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Peacebuilding and statebuilding come before the Millennium Development Goals

21 June 2011

 Guest post by Donata Garrasi of the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate and Co-ordinator of the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

Imagine you can’t take your child to the doctor because the clinic is on the other side of a bridge it’s too dangerous to cross. Imagine you’re trying to get an education but you can’t read after sunset because there’s no light. Imagine the only people who’ll protect you from an armed gang are the members of another armed gang. Imagine you’re a government trying to deal with problems like these after a civil war or invasion that’s lasted for years and destroyed your country and you’ll easily understand why no fragile state has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal, or is likely to do so by the 2015 target date, even though these states receive over 30% of development assistance.

If the MDGs set the bar impossibly high, what should fragile states aim for? The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding was created in 2008 after the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to devise a set of realistic peacebuilding and statebuilding objectives that address the root causes of conflict and fragility. The first Dialogue, held in Dili, Timor-Leste in April 2010, saw the formation of the g7+, “an independent and autonomous forum of fragile and conflict affected countries and regions”. At the second global meeting in Liberian capital Monrovia last week, delegates from over 40 countries, international agencies and civil society organisations had a “frank and open exchange of views” on what has worked, what hasn’t and what can be done starting now.

“The problem is, you guys don’t trust us,” Timor Leste’s finance minister Emilia Pires told the donor countries, urging them to lose their control freak attitude. But delegates from fragile states were just as harsh regarding their own responsibilities, with one Togolese speaker suggesting that citizens of donor countries would refuse to spend another penny on aid if they knew where most of the money went. There was disagreement on using the term “fragile”, with some arguing that it stigmatised countries, other that it was simply being realistic and could be useful in determining whether particular kinds of assistance should be granted. One participant claimed that fragile would be an improvement on the state his country was in at present. Olivier Kamitatu, DR Congo’s planning minister, summed up the majority feeling, and the ambitions of the Dialogue, when he said that “The g7+ is extremely useful in giving us a common voice in international discussions, but it’s a club we’d like to leave as quickly as possible”.

The “Monrovia Roadmap”, agreed on by the whole range of development partners, defines five practical objectives for peacebuilding and statebuilding. “Establish and strengthen citizen security” is one of the five. Without security and the assurance that people can go about their daily lives in safety, the rest is meaningless. But who should implement objectives, and monitor progress? If the state hasn’t functioned for years or is seen as defending special interests, then political processes have to start by building trust among groups who may be hostile to each other, including the government and civil society. Therefore the Roadmap calls on states to “Foster inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution”.

Reggae legend Peter Tosh understood another of the objectives when he sang that he didn’t want peace but “equal rights and justice”. It is vital to “Address injustices and support increasing citizen access to justice”. Unemployment is a source of tension and can fuel conflict when joining an armed group may be the most attractive job available, or the only one. The objective to “Generate employment and improve livelihoods” will require a mix of labour-intensive public and community works, increased agricultural productivity, and domestic private sector development. All this costs money, and although international partners will continue to finance some activities, the objective is to “Manage revenues and build capacity for accountable and equitable social service delivery”. It’s an ambitious set of objectives, but as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pointed out in her closing remarks, “The challenges are huge, but they’re not bigger than challenges we’ve faced in the past”.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

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