Haiti. The Democratic Republic of Congo. Timor-Leste. These are countries emblematic of the world’s poorest countries. They have experienced profound human tragedies in recent decades. They are some of the 51 identified Fragile and Conflict Affected States (FCS).
Fragile and Conflict Affected States are mostly low-income countries that have weak state capacity and are particularly vulnerable to global shocks. Most are dealing with recent or protracted conflict.
The g7+ is a group of these states that have joined together in the hopes of changing the way international development actors approach these countries. The g7+ consists of Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Togo.
Although FCS are increasingly the focus of multilateral development agencies, these countries remain the furthest from achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Fragile and Conflict Affected States
According to the OECD, 51 countries can be classified as FCS in 2014. Of those countries, 37 qualify for World Bank International Development Association funding, which means that they belong to the category of the world’s poorest countries (OECD pg. 83). An FCS is characterized as having:
…weak capacity to carry out basic government functions, and lacks the ability to develop mutually constructive relations with society. Fragile regions or states are also more vulnerable to internal or external shocks such as economic crises or natural disasters (OECD pg. 16).
Furthermore, they have experienced conflict from which they are recovering or they have been prone to repeated cycles of violence over many years (World Bank “Stop Conflict…” pg. 1). These characteristics hinder the economic and development progress of FCS, which further entrenches their poverty and susceptibility to violence. It has also become clear that the problems of FCSs are likely to spillover to neighboring states:
[FCS] drag down neighbors with violence that overflows borders, because conflicts feed on narcotics, piracy, and gender violence, and leave refugees and broken infrastructure in their wake. Their territories can become breeding grounds for far-reaching networks of violent radicals and organized crime (World Bank “World Development…” pg. v).
FCS include authoritarian nations such as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); failed states such as Somalia; countries recovering from spontaneous conflict such as Egypt; states which face perpetual conflict such as the DRC; and finally those states that are plagued by corruption and illicit trade such as Kenya and Pakistan.
The statistics surrounding FCS are alarming. FCS are currently home to 33 percent of those living under the standard, USD$1.25-a-day, poverty line and this percentage is predicted to grow to 50 percent by 2018 (OECD pg. 15). Compared to other developing countries, populations in FCS are less than half as likely to be nourished, to be able to send their children to school, or to have access to clean water. Furthermore, over “half of all child deaths occur in conflict affected areas” (World Bank “Stop Conflict…” pg. 1). The World Bank estimates that a single incident of civil conflict in a developing country costs that country 30 years of GDP growth (World Bank “World Development…” pg. vi). Six of the seven countries which will likely not meet any of the MDG targets are among the FCS (OECD pg. 17) and not a single FCS will meet the target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds before 2015 (World Bank “Stop Conflict…” pg. 4).
However, progress is possible. Since 2004, 11 countries have moved out of World Bank’s definition of fragile status by focusing on institution building, justice, and job growth (World Bank “Stop Conflict…” pg. 1). Development agencies have realized two things: first, that it is possible to assist FCS in moving out of the poverty trap, but it requires a specialized approach; and second, that FCS must actively participate in this process in order for progress to be sustainable (World Bank “Stop Conflict…” pg. 2-4). FCS are in flux, and just as they may move out of fragility, setbacks easily occur.
Multilateral Response to FCS
The concept of fragile (‘failed’) states appeared in the development literature following the complete collapse of Somalia in 1991. However, international development assistance in these states was seen as a ‘waste of resources’ and these countries received little attention. That is, until September 11th, 2001. The unprecedented terrorist attacks in the United States at that time brought the world focus to the issue of failed states. It became painfully clear that these areas were breeding grounds for non-state actors, illicit trade, and regional instability (Van Overbeek et al pg. 5).
As such, the goal of rehabilitating fragile states now receives significant consideration by the security, humanitarian, and development sectors. The primary focus has been on the issues of institutional capacity building and good governance – meaning that, in order to advance a fragile state, it is vital to establish a meaningful social contract between the population and government. This might include developing the rule of law, ensuring processes of political accountability, and the provision of public services in fragile states.
However, over the decade that followed 9/11 it became clear that these efforts were failing. A lack of international coordination, an absence of harmonization across agendas, and a misalignment between international decisions and country specific needs resulted in inefficiency and ineffectiveness (Van Overbeek pg. 12). International engagement in FCS was criticized for placing too much emphasis on the state, oversimplifying the problem, adhering to a linear idea of development, being inflexible, and being too focused on quick results. Development agencies are typically under pressure from donor states to produce fast outcomes in these states. Quick results, it was assumed, would demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness to taxpayers who were increasingly skeptical of participation in multilateral efforts. Therefore, development projects often have failed to consider the potential positive or negative impacts that their efforts may have over the long-term in these states.
In order to address these criticisms, the OECD and High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness have developed the Paris Declaration (2005), the Fragile State Principles (2007), and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008). Yet, despite these frameworks, the 2011 World Development Report determined that FCS continued to fall behind – a fundamentally different approach was required.
At the core of this new approach is greater participation by FCS and ownership over development solutions. However, this concept “that communities in fragile states can take ownership of their development, collaborate harmoniously with donors and manage their resources in a transparent and accountable manner pose[s] enormous challenges” (Van Overbeek pg. 15). Nonetheless, FCS have taken up the challenge and united behind the g7+ in order to achieve the vision of country-led development.
The g7+ and the New Deal
The g7+ is a group of 20 countries that self-identify as FCS. They are working to define a new development paradigm that places the unique challenges and needs of FCS at the center.
The g7+ was launched at the 2010 MDG Summit of the High Level Plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York. Since then, it has conducted numerous multi-stakeholder meetings and produced the Haiti Declaration (2012), the Dili Consensus (2013), the Fragility Spectrum (2013) and most importantly, the New Deal (2011). These documents articulate the commitment of the g7+ to solidarity and knowledge sharing between each other; individual responsibility for their own trajectories; and expectations of the international development community to respectfully assist them achieve their goals. The g7+ has embarked on a number of projects aimed at establishing the value of this new approach – achieving valuable recognition from the United Nations and the World Bank. Nevertheless, significantly more work remains to ensure that the g7+ is a leading voice in the post-2015 development agenda discussion.
The New Deal provides a framework for partnership within specific state building and peacebuilding goals, along with the FOCUS and TRUST Principles for engagement. These articles turn the development paradigm on its head by establishing country-led and country-owned conceptions of progress. It empowers FCS to ask international actors for specific assistance, rather than simply accepting what is doled out to them. The New Deal has been endorsed by 35 countries and 6 organizations including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Nations Development Group and the World Bank. Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, stated that he was “encouraged by the formation of the ‘g7+’ group of fragile and conflict affected states” and “this initiative has the potential to push forward necessary reforms that can improve donor coordination and aid effectiveness” (2011). The g7+ also met with President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank who promised to work with the g7+ “until there are no more fragile states left” (2012). Endorsements at this level demonstrate a willingness on behalf of international development actors to take the g7+ seriously.
Integration of the g7+ into the International Development System
The ultimate goal of the g7+: have the New Deal provide the underlying framework for increased engagement in FCS by international development actors. In many ways, this is achievable because: of (a) the recognition by international actors that development efforts must come from the ground up; and (b) the emergence of the g7+ as a unified voice for FCS. The World Bank has identified working with FCS as a primary focus of its new strategy, and discussions are already taking place on developing a successor paradigm to the MDGs.
However, potential threats to the credibility of the g7+ continue. These threats include being unable to ensure that donor countries follow through on their political and financial commitments and FCS being unable to devise coherent country plans and proper benchmarks. The g7+ has been working diligently to avoid these scenarios by creating practical tools, conducting fragility assessments of member countries, and establishing international ‘compacts’ that operationalize their vision.
The Fragility Spectrum
A diagnostic tool that helps a country determine where it stands along a spectrum between crisis and resilience – allows FCS to describe the unique challenges that they face for the international community. The result of using this tool – a Fragility Assessment ¬– provides the nuanced understanding necessary to produce tailored country plans and monitoring mechanisms.
The g7+ has conducted fragility assessments in Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. Based on these fragility assessments, ‘compacts’ were established for Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Somalia through multi-stakeholder meetings. Drafting the Somalia Compact, for example, involved extensive discussions between the Somali Federal Parliament, Somali civil society, the United Nations, and the European Union (Federal Republic of Somalia pg. 3). The result was a new commitment of USD$2.4 billion from donor states and a roadmap for addressing the root causes of conflict such as an inability to pay security forces, limited community outreach, failure to reintegrate militias, and incapability to provide essential services.
Where to go From Here
The g7+ has been making itself known at the international level and is increasingly recognized as a powerful voice for FCS. It has worked effectively with its member countries to ensure that the New Deal is central to negotiations with development partners and is building momentum behind this approach. However, as evidenced by the renewed conflict in South Sudan, success itself remains fragile.
Ban Ki-moon, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding. Kigali, Rwanda. November 9, 2011. http://www.g7plus.org/news-feed/2011/11/10/un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moon-encouraged-by-g7-formation.html.
Jim Yong Kim, Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund. Tokyo, Japan. October 15, 2012. http://www.g7plus.org/news-feed/2012/10/16/g7-meets-with-world-bank-president-and-ifc-chief-executive.html.
OECD, “Fragile States 2014, Domestic Revenue Mobilisation in Fragile States,” last modified 2014, accessed March 12, 2014, http://www.oecd.org/dac/incaf/FSR-2014.pdf.
The Federal Republic of Somalia, “The Somali Compact,” last modified 2013, accessed March 13, 2014, http://static.squarespace.com/static/5212dafbe4b0348bfd22a511/t/52ae9c82e4b01acd47151477/1387175042183/The Somali Compact.pdf.
The World Bank, “Stop Conflict, Reduce Fragility, and End Poverty: Doing Things Differently in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations,” accessed March 13, 2014, http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Feature&20Story/Stop_Conflict_Reduce_Fragility_End_Poverty.pdf.
The World Bank, “World Development Report 2011, Overview,” last modified 2011, accessed March 12, 2014, http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Overview.pdf.
Van Overbeek, Fons; Theo Hollander, Irna van der Molen, Rens Willems, Georg Frerks, and Louise Anten Clingendael, Peace Security and Development Network, “Working Paper I, The Fragile States discourse unveiled,” last modified May 28, 2009, accessed March 13, 2014, http://www.utwente.nl/mb/cstm/reports/downloads/final_paperfragility.pdf.