How Fragile States are Defining their Own Agenda
IN 2010, a new coalition emerged on the world stage composed of fragile and conflict affected states. The group, which today has seventeen members and calls itself the "g7+," was born under the aegis of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. Although a coalition that all members are eager to graduate from as quickly as possible, the g7+ represents the first time that countries facing challenges relating to conflict and governance deficits have joined together to advocate for their special needs with one voice. And their advocacy is making waves. The g7+ has rapidly gained global recognition for its efforts to change the approach to fragile and conflict affected states through a new paradigm of cooperation and assistance.
In November of last year at the Fourth High Level Forum on Ad Effectiveness (HLF-4), the g7+ presented this new paradigm as the "New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States." To date, over forty countries and multilateral organizations have endorsed the New Deal, and the process of applying it has begun in a handful of so-called pilot countries. The New Deal has three main components. First it calls for a re-prioritization that is focused on addressing the sources of fragility, namely around five peacebuilding and Statebuilding goals: Legitimate Politics, Security, Justice, Economic Foundations, and Revenue and Services. Studies and evidence show that these are the areas in greatest need of attention to help move countries away from fragility and set a foundation for development. Existing frameworks that are focused on poverty reduction (the Millennium Development Goals) or saving lives (humanitarian principles), do not address underlying fragility and therefore do not help countries address their most critical needs or progress out of fragility.
The second component of the New Deal focuses on how countries work together, placing greater onus on the fragile state itself to develop a plan for a pathway out of fragility. This component calls explicitly for inclusive and participatory political dialogue as a necessary component of developing a national plan, particularly important to reinforce in countries where the state-society divide can be quite stark. Finally, the New Deal addresses how assistance should be provided. Namely through improved risk management, greater use of and support to country systems, and improving the predictability of donor funding, which is most volatile in fragile and conflict affected states.
The g7+ has champions and detractors alike. They have been applauded for bravely challenging the status quo systems upon which they are dependant; development and humanitarian assistance contributing more to national revenue and off budget social service delivery than in stronger and more stable states. By being brutally honest about the challenges they face, the g7+ have earned the respect of the international community and, perhaps more importantly, of their peers. Additionally, the inclusion of "Legitimate Politics" as a goal, lays bare that the g7+ recognize they cannot succeed without getting governance right. This is a sea change from the majority of international frameworks, which are intentionally apolitical.
What's New About the New Deal?
At the same time, the g7+ and the New Deal process has its skeptics. Some question the independence of the g7+, the New Deal coming as it did out of conversations with donors and presented at what historically has been a donor -led and organized gathering (i.e. HLF-4). Others ask whether it's appropriate to begin thinking about issues such as use of country systems in a context such as Somalia, which barely has a functioning government. But perhaps the most common refrain is, "What's so new about the New Deal?" Although at times more so a facetious play on words, it's worth taking a moment to consider what really is new and why we should be taking this effort seriously. …