The world has made tremendous progress towards achieving the MDGs, yet many countries lag behind. Conflict, violence, and political instability have, in many places, severely limited development gains. On average, a country that experienced major violence over the period from 1981 to 2005 has a poverty rate 21% higher than a country that saw no violence. These countries are the furthest behind in meeting MDG targets.
Apart from a failure to meet global poverty reduction and development goals, countries affected by systemic violence suffer debilitating costs. In 2005 in Guatemala, the costs of violence – in terms of health, material losses, institutional costs, private security expenses, and damage to the investment climate – were estimated at $2.4 billion or 7.3 percent of GDP. This figure is more than double the damage caused by Hurricane Stan in the same year and more than double the combined budget for the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, and Education in 2006. Moreover, relatively stable countries may see their development gains eroded by their conflict-affected neighbors. A country making development advances, such as Tanzania, loses an estimated 0.7 percent of GDP every year for each neighbor in conflict.
With substantial gains in poverty reduction globally, the persistence of poverty is increasingly concentrated in countries affected by conflict, and in isolated parts of otherwise middle-income countries. It will be nearly impossible to achieve zero-based-goals, such as eradicating extreme poverty, or to meet social and environmental goals without addressing the persistent insecurity in which people live. This will be most challenging in countries that experience chronic cycles of conflict and violence. But, it will also be extremely difficult in countries with widespread criminality, pockets of persistent violence, or which are disproportionately affected by external stressors such as trafficking and organized crime.
Research and experience show that good governance and effective institutions can prevent and mitigate conflict and often buttress sustained development progress. The 2011 World Development Report, for example, found that building resilient institutions was essential to ending repeated cycles of conflict. Inclusive, effective, transparent, and accountable governance underpinned by the rule of law ensures that human development is peaceful and lasting. Without the capacity for people to determine their own futures, countries risk falling into violent conflict, possibly reversing the level of development achieved.
Last week, we discussed why the issue is so politically sensitive and how a political space can be carved out for compromise on conflict, violence, and governance in the post-2015 discussions. The inclusion of these issues in the post-2015 framework will remain a topic of discussion in upcoming intergovernmental meetings – this week in particular at the INCAF director-level meeting in New York and throughout 2014 as the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals continues its discussions.