Building peace through smart development

Peace is possible within our lifetime. As a matter of fact, if we want to end rural poverty, feed the world and protect our little blue planet in peril, achieving peace is not just a lofty goal… it’s a necessity.

Nowhere is this more true than in Latin America and the Caribbean, where violence – against women, young people, poor people and the earth – is hindering development initiatives, lowering economic potential and literally pulling the fabric of societies apart one string, and one lost opportunity, at a time.

But we can only achieve this goal by making smart investments today that will provide young people and marginalized communities with the tools they need to plant and nourish the basic seeds that will lead to a kinder, greener, smarter, more equitable future.

If we look at the region as a whole, four basic pillars to achieving peace through sustainable rural development emerge.

Pillars of peace
1.    Better incomes – After all, violence stems from poverty and lack of assets. Increase your income and asset base, and you decrease violence.
2.    Jobs – Provide alternative ways to build a better life. 
3.    Education – It doesn’t take much training to lift a pistol. But how hard is it to build a profitable business? 
4.    Think green – Malthus was right. We do have limited resources. Protecting our natural resource base is essential to creating a more peaceful world.

Conflict at a glance
Just how serious is the problem? According a recent World Bank report “Central America's spiralling wave of crime and violence is threatening the region's prosperity as countries face huge economic and human losses as a result of it.”

“Aside from the pain and trauma inflicted upon victims, violence can cost the region up to 8 per cent of its GDP when taking into account law enforcement, citizen security and health care costs,” the Crime and Violence in Central America – A Development Challenge (2011) report argues. “This is no small change for a region that in 2010 grew around 2 per cent of GDP, while the rest of Latin America grew around 6 per cent.”

We know that violence is primarily an urban phenomenon in Latin America. In fact, the Poverty and Inequality 2011: Latin America Report indicates that urban areas in the region are primarily facing challenges of inequality, security and economic dynamism, while rural areas show lags in access to services and basic rights such as health and education.

But the problem of violence does not stop at the city’s edge. This lack of access to basic rights in the countryside is fuelling a rapid urbanization rate, and providing new fighters, new gang members and new thieves that fan the fires of violence in the cities.

Conflicts over natural resources are also on the rise. In Bolivia, for instance, there are over 1000 standing conflicts between communities, businesses and international interests. Much of these conflicts are centred on water and land use, thus making it essential to build sustainable systems to manage these scarce resources, title land and weave the strand of ecological idealism into a new social fabric.

So what are we doing about it?
Throughout the region, we are funding peace by investing in youth, job-creating rural enterprises, training programs, market access, education and protection of Mother Earth.

For example, the IFAD Executive Board approved in April a new US$36.5 million poverty reduction project for Peru. The project looks to nearly double rural incomes, build social inclusion, and will be key in achieving the Peruvian government’s goal of reducing poverty by 10 per cent by 2021. Additionally, the project includes a US$1.5 million IFAD grant to further public-private partnerships between local communities and mining corporations to improve water management in the highlands.

The Executive Board also approved two new projects for Brazil in the same session. The projects will benefit over 80,000 poor rural families at a total cost of US$133 million, with US$56 million in IFAD funding. The projects focus on education as the central tool to overcoming poverty.

We also signed an agreement in October with the Brazilian state of Paraíba for a new US$49 million social inclusion project that will work with traditionally marginalized groups like women and youth to provide them with the tools and technologies they need to build their businesses, improve household assets, reduce child malnutrition, overcome rural poverty and contribute to a sustainable natural resources management.

In Colombia, we continue to fund innovative poverty reduction projects designed to build peace and enhance social inclusion. We recently signed a new loan agreement with the Government of Colombia for the US$69 million Trust and Opportunity Project.

The project seeks to improve food security, ease access to financial and community services, increase incomes for small-scale producers by as much as 32 per cent, and create mechanisms to rebuild the social fabric of a country that has witnessed war and endemic violence for more than 30 years.

In our latest edition of Rural Perspectives, we take a look at how IFAD-funded projects are seeding peace in places like Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. These projects look directly at traditional development as a mechanism to improve the social fabric of the local communities. In the end, only strong threads can withstand the forces of violence and conflict. Only strong threads can weave the textile of peace.

En español
Ventana Rural | Construir la paz usando el desarrollo inteligente 

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