“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” . This was famously said by Theodore Roosevelt to his men on the verge of the American-Spanish civil war. More than a century later this statement also rings true for many who live in fragile and conflict affected states. Fragile states furthermore face an international community often gridlocked and clueless how to best intervene and assist in the transition to peace.
Therefore, the High-level forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan, South Korea, in December 2011 gave birth to the “New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States”(New Deal). Driven by the G7+, a group of fragile states, the New Deal uses five peace-building and state-building goals, revenues and services, legitimate politics, security, justice and economic foundations as a guide for progress.
“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.
Last Friday ministers from fragile and conflict affected states, OECD countries and leaders of international institutions have united at the International Dialogue on State-building and Peace-building’s Third Global meeting to pledge support for the implementation of the ‘New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States’ and for its integration in the post-2015 development agenda.
This is needed more than ever as violence destroys lives and livelihoods and hampers efforts for development and prosperity. The gap between fragile, violence-affected countries and other developing countries is widening. Few low-income, fragile or conflict affected countries are expected to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
EuropeAid analysed, in a recent report, that poor governance, including a lack of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights, are the main factors hampering efforts towards poverty eradication and sustainable development.
The G7+ states offer a different explanation. In February these have deemed the current MDGs as ill- suited for their progress. The Dili Consensus reads “[the MDGs] do not recognise the fundamental barriers that we face. Most importantly, conflict and fragility are not reflected in the MDGs, and have been fundamental obstacles to their achievement in our countries.”
Bold action is needed
So, with its emphasis of a country-led process the New Deal seems to be right on track. However, implementation so far has been rather slow. This can be attributed to various factors including a lack of political will and capacity on ground.
Another factor is that The New Deal is still characterised by the old donor-recipient dichotomy. BRICS are at present not signatories and neither are several regional key players that could enrich the discussions.
South Africa’s military involvement in the Central African Republic, as of late has demonstrated that the economic powerhouses are eager and willing to take a leadership role in regional issues to safeguard their interestes. Moreover, mounting criticism towards South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma regarding his decision making process and a failure to stabilise the situation demonstrates the need for concerted efforts.
The International Dialgoue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding provides exactly such a forum where development initatives for fragile states can be coordinated amongst various parties to maximise knowledge and resource sharing. It is paramount that interventions in fragile states are guided by a long-term strategy to reach a lasting peace.
Regional solutions and cooperation needs to be strengthened
There are positive examples for this such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. And time is crucial for many countries standing on a cross road such as Somalia, which has reaffirmed its commitment to the New Deal on the Third High Level Meeting last Friday with support from the G8 countries.
Somalia is in direct vicinity to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Countries with stable economies, strong governments and a more or less united population (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 90,000 Barbaig 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.
A first step is made with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister participating in Friday’s meeting despite not having officially endorsed the New Deal. She urged the members to share knowledge and learn from each other.
Other members such as Mr. Min Zhu, Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund joined in and said: “We need to involve more partners in our strategy and have the G7+ more active in setting an agenda for the New Deal.” All participants need to do more to make it a “Real Deal” for the 1.5 billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states.