Bold Action for a New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States

Third High Level Meeting for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding 19 April 2013.

Third High Level Meeting for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding 19 April 2013.


Last year two distinctly divergent views emerged when Somalia established a permanent government ending 12 years of a chaotic transition period. Journalist Mohamud Uluso warned that “the future forebodes more pessimism and treachery than optimism and trustworthiness”, and yet, at the same time UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon heralded the new-found unity and pledged his support to a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Somalia, stating: “we committed to a new Somali-owned and led partnership, which will work towards a compact between the Somali authorities and the international community inspired by the principles outlined in the New Deal, agreed in Busan in November 2011.” Differing interpretations on the New Deal’s effect on Somalia were central to informing these conflicting opinions.

What is the New Deal, and what does it do?

The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States was driven by a group of fragile states, the G7+, and formally established at the High-level forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, in 2011. It uses five peacebuilding and statebuilding goals, revenues and services, legitimate politics, security, justice and economic foundations as a guide for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and working in fragile and conflict affected countries in general. The difference with many ‘older’ development models is that fragile states are their own engineers for progress. This is achieved through an initial fragility assessment that results in a country-led and country-owned vision for projects, and the priority areas for the disbursement of aid in line with the New Deal principles of transparency, risk sharing and strengthening in country systems.

Liberia's Finance Minister Amara Konneh flanked by Nancy Lindborg (USAID) and Gunilla Carlsson (Sweden)

Liberia’s Finance Minister Amara Konneh flanked by Nancy Lindborg (USAID) and Gunilla Carlsson (Sweden)

Underpinning this whole process is a long-term approach as there are no quick fixes for instability. Liberia’s vision to become a middle-income state by 2030 is a case-point. Reading RISE 2030 it is apparent how much it is informed by its past. RISE 2030 aims to transcend partisanship, sectarian interests and regional divisions and aims for an inclusive path for development in which all Liberians participate and take ownership. Liberia’s Finance Minister Amarah Konneh highlighted in the Third International Dialogue Meeting in Washington, that through the New Deal  Liberia worked on better public financial management to increase benefits coming from the forestry and oil sector. The beneficiaries of these resource revenues in Liberia are social programs. So if the New Deal approach of having peace as development objective and country-ownership is so positive, why then was Uluso so downbeat about the prospects of Somalia?

The reason lies not in the principles of the New Deal itself, but rather the commitment to its application by international partners, he said that for all the federal government’s optimism they must ‘take account of the reluctance of the international community to embrace the New Deal commitments and plan for such predicament’

Slow pace of implementation of the New Deal

Uluso has a point. Implementation has been sluggish. As Mark Tran from the Guardian noted, donors remain reluctant to shed the old approaches, including using their own consultants and foreign advisers, instead of using recipient country systems. The use of parallel systems – which duplicate existing resources, are expensive and do not build expertise in developing countries – boils down to a lack of trust, especially as donors are under domestic pressure to show value for money in aid budgets.”

BUT where New Deal principles have been implemented there has been some signs of success, most notably in pilot countries Timor-Leste and Liberia. “Since 2003, Liberia has transformed itself from a failed state to one that is well along the path to democracy and lasting peace,” said Karin Landgren, Head of the United Nations Mission in the West African country. Liberia’s economy recorded its eighth consecutive year of post-war growth in 2011. Of course neither country has transitioned to peace without problems, Liberia is yet to deliver on its transparency promises with allegations of endemic corruption, nepotism and poor government performance surfacing time and again. “It’s no easy task to re-build after a descent into conflict. Fragile and conflict affected states – stretching from Africa to the Pacific – pose daunting development challenges,” said President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim last month in an op-ed about the importance of the New Deal for a different engagement with fragile states.

Third International Dialogue in Washington D.C. Photo: Neal Piper

Third International Dialogue in Washington D.C. Photo: Neal Piper

Regional solutions and cooperation needs to be strengthened

Despite, or because of, the rocky path ahead Somalia has stated it will conduct all its development through the New Deal, and has reaffirmed its commitment to the its principles last Friday at a high level meeting with support from the G8 countries. This occured at the closed political event, the Third International Dialogue in Washington, that will brought together ministers from the G7+ and OECD countries as well as heads of funding institutions including UNDP, USAID, IMF and World Bank.  But, whether the four hours in which assembled parties are together will result in collective affirmation of the New Deal in the post-2015 development agenda remains to be seen.

Somalia is in direct vicinity to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Countries with stable economies, strong governments and a more or less united populations (Tanzania more, Kenya less). Tanzania’s peaceful transition into independence has developed into a multilingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious hodgepodge that somehow manages to produce a GDP growth of 6%. Admittedly, Nyerere’s rigorous state-building included casualties such as the economic and social disaster of Ujamaa or the continuing exclusion of its disparate minority groups such as the 90,000Barbaig pastoralists. However, the creation of a more or less functioning local administration penetrating into the smallest hamlets, national unity through a common language and a sense of pride should be noted. Tanzania’s history and prospect of becoming a middle-income country by 2025, despite major geopolitical and regional challenges could contribute valuable lessons to Somalia’s efforts.

The New Deal’s principle with its emphasis on country-owned and country-led solutions is a progressive and promising agreement that needs support from all sides. This can only happen if it pursues its path of inclusivity and encourages a variety of actors to join.

The Guardian described the Busan agreement in 2011 as: “it is not a leap, it is a pigeon-step, but it is a step nonetheless – the latest in a long line that demonstrate the willingness of progressives to work more closely together to respond to global challenges.” Let us hope the pigeon will transform to the dove of peace and prove Mohamed Uluso wrong in the end.



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