For thousands of years, humanity’s greatest challenge was poverty and disease, but increasingly it may be conflict.
.. That’s because we’re making huge strides in most places, with the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty dropping from about 90 percent in the early 1800s to less than 10 percent today. Yet there are exceptions like CAR, South Sudan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo that are horribly off track — because they are ruled in parts not by governments but by gunmen.
.. So we must rethink the global war on poverty. These days the world should tackle conflict as aggressively as it fought AIDS. Donors need to focus not just on building wells or schools, but also on building peace. This may make liberal doves uncomfortable, but the blunt reality is that in some places the most important humanitarians are the peacekeepers carrying weapons.
Yet President Trump has slashed assistance for U.N. peacekeeping, and his ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, boasted in a tweet that the administration was “only getting started” cutting back on peacekeeping. Ambassador Haley, please understand that without peacekeeping, you’re sentencing civilians to be raped and shot — and boys like Frederick Pandowan to starve.
.. His mom, Tefole Raissa, explained that they had fled fighting and no longer have land. “I can’t farm now,” she explained. She doesn’t remember the last time she ate meat or eggs; the family gets by on one evening meal a day of cassava, a starchy tuber with negligible nutrition.
.. Central African Republic is preyed upon by some 14 militias. At times there has been Christian-Muslim fighting, but these days the militias are less ideological than entrepreneurial. They routinely set up checkpoints to “tax” every vehicle that passes — when they don’t simply steal trucks or goods.
“Conflict is more profitable than peace,” noted Neal Kringel, a senior U.S. diplomat for the region, highlighting what needs to change.
Insecurity means that the government operates few clinics, so women die in childbirth at one of the highest rates in the world. Aid becomes expensive and dangerous to provide: Gunmen killed 16 humanitarian workers here last year, and six more so far this year, making CAR one of the most perilous countries for aid workers.
.. We visited peace-building programs organized by Catholic Relief Services to reduce tensions between Muslims and Christians. In one project, 125 people were paid $3 a day each to dig drainage ditches — but on the condition that Christians and Muslims work together.
.. “It’s my first time to be mixed with Muslims,” Marlene Wabangue, a young Christian mother with her baby daughter on her back, told me during a break. “But I’m not scared of them. I’m fine with them.”
.. We must ensure that peace is more profitable than conflict. As the mayor of Boda, Boniface Katta, told us, “Without peace, nothing can be done.”