Academic journal article Global Governance

Knights in Fragile Armor: The Rise of the "G7+"

Academic journal article Global Governance

Knights in Fragile Armor: The Rise of the "G7+"

Article excerpt

Globally, 1-5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflict. International aid to fragile and conflict-affected states accounts for 30 percent of global official development assistance (ODA) flows. However, no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal (MDG). For the first time, a group of these countries have joined together to discuss their shared development challenges and advocate for better international policies to address their needs. Calling themselves the "g7+," this group represents an important new voice in the debate over aid effectiveness and it carries high expectations. This article describes the rise of the g7+ and attempts to answer the question on everyone's mind: Can it deliver?

Recent years have witnessed a new criticism of the international aid architecture and its shortcomings in addressing the challenges posed by state fragility. Attention has shifted from hard targets in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on official development assistance, and even the MDG targets, to the overall effectiveness of international development efforts. Critics have pointed to persistent shortcomings in the way that international assistance is delivered, particularly in problems of will and attention, lack of engagement with national stakeholders, aversion to risk, inflexible and cumbersome financing mechanisms, opaque decisionmaking processes, lack of country ownership, and a distressing lack of coherence and coordination among international actors. The potential for donor assistance to have the unintended effect of undermining, rather than bolstering, state capacity and legitimacy is now widely recognized. International actors have been faulted for applying cookie-cutter approaches to complex problems in vastly diverse environments, even as thinking on the challenges posed by conflict and fragility has evolved.

In the past several years, there have been a number of milestones in seeking a structured international response to the failures of development assistance to meet challenges of fragility. Building on the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness- in 2007 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries endorsed a set of Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations (the Fragile States Principles) to guide aid to fragile states. However, these were top-down reform efforts: despite the good thinking that underpinned the Fragile States Principles, they were created by donors, for donors. Much like the Washington Consensus, which governed development policy in the 1980s, the early discourse on aid effectiveness largely consisted of outsiders diagnosing the problem, prescribing the solution, and assuming responsibility for carrying out the treatment.

This started to change at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, held in Accra, Ghana, in 2008, in which developing countries played a more active role in the preparations, and civil society groups across the developed and developing world were widely consulted. On the fragile-states front, perhaps the most significant development to come out of Accra was the establishment of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. [1] The Dialogue brings donor and recipient countries together to devise a realistic set of peacebuilding and statebuilding objectives to address the root causes of conflict and fragility. Its participants include OECD donors; nontraditional donors (such as Brazil and China); international and regional organizations (including the UN, the World Bank, the African Union, and the African Development Bank); representatives of civil society; and, most importantly, representatives of conflict-affected and fragile states. First proposed at a preparatory meeting in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in July 2008, the Dialogue was endorsed in Accra in September 2008 and formally launched at the end of that year. …

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