Against the Odds : Talking Your Way Out of Conflict and Fragility?
Today’s post from Erwin van Veen of the OECD-DAC International Network on Conflict and Fragility is the first of several we’ll publishing in connection with the Fourth High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan on 29 November- 1 December
Violent conflict wastes lives and sets development into reverse. Past investment is reduced to rubble and institutions are destroyed that took decades to build. Violence also casts a long shadow over the future. Helping countries to consolidate peace and build effective and legitimate states is essential to reduce these devastating effects and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sadly, current ways of working in situations of conflict and fragility are ineffective and, despite significant investment, the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action, results are limited. Why is that?
Three main problems prevent progress. First, in their engagement, neither international nor national actors focus rigorously on key peace- and statebuilding goals. Second, national actors are often not given a full role and responsibility to lead their own transitions out of fragility. Finally, domestic and foreign resources are frequently mobilized in ways that do not effectively strengthen trust and increase capacities, which are critical to building peaceful states.
The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (ID) is a high-level conversation between the major donors, international development organizations (like the United Nations and World Bank) and around 15 states in situations of conflict and fragility (dubbed the “g7+”). Its aim is to identify, agree on and deliver three changes that respond to these problems:
- Agree and use five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) to guide work in fragile states. These goals represent the key enablers for managing conflict and transiting out of fragility. They are, first of all, to foster inclusive political settlements. Second, to establish security for people. Third, to address injustices as possible and to increase people’s access to justice. Fourth, to generate employment and improve livelihoods. Fifth, to manage revenue and build capacity for accountable and fair service delivery.
- Ensure that transitions out of fragility are led by national authorities through country compacts, country-led fragility assessments, national plans and inclusive political dialogue.
- Provide aid and use domestic resources more effectively by increasing transparency, predictability of funding, tolerance to risks and use of country systems.
Effectively delivering these three changes requires overcoming major challenges. To start with, the PSGs will have to be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly if they are to guide political focus, action and resources globally. Yet, the 2010 MDG review summit demonstrated that resistance in the UN against recognizing violence and insecurity as critical barriers to development is alive and well. Apart from almost dismissing the daily needs and struggles of millions of people for basic safety and justice, this also means that a strong political effort is required to realize the prize of UN engagement.
Country-led transitions out of fragility will work well where national authorities are legitimate, effective and functional. Unfortunately, they often aren’t. So, it will matter how these transitions are led and how priorities are established. The challenge for the g7+ is to convince their people and, through the International Dialogue international partners, that they can lead in a reasonably inclusive and increasingly legitimate manner. Trust can be built by establishing clear processes for setting priorities, agreeing early on confidence-building measures that are hard to reverse, enabling engagement and monitoring by civil society and peer review by fellow g7+ countries.
Providing aid and using domestic resources more effectively faces a double challenge. Donors and international organizations need to start by meeting their unfulfilled commitments to reduce aid volatility and improve the quality of their engagement. Failure to deliver this risks a serious loss of credibility. National authorities need to focus domestic resources more in line with PSG priorities and be willing to take innovative, exceptional and temporary measures to quickly raise the quality of their administration and their fiduciary capabilities to manage money.
The International Dialogue will agree an agenda for change at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. Its true test will lie in continuing the dialogue to deliver its “new deal”.