Vulnerability to Violence
Author: World Bank
Size: 24 pages (1.25 MB)
This chapter investigates repeated violence and why some countries are more vulnerable to it than others. It finds that organised violence is likely to occur when internal and external stresses are not countered by capable, legitimate institutions. Societies that rely on elite pacts, coercion and patronage to control violence risk perpetuating a vicious cycle: where agreements among elites to end fighting do not result in transformed state-society institutions and better governance outcomes, societies remain vulnerable to the same stresses that precipitated fighting in the first place.
Historically, large-scale episodes of violence have been a feature of all human societies. Agreement between powerful leaders has been the most common prevention strategy. This type of agreement, which is called an elite pact, creates security for certain periods, but violence generally recurs. The immediate cause of the violence varies greatly by country, with many countries experiencing a combination of security, economic and political stresses. These stresses may be internal, such as low income or high inequality between groups, or external, including global economic shocks, international drug trafficking or the infiltration of foreign forces.
When elite pacts do not transform institutions, any stresses that shift the balance of power such as the death of a leader, external security threats or economic and demographic pressures can trigger further violence. In addition:
Increasing the capacity of the state can be risky, particularly when leaders perceive a threat to their own interests from well-organised security forces and economic institutions, and where citizens are unable to insist that economic, justice, and security services be provided fairly to all citizens. Nevertheless, legitimate institutions are the surest safeguard against repeated violence:
World Bank, 2011, 'Vulnerability to violence', in World Development Report 2011, World Bank, New York, ch. 2
Organisation: World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/