‘External Stresses’ and Violence Mitigation in Fragile Contexts: Setting the Stage for Policy Analysis
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Following on from the World Bank’s World Development Report 2011 on conflict, security and development, a debate has emerged about the role of so-called ‘external stresses’ in generating ‘new’ forms of violence and insecurity in poor and fragile countries. The Bank posits that the combination of internal stresses (e.g. low income levels, high youth unemployment) and external stresses (e.g. cross-border conflict spillovers, illicit drug trafficking) heightens the risk of different forms of violence, which are not confined to inter-state and civil war but range from communal conflicts to criminal violence and terrorism. This perspective is useful, yet a more comprehensive and nuanced framework for policy analysis is called for, based on the recognition that external stresses: (a) tend to involve external, internal as well as transnational actors and variables that are often interrelated; (b) create both losers and winners, and can promote the interests of powerful state and non-state groups in and outside of the country or world region under ‘stress’; and (c) do not all have the same kind of impact on states and societies in terms of generating violence.