Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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A New Deal for Fragile States

PARIS – Today, roughly one-quarter of the world’s population lives in conflict-affected and fragile states. Despite vast sums of money spent aiding such states over the last 50 years, armed conflict and violence continue to blight the lives of millions of people around the world. International and national partners must radically change the way they engage such states.

I experienced firsthand the need for a new approach in 2004 in Sri Lanka. Within the first two months of the devastating tsunami that struck that December, close to 50 heads of state and foreign ministers visited the island. Each came with their own programs, their own civil-society organizations, and their own television crews. Few came with any deep understanding of the dynamics of the political conflict between militant Tamils and the Sri Lankan state. Big mistakes were made, fueling further violence.

Our major challenge today is to move away from the model of partnership according to which priorities, policies, and funding needs are determined in donor capitals and development partners’ headquarters. Conflict-affected states need to be able to determine their own destinies.

We should establish models of post-conflict transition like the one advocated by the g7+, a group of eighteen fragile states. The model is simple: Countries assess their own situation, using tools that they develop and that are appropriate to the context, in order to formulate a vision and a plan to consolidate peace and achieve prosperity.

This may sound like pie in the sky, but we have already tasted it in Africa, where Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Prosperity 2013-2017 and the Liberia Vision 2030 exemplify the potential of such programs. Progress on meeting national priorities such as peace consolidation, expanding access to justice, or increasing security is monitored locally. Using local systems and capacities, it turns out, can strengthen them.

The “New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States,” which builds on a series of international commitments regarding aid and development, and was endorsed at the at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea in 2011, proposes just such a model. It enshrines what matters most in building peaceful states and societies: commitments – the Peace- and State-building Goals – to improve how national and international partners engage in conflict-affected and fragile contexts.

The New Deal recognizes what the history of peace-building teaches us: national leadership and ownership of agendas are key to achieving visible and sustainable results. As Kosti Manibe Ngai, South Sudan’s finance minister, has put it, “Nothing about us without us.”

In many conversations with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, we have discussed setting out a short list of clear priorities for the new state. But such goals are meaningful only if a fragile state’s partners are ready to accept the lead from a capital like Juba rather than from their own headquarters.

More than 40 countries and institutions have endorsed the New Deal way of working, committing themselves to building better partnerships – and to investing the required resources and political capital. This is why the New Deal model is innovative; it creates political support around issues that need to be addressed if countries are to make the transition from conflict and fragility to peace and stability.

Supporting inclusive political dialogue and ensuring that conflict is resolved through peaceful means are the highest priorities, as are security, access to justice, and a dynamic private sector that generates sufficient job opportunities. Moreover, many fragile states are rich in natural resources, and must establish transparent resource management – aimed at curbing corruption and controlling illicit flows of money and goods – in order to raise the revenues needed to deliver services.

A focus on these processes would ensure that fragile states take the lead and the responsibility. As partners, we must accept this national leadership. After Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the country was dubbed “the republic of NGOs.” Unable to create conditions in which Haitians themselves could take the lead in rebuilding their country, Haiti’s external partners undermined the establishment of a functioning internal governance system.

So, how can we translate our commitments and priorities into better lives for people who are affected by conflict and fragility?

OECD countries need to lead by example and meet the commitments that they have made. Our partners, through groupings like the g7+, must continue to demand the changes in policies and practices that have been promised.

We also must plan to change for the long term. As the Millennium Development Goals’ 2015 end date approaches, promotion of peace, security, and non-violent conflict resolution continues to be vitally important, and must be fully integrated into any future development agenda.

Recently, the members of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, the high-level political forum that produced the New Deal, met in Washington, DC, to assess our progress in changing how we work and in implementing the New Deal commitments. They agreed to the Washington Communiqué, which urges development partners, g7+ countries, and civil-society organizations to intensify their efforts to use the New Deal to deliver concrete results on the ground, and calls for a post-2015 development agenda that recognizes the universal importance of peace- and state-building.

Ultimately, our progress depends on the resolve of everyone to transform the lives of the 1.5 billion people whose lives are marred by violence, conflict, and insecurity.

Read more from our "Visionary Voices" series

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  1. CommentedPeter Wickwire Foster

    More and more it would appear that the time of grand global targets being planned by international donors in far off capitols is coming to an end. Nations from the developing and emerging world may sometimes be in need of assistance, but for that assistance to be most effective, it needs to be planned and implemented with the full cooperation of the nations who are receiving it.

    Resources and expertise may be plentiful in New York and Geneva, but practical experience and the knowledge of the conditions that exist on the ground cannot be ignored. A successful project in one country may fail completely in another simply because no two nations are alike.

    More importantly, to achieve sustainable success, a donor assistance program (whether for humanitarian, peacekeeping, financial development or other need) needs to be ‘owned’ by the leaders on the ground. If national leaders have been a full partner in the planning and implementation of donor assistance, not only is that assistance more like to be better adapted to the needs of that nation, but there will be a strong incentive for national governments to make them successful.

    It seems like common sense. But as is often the case, common sense plans can be quite rare.

  2. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I think this is the most important paragraph of the article:
    "...Within the first two months of the devastating tsunami that struck that December, close to 50 heads of state and foreign ministers visited the island. Each came with their own programs, their own civil-society organizations, and their own television crews. Few came with any deep understanding of the dynamics of the political conflict between militant Tamils and the Sri Lankan state. Big mistakes were made, fueling further violence..."
    At the moment each individual, nation acts in isolation, based on their own understandings, priorities, agendas.
    At the same time we evolved into a completely interconnected, integrated, global human system.
    Each individual and nations is dependent on the others.
    This is an uncomfortable feeling, to be dependent on others, that I do not hold my own destiny in my hands, but it is still true.
    And there is nothing we can do about it, the state is not man-made, this is where we are in our evolution.
    Thus instead of ignoring, denying it we need to learn how to use it in a positive way.
    And in truth the prospects, the potential of a mutually responsible, mutually complementing humanity working in unison is so much higher than our present prospects and potential that they are not even in the same dimension.
    A perfectly balanced, globally cooperating humanity could build, prosper, develop effortlessly, always making the right decisions, always helping where it is needed.
    A single human organism that is fully balanced, fully adapted to the vast natural system around us simply cannot make mistakes, since we would simply feel what is "right or wrong", flowing together with the system.
    This is within our capability here and now, since we have all the necessary scientific information, the know-how, the fantastic human adaptability, ingenuity.
    If we stopped running around like headless chickens as we do now, and started studying and understanding our integral, global human system we could make significant changes within weeks, months.

      CommentedEdward Ponderer

      "If we stopped running around like headless chickens"

      -- And if only that just got us nowhere! Unfortunately this implies the statistics of a "drunkard's walk." To clarify, we should inspect that we are making the situation more confused -- just plain worse -- per approximately the square root of the number of steps we totally take multiplied by the average change in the situation caused by such a step.

      -- And yes, indeed, I'd imagine myself as a heart patient with a choice between brand NOW and brand HOPE pacemakers.

      Brand NOW consists of a bunch of independent single-transistors pulse circuits spraying my heart with a barrage of small, randomly interspersed electric pulses.

      Brand HOPE, on the other hand is a single integrated circuit with complete sensory input to my heart's surface beat pattern and reacts in real-time with a well-balanced complementary pulse pattern, synchronized in both space and time with just the right power.

      I certainly know which brand I would select!

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