By Lidia Leoni
2011 saw a new development in the international community’s discourse on state fragility. Nineteen countries ranking high in the Fund for Peace’s Failed States Index formed a voluntary diplomatic group, called the g7+, with the aim of improving the effectiveness of international aid and a new and more pro-positive analytical framework for assessing state fragility. After launching the ‘New Deal’ for fragile states within the context of the 2011 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, they have now introduced fragility spectrums as means to assess and solve state fragility. The ‘New Deal’ challenges the mainstream methodology for rating state weakness through a country-centred and country-led approach to the definition of fragility situations, which allows both analysis and effective solutions. This article aims at analysing this approach and at delineating its strengths and eventual flaws.
The ‘New Deal’: What is it?
With the ‘New Deal’, nineteen fragile states have joined international organisations and development partners in the task of identifying local, context-sentitive solutions to instability. The approach is built around the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the so-called Peace-building and State-building Goals (PSGs) as the foundation for progress. The PSGs include the establishment of legitimate politics through inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution; the improvement of security conditions; the access to an impartial judicial system; the identification of solutions to economic decline through the creation of solid economic foundations and a transparent revenue management which allows for a correct delivery of public services.
The PSGs are further integrated by two principles named FOCUS and TRUST. FOCUS refers to the introduction of country-led and country-owned roadmaps for transition towards stability, built around fragility assessments as designed by the g7+ in collaboration with international partners, while TRUST signifies the establishment of an improved aid management and a more effective allocation of resources to achieve results.
Fragility spectrums: How do they work?
The inclusion of both fragility assessment and solution-finding play a core role within the ‘New Deal’. They are based on a harmonised methodology which should allow for comparisons to be drawn, and include a fragility spectrum as a diagnostic tool to support fragile states in the identification of their main weaknesses, and in the design of specific peace-building and state-building roadmaps. The spectrum consists of four steps leading to the development of a country-specific roadmap out of fragility. In the first step, a country assesses, after inclusive internal political dialogue, its level of fragility in each of the categories of the PSGs according to the transition stages of the spectrum, which are five in total and reach from crisis to development. In the second step, the country should set the goal that it plans to reach in each area within a defined timeframe, while in the third step; it will choose among different policy options for the one that best suits its specific context and capacity. Finally, the fourth step will use the PSGs to monitor a country’s progress towards the aim it has posed for itself. Specifically, this means that each country chooses from a range of indicators that apply to their case within each PSG area. These are subsequently employed to check progress. The completion of these four steps leads to the development of a peace-building and state-building roadmap.
A positive development; an ambitious plan
The ‘New Deal’ represents an innovative development in fragility research and in the response to fragile situations. What distinguishes this approach from mainstream ones is the central role that it allocates to fragile states themselves in the assessment of their own weaknesses and in the design of their own path out of instability. In contrast to established assessment methods, the fragility spectrum truly takes into account each country’s own vision of how to reach the MDGs and, at the same time, engages in finding feasible solutions to instability. Acknowledging the necessity to draw comparisons to allow for a better understanding of state fragility at the international level, it also takes into account the necessity to harmonise the assessment methodology.
While putting fragility research on the right track towards a more country-centric analysis of fragility, some questions remain open about the plan’s ambitiousness. The great degree of responsibility allocated to fragile states and their governments in rating their own condition is very demanding; this means that an absolute commitment and the highest possible transparency will be needed. Although coordination with international partners is planned at various stages, the fragile states’ governments remain in the driver’s seat during the whole process – it remains unclear to what extent partners will be able to influence it. Given the often difficult governance situation in fragile states, it is a legitimate question to ask whether these countries have the capacity and the maturity to fulfil the expectations of the ‘New Deal’.
Nevertheless, the ‘New Deal’ remains an interesting and important development in fragility research, and is worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Research Intern, IPCS
email: [email protected]