Today's first Poverty Alleviation session was "Emerging from Crisis and Investing in the Future," focusing on post-conflict economic reconstruction.
As the world is currently seeing with the situation in Iraq, reconstruction needs to balance political, economic, and security needs. And it's not always clear which one needs to proceed the others for progress to happen.
Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister of Afghanistan, today noted that after 9/11, he often had to work with his colleagues in Afghanistan's Cabinet, even though "a lot of them were outright criminals." But "politics and peace requires making deals of those kinds." He also stressed the importance of engaging young people, both politically and economically, to improve security:
"I did a very large survey in Afghanistan again. And I asked the people who carried out the survey, 'What is the definition of a terrorist?' And they said, 'An unemployed youth.' For $50, people have been blowing up bridges that have cost $500,000, and we need to focus on the youth. They don't want out, they want into the globalization process, but unless we have an agenda of creating middle classes in these places, and opening up the prospect of upward social mobility, we really cannot bring peace, and that requires a double perspective: both the politics of hope and the economics of growth."
Simply creating jobs for young people isn't enough though. As Betty Bigombe of the United States Institute of Peace pointed out, jobs are often untargeted and ill-suited for the post-conflict situations.
Paul Collier, Oxford University professor and author of The Bottom Billion then suggested sponsoring a technical college to train "mundane construction skills as a first step in reconstruction."
"Every time you create some mundane skills there, you can also employ a lot of totally unskilled people," said Collier. "But the unskilled people are useless unless they're matched with some skilled."
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