Repeated Violence Threatens Development
This chapter presents the development challenge of political and criminal violence. The effects can be devastating. Violence kills and displaces people, destroys human and physical capital, stunts growth, and all too often spills across borders. More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by fragility
, violence, or conflict. A child living in a conflict-affected or fragile developing country is twice as likely to be undernourished as a child living in another developing country and nearly three times as likely to be out of school. No low-income fragile or conflict-affected state has yet achieved a single Millennium Development Goal (MDG). There is hope, however. Countries that have managed to reduce violence have also produced some of the fastest development gains.
Interstate and civil war—1900 to the present
Interstate war has declined dramatically since the two world wars of the first half of the 20th century. Major civil conflicts (those with more than 1,000 battle deaths a year) increased during the postcolonial and Cold War era, peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s (figure a
). Since 1991–92, when there were 21 active major civil wars, the number has steadily fallen to less than 10 each year since 2002.
Civil wars peaked in the early 1990s and then declined. Major civil wars increased from 1960 through the late 1980s and have decreased since the early-1990s.
The declines are all the more remarkable given the rising number of sovereign states—from around 50 in 1900 to more than 170 in 2008. Despite a tripling in the number of states and a doubling of population in the last 60 years, the percentage of countries involved in major conflicts (interstate or civil) has not increased, and there has been a decline since 1992.
In addition, civil wars have become less violent. Battle deaths have dropped from an average of 164,000 a year in the 1980s and 92,000 a year in the 1990s to 42,000 a year in the 2000s (figure b
). This is consistent with recent evidence of declines in the number of wars, human rights abuses, and fatalities in war—and in the indirect deaths associated with wars.
Deaths from civil wars are also on the decline. As the number of civil wars declined, the total annual deaths from these conflicts (battle deaths) fell from more than 200,000 in 1988 to less than 50,000 in 2008.
Instability, political violence, and drug trafficking in West Africa
West Africa is one of the poorest and least stable regions in the world. All but 3 of its 16 countries are on the United Nations (UN) list of “least developed countries.” Since independence, countries in the region have experienced at least 58 coups and attempted coups and many civil wars—and rebel groups remain active.
Where conflict has ended, recovery and the creation of resilient institutions
take time; and the weakness of governance in post-conflict environments attracts transnational criminal networks. International drug traffickers began in 2004 to use the region as a base for shipping cocaine from South America to Europe.
In 2008 an estimated 25 tons of cocaine passed through West Africa, with a transit value of about US$1 billion by the time it reached West Africa, and an ultimate value of some US$6.8 billion at its destinations in Western Europe.
Drug traffickers use some of the profits to bribe government officials. As the UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) notes in its Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment for West Africa, “Law enforcement officials can be offered more than they could earn in a lifetime simply to look the other way.”
Trafficking and violence during conflicts in West Africa, 1990–2009. West Africa has experienced political, communal, and criminal violence since 1990. During conflicts, diamonds, timber, and oil were trafficked. Recently the region has become a transit route for cocaine trafficked from South America to Europe.
Note: The map above depicts West African political violence 1990–2009 overlaid trafficking and seizure data. Violence data for Sierra Leone and Liberia are for 1990–2010, while violence data for all other states are for 1997–2009.
Source: Conflict data are from Raleigh and others 2010 ACLED database (Armed Conflict Location and Event Database), seizure and trafficking data are from UNODC 2010a; WDR team calculations.
Violent crime and insecurity exact high economic costs
Indirect costs—associated with stress and trauma, time off work due to violent incidents, and lower productivity from injury or mental illness—far overshadow direct costs. In Brazil in 2004, the direct medical costs of all interpersonal violence were estimated at US$235 million and the indirect medical costs at US$9.2 billion. Comparable figures, respectively, for Jamaica are US$29.5 million and US$385 million, and for Thailand US$40.3 million and US$432 million. Emerging findings from Kenya estimate total costs of violence at 1.2 percent of GDP. In the United Kingdom, the direct costs of domestic violence are estimated at £5.7 billion annually.
When other indirect costs are added, such as those for policing, health care, private security, and reduced investment, the figures are even more staggering. In Guatemala, criminal violence cost an estimated US$2.4 billion, or 7.3 percent of GDP, in 2005—more than twice the damage caused by Hurricane Stan the same year, and more than twice the budget for the ministries of agriculture, health, and education for 2006. In El Salvador, criminal violence in 2003 cost about US$1.7 billion, or 11.5 percent of GDP. The Mexican government estimates that crime and violence cost the country 1 percent of GDP from lost sales, jobs, and investment in 2007 alone. Estimates suggest that if Haiti and Jamaica reduced their crime levels to those of Costa Rica, they could increase annual GDP growth by 5.4 percentage points. These costs are comparable to estimates of the cost of civil war. Based on growth base lines for cross-country panel date in the last 50 years, researchers estimate the costs of civil wars to range from 1.6 percentage to 2.3 percentage of GDP per year of violence. For the average country affected by violence, these effects, compounded over time, can cost the equivalent of up to 30 years of missing GDP growth.
Insecurity takes a significant toll on the private sector, in direct costs of criminal acts (theft, arson, or other victimization) and in investments in security systems. Cross-country surveys found that these costs represented 1–3 percent of sales in Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda, and 6 percent in Kenya. In nearly all cases, the bulk of these costs were for security technology and services. These estimates are conservative: other studies estimate the costs of crime to range from 3.1 percent to 7.8 percent of GDP.
Collier and Hoeffler 2004; Butchart and others 2008; Walby 2004; Geneva Declaration 2008; UNDP 2005c, 2006; UNODC and World Bank 2007; Skaperdas and others 2009; Willman and Makisaka 2010; Farrell and Clark 2004; Altbeker 2005; Alda and Cuesta 2010; Kenya Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation 2007; World Bank 2010d.
The interlinked and evolving nature of modern organized violence
The Caribbean has known political and criminal violence for decades. Except for Cuba, every large island country and many smaller ones—the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and trinidad and Tobago—have homicide levels above 10 per 100,000. In some of them, criminal gang activity has spilled over into political violence, with mutually reinforcing dynamics. Since 1970, most of Haiti’s elections have been marked by violence—with 34 deaths in 1987 and 89 in 2004—and the country experienced political violence in 2010. The relationship can be reversed as well; in some countries, drug trafficking has exacerbated local organized violence
The Western Balkans are known for the civil wars that dissolved Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In the chaotic aftermath of the wars, many turned to trafficking in drugs, people, human organs, and weapons, such that organized crime perpetrated the most widespread and destabilizing violence.
Crime has gradually declined in recent years, but organized crime remains formidable.
Some 32 percent of human trafficking victims come from or through the Balkans, and the Balkan route is the main trafficking corridor for more than US$20 billion in heroin from Afghanistan to Western Europe a year.
Gang-related violence targeted political figures. The Zemun gang, with close connections to heroin trafficking, assassinated Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003.
In West Africa, the conventional political conflict that began in Liberia and spread to Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, later gave way to more organized crime across the region, as warring factions pillaged natural resources, drug trafficking networks entered the region, and the rule of law weakened. What had begun as a means of financing war became a successful business model for trafficking diamonds, timber, arms, and humans.
Charles Taylor, the leader of one of the factions and later president of Liberia, is accused in his indictment by the Special Court of Sierra Leone of “a joint criminal enterprise . . . [to exercise] control over the territory of Sierra Leone . . . and the population . . . [through] unlawful killings, abductions, forced labor, physical and sexual violence, use of child soldiers . . . .”
It is estimated that Taylor amassed US$105–450 million through this criminal enterprise.
At the height of the conflict in Sierra Leone, illegal exports accounted for more than 90 percent of its diamond trade,
or more than US$200 million in 2002.
In Nigeria, a largely subnational struggle in the oil-rich Niger Delta has given way to organized criminal syndicates that deal in oil, arms, and kidnapped foreign workers. An estimated 250,000–300,000 barrels, valued at more than US$3.8 billion, are stolen each year through “oil bunkering” (the theft of oil from pipelines or storage facilities).
Local gangs and political groups can also be drawn into ethnic violence; in the 2007 election aftermath in Kenya, gangs and politically motivated groups engaged in ethnically aligned violence.
In Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the tribal areas on their borders, violence from the headline conflict in the region—between the government and international forces and the Taliban and other armed groups—is linked to drug trafficking and criminal violence, as well as kidnapping, extortion, and smuggling of a range of natural resources. New tensions and the presence of foreign fighters exacerbate long-standing conflicts between capitals and peripheral regions over power, governance, and resources.
Tensions and violence between ethnic groups can quickly transform into political violence where elections and other political contests affect the distribution of power and resources. In the Solomon Islands in the late 1990s, skirmishes between armed militias from the two main islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita, which displaced some 35,000 Malaitan settlers, culminated in the emergence of a Malaitan militia group, which—in response to the government’s failure to curb Guadalcanal militancy—forced the resignation of the prime minister. In Papua New Guinea, longstanding ethnic and tribal conflicts in the Highlands—caused by a mix of traditional animosities, competition for resources, and land disputes—morphed into “raskol” gang activities in Port Moresby and other urban areas.
The advent of international operations to exploit timber and minerals has added fuel to preexisting ethnic contests over natural resources.
Cross-border violence goes beyond the destabilization from sanctuaries in neighboring countries, as in West Africa and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas. Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army has spread far beyond its original geographical origins to operate across a wide number of countries and borders—again drawing on criminal trafficking for its financing. And Somali pirates hijacked more than 125 merchant ships passing through the Gulf of Aden in 2009.
Many religious and ideological grievances in one part of the world are grafted onto a local conflict in some faraway place. At the height of the war in Bosnia and herzegovina in the 1990s, Islamic groups from outside the region joined the fight alongside Bosnian Muslims.
Likewise, foreign fighters and ideological links between armed groups dominate international press coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq, though spill-overs of international ideological groups into the Sahel, affecting countries as isolated and historically peaceful as Mali, get less attention.
Harriott 2004; Curtis and Karacan 2002; Shanty and Mishra 2008; Andreas 2004; International Crisis Group 2003; UNODC 2008, 2010a; Anastasijevic 2006; Special Court for Sierra Leone Office of the Prosecutor 2007; Lipman 2009; Coalition for International Justice 2005; Duffield 2000; Gberie 2003a; Even-Zohar 2003; Davies, von Kemedi, and Drennan 2005; International Crisis Group 2008b; Ashforth 2009; Porter, Andrews, and Wescott 2010; Kohlmann 2004.
In other cases, violence may be linked through underlying institutional weaknesses. Yemen now faces four separate conflicts: the Houthi rebellion in the North, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, grievances in the south, and the popular protests for change that have swept through the Arab world. There is little direct evidence of links between these conflicts, other than through the weakness of national institutions
to address them.