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World Bank

Toward a Conflict-Sensitive Poverty Reduction Strategy

Lessons from a Retrospective Analysis

World Bank

30 June 2005

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This report presents a retrospective analysis of experiences with the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) process1 in nine conflict-affected countries – Bosnia-Herzegovina (BIH), Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Georgia, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka. The analysis is part of a three-year program that aims to: (i) determine how the causes and consequences of violent conflict can best be addressed within a country’s poverty reduction program; and (ii) generate and disseminate lessons, good practices, tools, and guidance to increase the conflict sensitivity of the PRSP. The PRSP has become the primary tool in nearly 60 low-income countries for articulating a vision for growth and poverty reduction – some 15-20 of these are affected by conflict, and with other conflict-affected countries still to begin the process. The ultimate goal of the three-year program is to contribute to more effective poverty reduction in countries affected by conflict.

Development agencies are increasingly recognizing the importance of viewing their interventions in conflict-affected countries through a conflict lens, as a way to more fully understand the complexities of the country contexts in which they work. As a result, increased efforts are being made to assess conflicts and identify factors that drive their escalation and de-escalation in a country. The work is underpinned by a recognition that greater sensitivity to the sources and consequences of conflict throughout the PRS process will improve both poverty-reduction and conflict-mitigation outcomes.

Based on a study of PRSP experiences in conflict-affected countries, the analysis aims to distill and disseminate lessons, good practice and potential measures through which PRS can become more conflict sensitive, in order to make poverty reduction more effective in such circumstances. The report assesses conflict sensitivity of each of the following PRS components: participation, poverty diagnostics, policy actions, institutional arrangements, and donor behavior.

The report does not assess resource allocations and budgets, or implementation, of the nine PRSPs. A robust assessment of conflict-sensitivity based on resource allocations would go beyond the scope of this analysis given the uneven level of such information, especially related to the I-PRSPs, and the problem of comparing resource allocations to very different types of policy actions. Examination of actual PRS implementation was not included simply because of the time-line: most of the nine PRSPs were still too new to provide a clear picture at the time of the case studies. The report does, however, refer to implementation challenges in several instances.

Organization of the Report

This report is divided into four sections. Section I lays out the approach to the analysis and clarifies the conceptual definitions. Section II highlights the conflict factors prevalent in the sample countries at the time of PRSP development, and then uses them to discuss the main conflict findings that echo across the cases. Section III draws from the experiences (from both desk studies and fieldwork) of the nine cases to discuss how conflict issues are dealt with in the components of the PRSP. Section IV provides pointers on how the PRS can more effectively integrate conflict sensitivity in its development and implementation.

  1. While PRSP originally referred to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, it has now come to imply a rolling process (sometimes called the PRS process), with the Paper being a tangible product but by no means the only outcome of the process.

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