MFAN partner the Brookings Institution has released a policy brief on the need for aid in fragile states, titled, “Aiding Stability: Improving Foreign Assistance in Fragile States.”
Over the last 20 years, donor agencies have sought out partner countries based on critical development needs as well as institutional strength and governance. Fragile states, however, lack the integrity to govern themselves effectively. In the brief, Laurence Chandy, fellow with the Global Economy and Development Program at Brookings, writes: “The term ‘fragility’ captures a range of different country conditions, but in each case there is a failure of the state to perform some of its most basic functions either due to lack of political will, capacity or a combination of the two, creating significant challenges for development.”
The paper points out the difficulty in fostering political and private sector support when reports of corruption and misused aid money reach the ears of legislators and potential donors. In a time of budget austerity, and with an increasingly weary donor base, NGOs, non-profits, and politicians gravitate toward demonstrable success in order to avoid the criticism of “wasting” money on the “unaffordable” liability of fragile states.
“Aiding Stability” claims that fragile states can no longer be ignored: “As the group of stable low-income countries diminishes in size and the needs of fragile states loom ever larger, this approach to allocating aid is no longer feasible.” For example, two-thirds of low income countries are now fragile, a growing percentage of the world’s poor now reside in fragile states – doubling from 20% to more than 40% since 2005 – and fragile states have yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal.
Despite misgivings about aid effectiveness in fragile states, “Aiding Stability” cites examples of demonstrable progress. The World Bank IEG reports that outcome ratings in fragile states are nearly equal to that of the institutional average, with a 70% rate of approval compared to 76% overall. Similarly, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria project grants have achieved an average of 83% of their targets in fragile states compared to the 88% average for stable countries.
In order to expand the scope and scale of successful development in fragile states, “Aiding Stability” outlays areas for focus and re-evaluation. The 2011 World Development Report recommends “a focus on establishing security, justice and jobs and the institutions which are responsible for their provision.” Building state legitimacy and strengthening institutions is a common goal for most aid projects, but fragile states must see improvements in these sectors before other development projects may take hold. The development community must look into better donor coordination, risk management, accommodating timeframes, and metrics capable of demonstrating progress and identifying long-term risks in conflict-ridden states.
Brookings’ report called upon donors and partners to focus on fragile states at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, with some notable outcomes. Conflict and Fragility is one of eight building blocks for post-Busan implementation, and sustainable development in fragile states is discussed in the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.