Friday, June 22, 2012

Re-examining Assistance to Fragile and Post Conflict States

Approximately two billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict.[1] Poverty rates in fragile states average 54 percent compared with 22 percent for low-income countries as a whole.[2] These “fragile states” represent a major challenge for global poverty reduction, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, for peace and stability and for global issues such as the war on terror.[3]  The African continent contains the majority of fragile states with most Africans living on less than two dollars a day. The average lifespan in these countries is under 50. Drought and famine persist.[4]
Fragile states are characterized by violence, a legacy of conflict, weak governance and limited administrative capacity.  Underlying fragility is a history of divided identity, political fragmentation, and weak institutions.  Transitioning out of fragility is a complex and arduous task. The effort requires a multipronged approach to secure peace, rebuild institutions, and accelerate growth and poverty reduction.[5] 
The focus of the international community has been on providing financial and technical assistance and on external intervention, especially since problems of fragility can, in some instances, be transnational.  Nonetheless insufficient emphasis has been placed on understanding the role that domestic leadership processes play in lifting countries out of fragility or causing or keeping countries in fragility.

[1] Ashraf Ghani & Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failing States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008), 6-9.
[2] The World Bank, Global Monitoring Report 2007: Confronting the Challenges of Gender Equality, (Washington DC: The World Bank Group, 2007), 10-12.
[3] The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics, such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.
[4] See “Africa Rising” in The Economist, (December 3, 2011).
The World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, (Washington, DC: The World Bank Group, 2011), 145.