Women and conflict in West Africa and beyond

By Dr Diene Keita, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Photo: Fred Marie

Women are deliberately targeted in conflict

When conflict happens, the rule of law breaks down, freedom of movement is restricted, institutions and services are weakened, creating a lack of access to social services and information, and to food and livelihoods. This situation affects the entire population, but it disproportionately affects women. Research has shown that female-headed households are more vulnerable to stress and less capable of absorbing shocks, due to gender inequality, cultural restrictions and the feminisation of poverty. Conflict affects women and men differently and existing gender inequalities are compounded in times of conflict. Women and girls make up a large proportion of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and refugees. In Burkina Faso, 51% of IDPs are girls under the age of 14. Moreover, gender norms that associate masculinity with aggression make men more likely to perpetrate violence against those over whom they have power – usually women and children.

Overall, conflict increases women’s exposure and vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence. The Sahel and West Africa Club’s publication on Women and Conflict in West Africa, shows that Islamist organisations and militias deliberately target women. In north-eastern Nigeria where Boko Haram has its roots, women are victims of systemic attacks and kidnappings, and are forced into slavery as sex slaves, informants and even fighters. Additionally, women in conflict are victims of rape and forced prostitution, pregnancy, abortion, sterilisation and marriage, as well as many other forms of sexual violence. The higher risk and exposure to sexual and gender-based violence during conflict leads to increased reproductive health problems, which, compounded with the lack of access to health services in particular in conflict settings, have a severely detrimental effect on women and girls. Age compounds gender discrimination and disparities: in conflict and post-conflict contexts, adolescent girls and young women face even higher risks. Moreover, conflict widens the gender gap in school enrolment and retention.

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Donner la priorité aux contextes fragiles dans le monde de l’après-pandémie

Par Jorge Moreira da Silva, Directeur, Direction de la coopération pour le développement de l’OCDE  

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Les chocs économiques et sociaux liés à la pandémie ou en rapport avec le climat n’ont épargné aucun pays du monde en 2020, mais ils font peser une grave menace et frappent de manière disproportionnée les contextes fragiles ou touchés par un conflit. Déjà parmi les moins à même de faire face aux chocs, et dotés de capacités d’adaptation insuffisantes, ceux-ci sont aujourd’hui particulièrement exposés à ces risques. Ils ont besoin d’urgence de plus de soutien de la part de la communauté internationale, tant pour se relever à court terme que pour renforcer leur résilience face à de futurs chocs systémiques.

Un an après le début de la Décennie d’action et de réalisations, les contextes fragiles ou touchés par un conflit se trouvent à la croisée des chemins. Avant même la pandémie de COVID-19, les 57 contextes fragiles – y compris les 13 contextes extrêmement fragiles – recensés dans la publication de l’OCDE États de fragilité 2020 abritaient près d’un quart de la population mondiale, mais aussi les trois quarts des personnes en situation d’extrême pauvreté dans le monde. Aucun d’entre eux n’est en passe d’atteindre les objectifs de développement durable (ODD) relatifs à l’élimination de la faim, à la bonne santé, au bien-être et à l’égalité entre les sexes. Là où la majorité des pays en développement non fragiles progressent, la plupart des contextes fragiles régressent : ceux qui accusaient déjà un retard voient aujourd’hui celui-ci s’aggraver.

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Prioritising fragile and conflict affected states in a post-pandemic world

By Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate, and Helder da Costa, General Secretary of the g7+ Secretariat 

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Every country has been affected by the concurrent climate, pandemic and economic shocks of 2020. But they pose a severe threat to fragile and conflict affected states with specific needs that must be addressed in 2021. Already the least able to cope, these states urgently require leadership and collective responses at scale to mitigate the multifaceted impact of systemic shocks and build pathways to sustainable peace and prosperity.

One year into the Decade of Action, fragile and conflict-affected states are at a critical juncture. Even before the pandemic, the furthest behind were falling further behind on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2020, before COVID-19, the 57 fragile states identified by the OECD’s States of Fragility 2020 report were home to almost a quarter of the world population, but approximately three-quarters of all those living in extreme poverty globally. Thirteen extremely fragile states (including nine members of the g7+ group) were identified as being particularly at risk of being left behind from progress on sustainable development and peace relative to their peers. No fragile states are on track to meet the SDGs on hunger, health, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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Constructing Schools to Curb Conflict?

By Dominic Rohner, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne and Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and Alessandro Saia, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne

Eduation-Indonesia
A classroom in Kudus, Indonesia

Armed conflict is a major obstacle to human happiness and prosperity. The most visible consequence of warfare is, of course, the human death toll, leaving millions of families shattered. But below this surface, the grim consequences of fighting go further. The economic cost is very considerable, with the average war leading to a total loss of about 15% of GDP, human capital accumulation is slowed down, inter-group trust is threatened, and psychological suffering and trauma become widespread.1

While academic research on conflict has boomed in recent years, the lion’s share of contributions has focused on factors that are well-suited for statistical analysis but that are difficult to modify by policymakers. In particular, while we know that ethnic diversity, adverse weather shocks and natural resource discoveries play a role in the occurrence of conflict, there are not many obvious policies that can modulate these parameters.

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Breaking the vicious circle of conflict and fragility

By Klaus Rudischhauser, Deputy Director General, European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development

Insecurity bears political, social and economic costs, depriving people of a life free of fear and want and diminishing their trust towards state institutions. By 2030, 62% of the global poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected states.[1]  People in these states are twice as likely to be undernourished as those living in other developing countries, while their children are twice more likely to die before the age of five. On the other hand, lack of representation, weak and unaccountable institutions, socioeconomic exclusion, and lack of access to basic services create fertile ground for violent conflict, organised crime and increased irregular migration flows. To break the vicious circle of conflict and low development, we need to adopt a different development approach, putting security at the top of the agenda. Continue reading