24 March 2010

Conflict and development

South Asia is the second most violent place in the world, after Iraq. Not just Afghanistan and Pakistan that are in the world news, but parts of India, Lanka and Nepal have been reeling under the impact of conflict for decades.
Ghani and Iyer present research on South Asia:
Given the inverse association between conflict and per capita income, we would expect that conflict rates should be much higher in lagging regions within countries – i.e. those regions that have lower per capita income compared to national average? Indeed, this is exactly what we find – conflict is concentrated in lagging regions within countries.
Lagging regions have experienced more than three times the number of terrorist incidents per capita, compared with leading regions, and almost twice as many deaths per head of population in such incidents.


Reducing conflict is a prerequisite to political stability, which, in turn, is the prerequisite for implementing pro-growth policies. Even in a best-case scenario, the presence of low-level conflict constrains the policies governments can implement to promote growth.
Policymakers in South Asia have tried various policies to reduce conflict. The most common approach to deal with insurgencies, terrorism, or internal violence is to use the police forces to establish law and order in the affected areas. The police forces in South Asian countries, however, tend to be understaffed and underequipped. In cases where police forces are insufficient, the armed forces are called in to deal with the insurgency. In most cases, this has not been a successful strategy. Even when these measures are successful in defeating the insurgents, as in Sri Lanka, the human cost associated with military operations is very high.
A different approach to dealing with insurgencies is to conduct negotiations and sign peace agreements with the insurgents. To be effective, this approach needs two conditions:
  1. the government must negotiate in a coordinated way and fulfil at least some of the insurgents’ demands; and
  2. the insurgent group must be genuinely interested in joining the political mainstream
 This approach has been tried in some areas of South Asia. For instance, the Indian government has signed peace deals with several separatist groups in the northeastern states, granting them a higher degree of local autonomy in some cases. Similarly, negotiations with some Tamil groups such as the EPRLF have resulted in their integration into mainstream politics.
At the same time as the security-based solution, there are economic solutions. These involve the government expanding welfare programmes to reduce poverty in the conflict-affected areas as a means to undercutting the support for the insurgency. This approach is consistent with economic backwardness as a cause of conflict and has been tried in some conflicts in South Asia, but it has failed because of poor choices of economic policies and poor implementation in conflict regions.

Connected to the above resolution of conflict is Amartya Sen's article in the Guardian

..take Steve Biko's remarks on "powerlessness" in the apartheid-based South Africa in the 1970s. "Powerlessness breeds," Biko said, "a race of beggars who smile at the enemy and swear at him in the sanctity of his toilet; who shout 'Baas' willingly during the day and call the white man a dog in their buses as they go home." If capability failure of any kind is a matter of concern, those related to people's inability to act freely or speak openly because of the power of others have special urgency. This is an important concern in the advancement of freedom and capability, since societies involve conflicts as well as togetherness and mutual support. The pursuit of justice in enhancing freedoms and capabilities in peoples' lives has to be alive to both.


There are no easy solutions, though the past has proven that change is possible. Read this piece in the paper today about an Indian army officer who went back to Manipur after 16 years, and met the militant who had shot him, and the girl he had rescued during the shoot out. The problems in Manipur are far from resolution but stories like this hold out some hope.

1 comment:

  1. Yep....You can't find solutions for these issues very easily. Not only the local government, the international community should look in to it to set up peaceful environment to live.

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