A World Bank report has recommended a major shift in the way that international aid is administered.
It says more emphasis should be placed on building stable civic institutions, otherwise efforts to meet other targets, such as health and education, will be in vain.
The agency says such changes would help prevent conflict breaking out, so there is less of a need to alleviate the effects of unrest.
It says far more is spent on alleviating the effects of conflict than preventing it from breaking out, and conflicts tend to be repeated.
Some 90% of recent civil wars occurred in countries that had already had a civil war in the last 30 years.
The report found that cycles of violence were hard to stop, for example in South Africa and Central America.
The BBC reports a quarter of the world's population live in states affected by conflict.
The World Bank says poverty rates are higher in countries affected by violence and too little has been done to end corruption.