on peace and security in Mindanao for many years. We remain strongly committed to supporting the development of legitimate institutions that can provide citizen security, justice and livelihoods to promote sustainable peace in the Philippines.”

The WDR 2011 cites five practical programs at the national level to link rapid confidence-building to longer-term institutional transformation:

  • Support for community-based programs for preventing violence, creating employment and delivering service, and offering access to local justice and dispute resolution systems in insecure areas.
  • Programs to transform security and justice institutions in ways that focus on basic functions and recognize the linkages among policing, civilian justice and public finances.
  • Basic job creation schemes, including large scale public and community-based works that do not crowd out the private sector, access to finance to bring producers and markets together, and the expansion of access to assets, skills, work experience and finance.
  • Involvement of women in security, justice and economic empowerment programs.
  • Focused anti-corruption actions that demonstrate how new initiatives can be well governed, drawing on external and community capacity for monitoring.