Crowd sourcing models of fragility

States of fragilityJolanda Profos, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate

The OECD’s new report States of Fragility 2015: Meeting Post-2015 Ambitions addresses the substantial challenges of defining – and classifying – fragility. The report proposes a multidimensional approach to the concept of `fragility’, rather than using a simple one-dimensional list. It argues that breaking down concepts of fragility into various dimensions can enable better understanding of the causes and drivers of fragility, thereby informing a better response.

The idea of moving to a deeper and more substantive way of analysing fragility has gripped the imagination of many of those who work on the issues. The short chapter of the report that deals with this topic has generated more feedback than any other, encouraging a thoughtful and also thought-provoking debate, including an interesting piece from Frauke De Weijer.

The multidimensional model put forward by the report is based on five dimensions taken from the proposals for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each measured against three indicators that serve as proxy measures of those issues, in the absence of agreed SDG indicators. Yet some argue that the Sustainable Development Goals model that was used lacks a clear enough social dimension, or that the model used in the report should have been more closely framed around the New Deal’s Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs). Frauke suggests that there must be better ways of capturing external stresses and avoiding unintended consequences. Duncan Green, on the other hand, warns of the risks of overloading the models with almost every issue under the sun.

All told, the debate reflects an emerging recognition that what the report is trying to do is clearly not simple. The specific datasets used can make a difference in the perspective that is captured on the issues.

This is where the challenge becomes both intriguing and acute. Measuring conflict and fragility is not the same thing as measuring, say, the height of a wall; evidence tells us that not only what, but how you measure matters, and that it matters a lot. This is why agreeing on a model for tracking fragility is nightmarishly difficult, and why debate around it is extremely important.

Say you include an index on corruption that measures administrative corruption (as most perception studies do) and somebody else uses a measure that is based on proxies for grand corruption – do they have the same relevance for levels of fragility? Work on fragility and corruption suggests that the answer is a clear “no”. Different types of corruption and (crucially) how they are organised may have different effects. Equally, there are differences if your measure of violence is primarily focused on urban youth homicide versus political violence: the relationship of the violence to the political system is inevitably not the same.

The 2016 States of Fragility report will further revise the model for measuring fragility, dropping the idea of a simple list by 2017 at the latest, and moving to tracking resources flows to fragile states through a multi-dimensional lens. The idea is to focus attention on the need to support states and societies as they move from fragility toward resilience, holding all actors to account for their commitments.  That responding to fragility requires not only for aid to become smarter, but also for much broader changes.

The information in these reports is a public good. Deciding what the model contains should, therefore, reflect the needs of all those engaging with issues of conflict and fragility. We welcome debate on the nature of the model as an essential part of the process.

Useful links

OECD work on governance and peace

Can the New Deal for Fragile States Live Up To its Promise to Significantly Shift Agency to the Local?

Click for Fragile States 2014 report
Click for Fragile States 2014 report

Today’s post is by Cedric de Coning, head of the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Research Group at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and Special Advisor to the Head of the Peace Support Operations Division of the African Union Commission. Tomorrow, Yannick Hingorani of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate will reply.

On a recent visit to Mogadishu I was reminded again of the overwhelmingly complex set of challenges facing the government and people of Somalia, and their regional and international partners. The legitimacy of the government is challenged and its capacity to deliver is weak. At the same time, this government represents the best chance the people of Somalia have had in decades to benefit from some level of stability, rule of law and provision of basic services.

If it is to succeed, the government will have to go beyond liberating territory with the help of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It will need to deliver order, justice and livelihood opportunities that out-perform those offered by Al-Shabaab. In a country that is clan-based, governance needs to be hyper-local. Physical security may be imposed, but sustainable order has to emerge and be maintained by local communities. Consequently, a strong federal-local partnership has to be forged.

At the same time, the international community has to face its own demons. Despite efforts at fostering coherence and aligning international support behind government owned plans, dozens of international partners and organizations are still by and large each pursuing their own national or organizational interests. The result is predictably self-destructive: an international community that, despite its stated principles, is unwilling to give its local partners the space they need to take full ownership of their own project, as Peter Fabricius argues. In the process, the international community ends up contributing to the very fragility it was meant to address. These challenges are not new and the consequences are not unknown, but they have proven to be more structural, inherent and resilient than our theories of change assumed.

A new initiative has been underway since 2011, and it now focuses on the specific development challenges and opportunities faced by countries affected by conflict and fragility. It seeks to transform the way international assistance to these countries is managed by placing the countries themselves in the driving seat when it comes to determining what causes their fragility, setting their own priorities, planning their own paths to resilience and managing the relationship with their international partners. The New Deal was agreed in 2011 in Busan, Korea at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness by donors and self-identified fragile countries that have organized themselves into a grouping called the g7+. The donors and g7+ countries come together in the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding.

The New Deal is a mutual pact. The g7+ countries take the lead in doing their own Fragility Assessments and based on these, develop their own Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) and indicators. In turn, donors align their support behind the agreed PSGs and offer improved predictability and transparency in the assistance they provide. Together, they enter into a Compact that serves as a strategic framework for the government and its international partners.

The New Deal is more than an important step forward – it is a potential game changer. It has the potential to address most of the local ownership and aid coordination challenges I have highlighted above. It acknowledges that local agency is a pre-condition for sustainable peace. It has identified specific mechanisms that serve as vehicles for realizing local ownership, as well as for aligning international support behind these locally-led peacebuilding processes.

Nonetheless, implementing the New Deal has proved challenging. As the Somalia case so clearly demonstrates, early in the recovery process these societies typically lack the individual expertise and institutional capacity to fully engage in the Fragility Assessment and the other New Deal processes they are meant to lead. Yet these governments and donors are under pressure to complete these processes as soon as possible because they serve as precursors for the Compact. Significant aid can only flow once these assessments, goal setting and planning have been done. Because of this time pressure, consultants and other external actors are often brought in to overcome the capacity gap; and while they they do their best, the result is just not as homegrown and locally owned as the New Deal intended.

The fact that the New Deal Compact has to be in place before significant assistance can be disbursed has unintended consequences: most importantly, it reduces the Compact to a resource mobilization tool, when it should be the vehicle for a genuine, locally owned vision and plan for peacebuilding and statebuilding. If the emphasis is on resources, it makes sense for the ministry of planning to bring in external experts to help it get the Fragility Assessment, PSGs and Compact in place as soon as possible. However, if the ambition is truly to shift agency to the local, then, as Helder da Costa argues, the programming needs to reflect the upfront investment needed to build local capacity and the time and patience needed for meaningful political engagement at all levels.

In order for the New Deal to live up to its full promise, solutions have to be found for the dilemma caused by this time-capacity deficit: the New Deal Compact should not be a once-off exercise. It should be regularly revisited, and each time there should be a target for significantly increasing input from local expertise. Likewise, Fragility Assessments should be an iterative process, closely linked perhaps to the monitoring of the PSG indicators. The PSGs, their indicators and the Compact need to be regularly reviewed and adapted. The goal should be to progressively build capacity to manage these New Deal processes with local expertise. Similarly, if initially the process has to be rapid and small, it should be expanded over time so that within a few years it can be much moreparticipatory, representative, and inclusive. The New Deal should thus include a clear programme for building-up and phasing-in local expertise, so that it can result in a real shift in agency from the international to the local, underpinned by a significant increase in local capacity to manage and staff the processes needed to operationalize the New Deal.

In doing so, we will have to be sensitive to the inherent tension in the act of building local capacity from the outside. Too much external intervention undermines the ability of a society to self-organise because it inhibits the feedback local institutions need to learn and adapt, and it builds dependence. There is a threshold beyond which influence becomes interference and where it starts to add to fragility. This threshold is much lower than widely acknowledged. Consequently, many external actors make the mistake of interfering too much and endup undermining the ability of local systems to self-organise.We need a code of conduct that will help international actors to self-regulate their tendency to overreach.

The most distinguishing feature of the New Deal is that it recognizes that peacebuilding has to be essentially local. However, for the New Deal to move from an aspiration to a reality there would have to be a significant shift in agency from the international to the local. Achieving this will require nothing less than a paradigm-shift in the way fragile states, international organizations and international development partners understand their respective roles and responsibilities in peacebuilding.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security

Now, build peace

Find out more about the New Deal between fragile states and partners
Find out more about the New Deal between fragile states and partners

Today’s post is from Donata Garrassi of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding and Brenda Killen, Head of OECD’s Global Partnerships and Policy Division

In May 2011, The Economist featured an image of Osama Bin Laden on its front cover with the title: “Now, kill his dream”. Conflict and instability are constantly in the headlines, from the civil war in Syria, to unrest across North Africa, to seemingly endless bloodshed and turmoil in the Sahel.

We have yet to see this much more inspiring headline: “Now, build peace”. However, many countries around the world are doing exactly that: building peace. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, to mention a few, are recovering from armed conflict, rebuilding institutions that provide security and justice to citizens, and embarking on political transitions. Their leaders are working hard to maximize the benefits of their natural resources, attract private investment and create jobs for their burgeoning youth populations.

Conflict and instability directly affect 1.5 billion people. But in an interconnected world, local actions reverberate on the global stage in a way that can no longer be isolated or contained.  Forging peace is not just a collective responsibility; it is in our collective interest to help countries transition toward peace and resilience. The good news is that conflict-affected and fragile countries, with the support of development partners, have identified tools and strategies for addressing the underlying causes of conflict and laying the foundations for peace.

One of these is the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, a breakthrough agreement signed by over 40 countries and organisations, including the 19 conflict-affected and fragile countries that form the g7+. The New Deal sets out 5 pre-conditions for building peaceful states—the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs)—and provides a practical framework for countries and development partners to assess, prioritise, plan, implement and hold each other accountable.

The New Deal represents a potential breakthrough in the way national and international partners work in situations of conflict and fragility, with implications for diplomatic and political, security, and development interventions. The Secretary General of the United Nations has called upon the member states to work towards the realisation of the PSGs on more than one occasion. Countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are using New Deal tools to identify dimensions of fragility and peacebuilding priorities. The New Deal is also inspiring civil society organisations from the global North and from the South in their advocacy on the need for healthy state-society relationship as the foundation of sustainable peace.

To make a lasting difference, we need to adopt the New Deal as a “new mindset” for how we address conflict and instability. It needs to be incorporated into national development plans and budgets, reflected in newspaper headlines and speeches, and promoted by civil society activists and business leaders alike. Moreover, the principles that underpin the New Deal must be reflected in the future development agenda that will be hopefully agreed after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “expire” in 2015.

Development partners can support country transitions toward resilience by fulfilling their commitments to provide quality, timely, and flexible aid. While some countries have achieved the promised target of allocating 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA), figures recently published by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that the aid disbursed by OECD countries – as an overall average – is not even half of this. Low-income countries, many of which are conflict-affected or fragile, are the ones most likely to suffer from this shortfall.

While the volume of aid matters, even more important is how it is used. The New Deal and the g7+ group of fragile states help by establishing guidelines for development cooperation. A central concept is that aid should enable countries to assume responsibility for their own transitions and deliver concrete results for their people. The New Deal promotes a new model of partnership that catalyses national ownership and leadership with a long-term vision, as opposed to a “quick win” approach.

The leaders of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, the political forum that produced the New Deal and that reunites the g7+ countries, development partners and civil society representatives, will meet in Washington, D.C. on 19 April. It will be a very good opportunity to agree on concrete actions to put New Deal commitments into practice and into the headlines. Now, build peace.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fragility

International Network on Conflict and Fragility

Should aid money go to peacekeeping?

Peacekeeping Mission
Pay them from aid money?

Today’s post is from Brenda Killen, Head of OECD’s Global Partnerships and Policy Division and Donata Garrassi from the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

Is peacekeeping a cost-effective way of spending aid money, as UK Prime Minister David Cameron implied last week in remarks quoted by the BBC?

In 2010, some forty countries in situations of fragility received around $50 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA), as aid is formally known. This represents 38% of total ODA according to OECD figures. Global peacekeeping has cost an estimated $8 billion a year over the past few years.

These are significant sums, especially when governments are seeking ways to reduce their deficits. But compare them with the costs of military operations. Between 2009 and 2010, for example, US Department of Defense spending alone for Afghanistan grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month. According to US government data, the cumulative total for the War on Terror and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 9/11 is $1.283 trillion, of which about $1.2 trillion went to the Department of Defense with only $67 billion, or 5%, going to State/USAID.

ODA covers a broad range of activities from humanitarian interventions to stabilization, peacebuilding and statebuilding. (although peacekeeping is funded by a blend of ODA and non-ODA funds). Why is it better to use ODA as opposed to defence budgets for these initiatives? Because with ODA, taxpayers have a clearer idea of where and how their money is being spent. ODA is an accountable and transparent way to deliver development assistance, even if it is not the only one. ODA funding to fragile states is reported regularly by donors, providing taxpayers in these countries and governments and people in recipient countries with as clear as possible a picture of how much money comes in, from where, what it is used for, and how effectively it is provided. Military aid, on the contrary, and enforcement aspects of peacekeeping, are not reportable as ODA. It is difficult to know how much is spent, how, and on whom, let alone to assess the impact on national governments and populations.

The main issue is about the best way to support countries during the difficult transition out of conflict and fragility. It’s also about preventing conflict flaring up again, by addressing the  root causes of conflict, and promoting the growth and development that make conflict less likely in the future.

These are huge tasks. The human development record in fragile states is not good. Not one conflict-affected fragile state has achieved any of the Millennium Development Goals., and the share of world poor living in fragile states is expected to exceed 50% by 2015. What do these trends suggest? Tackling fragility and instability requires a long-term development strategy. A military solution (even one that drags on for years) will not solve the underlying problems. An army may manage to provide stability, but it is not designed to address the inequalities, sense of injustice and frustrations that lead to conflict in the first place.

Lasting peace needs more than peacekeepers. It needs economic development to  provide jobs, education, health care and other services. It needs the political involvement of the whole population, especially those with grievances, to promote social justice and to seek solutions other than violence. It needs well-functioning government and institutions. Building a lasting peace may take decades, so it needs long-term commitment from national and international actors to develop the local capacities and potential that will eventually make aid irrelevant.

This is not a military strategy or timescale. Un-glamorous development departments and personnel have the skills needed to implement cross-governmental approaches, use pooled funds wisely, and work in the multidisciplinary teams best suited to conflict-affected and fragile states. But vital as their contribution may be, it is secondary. Ultimately, transitioning out of conflict and ensuring long-lasting peace depend on the country itself, not foreign aid, whether civilian or military. So maybe we should start by asking conflict-affected and fragile countries for which we are designing strategies, re-allocating funds, and planning operations, what would work best.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Evaluating Peacebuilding Activities in Settings of Conflict and Fragility

International Network on Conflict and Fragility

From Guns to Ploughshares: Reducing armed violence

Today’s post is from Sarah Cramer and Erwin van Veen of the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF)

Film fans may be aware that Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond has the highest body count of any Bond ever (an average of 33.9 kills per film). But in the real world, few of us have such an accurate picture of armed violence. For instance, many would be surprised to learn that El Salvador has been the deadliest country in recent history. In fact, between 2004 and 2009 more people per capita were killed in El Salvador than in Iraq. Jamaica follows closely in third place, according to the Global Burden of Armed Violence 2011.

While casualties of war often grab headlines, they only represent 10% of the 526,000 lives lost annually as the direct result of armed violence around the world. Crime is the biggest driver of violent killing, and armed violence in post-conflict settings, such as El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, can sometimes surpass levels seen during actual periods of conflict.

Surprising facts about armed violence and linkages to poverty were on dramatic display in a photo exhibit last week in the OECD Conference Centre. The photographs were drawn from the Visions of Hope collection compiled by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development.

Click on the photo to see the exhibition

Violence and insecurity take a high toll on society. Apart from human suffering, violence leads to increased public and private security costs, and decreased productivity and investment. The global cost of homicidal violence is $95-160 billion each year, and the burden is much higher in developing countries, where 10-15% of GDP is spent on law enforcement, compared with 5% in developed countries.

The OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) recognises that reducing violence and insecurity is a pre-requisite to realising development outcomes such as the MDGs. No low-income fragile states are expected to achieve a single MDG by 2015. Understanding the dynamics of armed violence and what can be done about it is an important first step. Through the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), the DAC is gathering evidence, filling analytical gaps and providing practical recommendations for strengthening support for core peacebuilding and statebuilding functions, notably security and justice, that can reduce armed violence.

Evidence suggests that armed violence can be successfully addressed, reducing human suffering, psychological trauma and negative spill-over effects at regional and global level. Good interventions share six common characteristics.

  1. A good evidence base, including a nuanced understanding of the context. For example, in Sudan, UNDP’s Threat and Risk Mapping and Analysis Project works with local communities to map security threats and socio-economic risks. Collected data is pooled with information about basic rainfall patterns, suspected oil and mineral extraction sites, service provision, livestock migration routes and other issues. This approach provides a robust understanding of the context to inform programming decisions.
  2. Engagement of municipalities and non-state groups, actors that are well-placed to influence armed violence. This can be done by working through NGOs and decentralised development agencies. Providers of development assistance – who tend to work most with the state’s central executive – need to consider what changes might be required in their approaches, staffing and networks to engage effectively at such critical sub-national levels.
  3. A flexible mix of perspectives and methods, bringing together a range of experience in areas that have proven to be effective at reducing armed violence, such as public health, law enforcement, urban planning, community services and job creation. For example, in Bangladesh, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (an NGO) used a public health approach to map the risk factors that render children and youth vulnerable to recruitment by armed criminal gangs and as potential future soldiers.
  4. Combining local with global action, as drivers of violence originate from all levels. All too often, country-specific strategies guide interventions without paying adequate attention to necessary complementary regional and global factors.
  5. Sufficient time, balancing the need to show short-term results with the time and patience needed to yield real success. For example, it took Viva Rio, a local NGO operating in Rio de Janeiro, ten years to contribute toward a drop in the annual rate of gun deaths. Activities needed to be structured and funded on a long-term and flexible basis to achieve sustainable success.
  6. Integration of armed violence reduction within development strategies, as reducing violence is a pre-requisite for achieving other development outcomes.

Useful links

OECD work on armed violence reduction

Armed Violence Reduction: Enabling Development

Conflict – the enemy of development

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”.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security

Goodbye conflict, welcome development?

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

Have the populations of fragile states and countries affected by conflict benefited from the money, effort and time devoted to peacebuilding and statebuilding?

The most reassuring finding from the 2010 Human Security Report is that high-intensity wars, those that kill at least 1000 people a year, have declined by 78% since 1988, while long-term trends indicate reductions in the risks of both international and civil wars (although Libya, Yemen and Syria show that these risks are still significant).

The World Bank’s latest World Development Report agrees that although war is less of a problem now than in the 20th century, insecurity has become a primary development challenge. One-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organised criminal violence and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal.

New threats—organised crime and trafficking, civil unrest due to global economic shocks, terrorism—have supplemented wars.

So what can be done to say “goodbye conflict, welcome development” as the slogan of the g7+ group of fragile countries hopes?

The second global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding being held in Monrovia, Liberia on 15-16 June gives conflict-affected states a common voice in their discussions with international partners, and for the first time, these states themselves will make commitments on the concrete steps they’ll take to change things.

Two outcomes are targeted. First, a new agreement on peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities is required. Second, a commitment on how to realise these is needed.

Security, justice, and jobs are priorities for conflict-affected communities. Without security and the assurance that people can go about their daily lives in safety, the rest is meaningless.

People on the ground can all tell stories about money being spent on a bridge they cannot even cross for fear of being attacked.

For many young men, joining an armed group may be the most attractive job available, or the only one, if they want to feed their family. A Somali pirate for instance can earn from $12,000 to $150,000 from a successful hijack according to a report in the Financial Times, compared with $500 a year for the average citizen.

It’s not that these countries are inherently poor, but too often wealth from natural resources or other activities benefits only a few people, and there are also problems with how international assistance is provided.

The OECD reports that 30% of Official Development Assistance goes to fragile and conflict-affected countries, but what does this mean in practice?

Bella Bird, co-chair of the International Dialogue, points out that “International partners tend to expect too much too soon from still very weak national institutions; take a short-term perspective; avoid risk; and apply complex systems. At the same time, national governments in fragile countries have often tended to promise too much to their constituents or exclude large parts of society, which can fuel dissatisfaction and lead to further unrest”.

The result can be that trust in national institutions is so low that donors set up parallel systems to deliver programmes, but although “high risk leads to high return” as Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance from Timor Leste reminds international partners in her country, donors find it hard to justify to their taxpayers investing in high-risk environments.

In Monrovia, participants will be looking for innovation, for changing the rules of the game of “how business is done in fragile countries”.

Conflict affected states themselves know what works best and the best way of analysing and tackling problems. Even though historical, economic, cultural and political situations vary widely, they can learn from each other.

The most fruitful dialogue will be among them, and leadership has to come from within affected countries and communities.

With leadership comes responsibility. Participants will be urged to make binding, verifiable commitments on practical steps to achieving common goals.

The first of these has to be to accept dialogue. Dialogue among national actors to identify priorities to build peace and develop a vision on how to move “from fragility to stability”.

Dialogue between national and international partners to reach a consensus on what needs to be done in fragile and conflict affected contexts to help end the cycle of violence.

To begin making peace, you don’t need to forgive and you almost certainly won’t forget the injustices that led to conflict, but you do need to make a commitment, and be realistic about the time the whole process will take.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility