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News, 9/27/2012

More Effective Support For Fragile States In Transition

Since 2010 the countries in the g7+ group have engaged in a dialogue between fragile states and donors on the very high risks in development and humanitarian aid activities in fragile states. As a result of the OECD sponsored International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, the g7+ group made a commitment which led to a New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. Finland became a supporter of the New Deal in 2012.

The New Deal aims to stop conflict, build nations, and end poverty. The New Deal puts the voice of fragile states and their people at the heart of their own peacebuilding and statebuilding solutions, with the support of their international partners. From a global population of 7 billion, the New Deal addresses the 20% of the population who live in fragile and conflict affected States. 

A Finnish peacekeeper in Afganistan. Photo by Matti RemesA Finnish peacekeeper in Afganistan. Photo by Matti Remes

The thinking behind the New Deal is that risks are part of commitment. What is important is finding a strategy for dealing with these risks, a strategy that takes into consideration the special conditions of fragile states. Evaluating the joint risks, and then developing a plan for controlling and minimising them, helps both the fragile states and their partners to find better ways of working in very challenging conditions.

Without a real partnership and commitment on both sides, aid coming from outside a country does not help for very long. Recipient and donor countries must work together to create sustainable results from aid. It is very important that the political leadership of the target countries truly commits to peaceful development, and uses available resources to support national development strategies with the help of their international partners

The New Deal is a joint commitment between national and international organisations involved in peace building and statebuilding. The governments of the g7+ countries commit to taking responsibility for and being responsive to the needs and wishes of their citizens, in regard to policy, justice, security, economic basics, treasury management, and the provision of basic services. Donors on their part commit to respecting and supporting the g7+ countries as they strive to fulfil their commitment.

The New Deal is in its pilot phase until 2015. With the commitment and political will of all partners in international development cooperation, this New Deal can translate into a real deal on the ground for fragile states.

Size of the Challenge

Fragile states and violent conflict create huge challenges for development cooperation. Over 1.5 billion people live in states suffering from violent conflict. Continuous political and criminal violence cause immense suffering, distress, and insecurity for the people in these states. Under conditions of daily violence, not even the minimum UN Millennium Goals for ending poverty and creating a better world can be achieved. 

In fragile states, it is almost impossible to make sure that everyone gets enough to eat. Education suffers, women are not heard, child mortality increases and mothers do not get the health care they need. In a climate of violence, combat is against people, not disease. The environment suffers during conflict. Developing global partnerships for development is not the first priority for people who are struggling merely to stay alive.

Providing support for fragile states needs an active development policy that considers not just the political sector but also includes military and civil crisis control, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid. In 2009 the OECD countries provided 47 billion dollars in aid to fragile states. This was some 40% of all aid for that year. In countries with violent conflicts raging, development aid does not always reach its targets, and humanitarian aid has to come to the rescue.

Humanitarian aid may be necessary in the short term, but it is not much help in creating a lasting peace and reconstructing a state. Development aid has a more positive effect on the success of fragile states trying to rebuild. During transition, there are considerable challenges to providing effective aid in the forms it now takes. It might be time to consider changing the way we provide aid.

Central problems for providing support to fragile states

The transition from fragile to stable state is a huge challenge to begin with. One of the central problems is the lack of a strategic plan for the transition, and the difficulties of setting priorities even with such a plan. Economic development and improving employment opportunities, especially for youth, are essential for stabilising a recovering state and preventing new conflicts from arising during transition. On the socio-economic front, humanitarian needs must be met. Refugees need new housing, they need to be fed and clothed and reintegrated back into society. The greatest challenge for refugees is making it possible for them to make a new life in a country recovering from the ravages of conflict.

Conditions for humanitarian and development work are extremely difficult, the risks are great. Creating, processing, and providing information is expensive. In these difficult situations, the UN and the World Bank often step in with funds. Finland is one of the channels for these international funds, utilising them to provide both humanitarian and development aid to fragile states such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Sudan, Pakistan, and the countries in the African Great Lakes region.

The first problems are on the political front: a fragile state needs to set up mechanisms for sharing power as soon as possible. The wheels of administration and justice need to start turning. All too often it appears that the reason why some efforts at creating peace hold and others fail depends on how well political institutions and security forces, especially police, function, and how well the administration of justice is carried out. All this must be done in a situation in which both economic and human resources are weak.

A second problem for providing support to fragile states is the coordination of aid instruments, and the lack of consistency in aid. Donors still need to work on understanding how their aid instruments and methods work during the transition phase of fragile states. All too often the starting point is an organisation’s own mandate and working methods, when it should be more important to find the best way of getting aid efficiently and effectively to where it is needed and will do the most good. Fragmentation and overlapping result.

A third problem is that support for fragile states is not always based on the country’s own needs and priorities, but on the political and economic goals of the donor. A fourth set of problems is linked to risk control. Methods of providing aid are linked to minimising risks rather than deciding which risks should be taking. Finally, there are the problems related to carrying out the good intentions and actually fulfilling commitments. Sometimes the Paris Declaration is only honoured in the breach. It appears to be difficult to actually turn promises into concrete achievements. To help in achieving the MDGs in fragile states in transition, goals for development and humanitarian aid should be prioritised in line with the UN’s global agenda for development.

The New Deal addresses all of these challenges in the particular context of fragile states. The three-year trial period 2012-2015 will show how well taking a new approach can help to overcome the challenges and minimise the risks of the transition period from fragile state to peaceful, stable country.

Finland will explore the possibilities to emphasise further the specific needs of fragile states in its development policy and development cooperation.

The text is based on a study by Dr. Olli Ruohomäki, Senior Advisor in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

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Updated 9/27/2012


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