Risk management is a topic that conjures up mind-numbing images of log frames, badly rendered PowerPoint process diagrams, and “handbooks” that often run many hundreds of pages. Cast in this light, many tend to see risk management in narrow terms—as a box-checking exercise, a mere process to avoid a loss, or lowering the probability of a bad thing from occurring. A key takeaway from the recommendations of the UN-World Bank jointly published report, Pathways for Peace, is the urgent need to jettison this narrow managerial and technocratic view of risk management toward a more dynamic, sophisticated, and ambitious view of risk that ought to place it at the very core of how humanitarian and development practice can achieve better outcomes.
Night had descended and the rain that had persisted for days finally calmed when the Maputo Declaration of Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) was finally agreed upon. But the result was worth the wait.
At least since Aristotle, theorists have believed that political discontent and its consequences—protests, instability, violence, revolution—depend not only on a society’s absolute level of economic well-being, but also on its distribution of wealth. However, many societies also experience low levels of conflict that continue to simmer without tipping over into the kind of outright violence that takes a heavy toll on lives, livelihoods, economic output, and stability for multiple generations.
Consider some figures: In 2016, the world spent almost US$1.7 trillion on military expenditures, a number that included not only weapons, but also pensions and salaries of personnel. By contrast, data from the OECD show that net official development assistance for the same year peaked at US$142 billion. In other words, countries spend over ten times more on war than aid in an era when about 2 billion people still live in places where violence is a threat to life.
We have a strict ‘no jerks’ policy at the company where I work. It means we just don’t have room for people who bully or mock their co-workers. Our employees don’t invade each other’s personal space or make uninvited personal contact.
Unfortunately, my company’s policy is an exception rather than the rule. Recently, I had a chance to meet Sri Lankan women engineers and hear their experiences. One told me about how challenging going to the field was because her male subordinates refused to respect her or follow her directions. Other women have been denied promotions, paid less than their male peers and sexually harassed at work.
Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. In every company I have ever worked for, women are in the minority. They may not have the same interests as their male colleagues or be able to socialize. Not everyone is comfortable conversing in the male lingo, just to fit in. When work is discussed in such social settings, women can very easily miss out. Each time something like this happens, it’s a loss for the company and for the country.
But they also face a barrage of threats, from marine pollution and dwindling fish stocks, to the dramatic effect of climate change on coastal communities. Such challenges require new ways of thinking and innovative financing tools that address both the health and economic wealth of our oceans.
Seychelles is a good example of a country that is going beyond business as usual when it comes to preserving its natural assets. This deal raised funding to buy $21 million of Seychelles’ sovereign debt to reﬁnance it under more favorable terms, and then direct a portion of repayments to fund climate change adaptation, sustainable fisheries, and marine conservation projects – as well as to create an endowment for the benefit of future generations of Seychellois.
I never imagined, therefore, when I temporarily left Uzbekistan in late 2016, that I would return just a half year later to find the country in the midst of a significant transformation.
Why pathways toward violence are hard to shift, and what we can do to help
Have you ever left your house in the morning for an early appointment—a doctor’s visit, say—and found yourself, 20 minutes later, outside your office building instead? You’ve made that commute so many times, your body just took you there without your brain really noticing.
We do this on a collective level, too. We develop rituals and continue doing them, sometimes long after they cease to make sense or bring us benefit.
When the report Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict was released, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “Preventing violent conflict is a universal concern. It is not only for those in a specific region or income bracket. We are all affected, and we must work together to end this scourge.” However, achieving the worthy goal of preventing violent conflict seems far away. In fact, recent years have experienced an increase in the number of ongoing conflicts.