Briefing Papers Number 2, May 2008 - Page 5

natural environment; unexploded landmines can make land permanently unusable. Poverty is both a cause and an outcome of conflict. Development economist Paul Collier found that low-income countries are much more prone to civil wars than wealthier countries. “Halve the starting income of a country and you double the risk of civil war,” he concludes.22 Moreover, he argues that the rate of economic growth is another marker for conflict: higher growth rates decrease the risk of a country falling into war. Finally, Collier has identified a third factor strongly associated with conflict: dependence on primary commodity exports as an economic driver.23 In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a combination of factors—including a history of colonial repression, bad governance, a genocidal war in neighboring Rwanda, and abundant natural resources—created an environment ripe for conflict. The DRC has been plundered rather than developed by kleptocratic ruler Mobutu Sese Seko and, more recently, by warring factions seeking to take control of the country. When Mobutu was finally deposed in 1997, the DRC ranked in the bottom third of countries in the HDI.24 In the years since Mobutu’s overthrow, the situation for ordinary people has deteriorated still further. War has cost the lives of 3.9 million people, and millions more have been internally displaced or fled the country, creating instability in neighboring nations.25 War is devastating to human development on several fronts. For example, the DRC has the highest rate of hunger of any country in the world. Seventy percent of the population is undernourished.26 No surprise then that the DRC is ranked just nine spots from the bottom of the 2007 HDI.27 Some of the worst human rights abuses of the war have been suffered by women.28 Gender-based violence, including rape, greatly increases the risk to women’s health. The maternal mortality rate has increased in the DRC, a problem that is further exacerbated by the country’s extremely limited health infrastructure. Wars not only disrupt normal economic activity: they are also extremely expensive. Collier estimates that the average civil war costs a country (and its neighbors) around $64 billion. He puts the total cost of all wars over the past decade at approximately $1 trillion, money that might have otherwise been spent promoting economic and human development.29 Collier also argues that conflict is a trap that countries fall into and find difficult to escape. Wars reduce economic growth rates and increase poverty, thereby increasing the risk of continuing or slipping back into conflict. Improvements in human well-being form the basis for sustainable economic development, and in turn, economic growth and poverty alleviation lessen the likelihood of conflict. Progress in human development and a peaceful and stable environment are mutually reinforcing. Sierra Leone is a good example of how peace and development can work together. After a decade-long conflict, Sierra Leone emerged from civil war in 2002. The conflict left the country with the lowest levels of human development in the world, including a shattered healthcare system.30 Despite miserable starting conditions, the country has pledged to meet the MDGs. But meeting MDG #5 on maternal mortality, for example, will require the country to lower the maternal mortality rate from 2,000 deaths for every 100,000 live births to 450. Sierra Leone’s MDG progress report notes that this will require addressing basic issues of access to health care, including “the paucity of trained staff, poor conditions of service and high exodus rate of medical practitioners.”31 The country has estimated that improving human development, including basic healthcare services, would require a $350 million investment over three years.32 While it is impossible for Sierra Leone t o raise such a sum on its own, so far the international community has stepped Probability of War in Three Groups of Countries, 1980-2000 0.5 0.4 Least developed countries 0.3 Other countries 0.2 OECD countries* 0.1 0 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 * Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Source: Why Did the Poorest Countries Fail to Catch Up?, B. Milanovic, November 2005. up to provide additional support. It is unclear how long this support will continue. But without long-term development assistance, neither sustainable improvements in human development nor continued peace and stability are likely. Environmental Degradation Population growth, industrial production, mining and oil extraction, logging, intensive farming and fishing, and a host of other activities are placing significant pressures on the earth’s environment. People around the world need clean air and clean water, adequate sanitation, and a safe, healthy environment to survive and to thrive. The connections among the MDGs and environmental protection are many and diverse, but one of the closest connections is between protecting the environment and meeting MDG #1 of reducing hunger. A recent report on the MDGs and the environment declares that “Balancing nature and development so that social welfare does not decline over time is at the core of environmental sustainability.”33 The Bread for the World Institute  5