As originally published on March 6, 2013 at www.embassynews.ca/
The so-called New Deal for international engagement in fragile states is intended to be an innovative model of partnership between fragile and conflict-affected countries and their development partners from the Development Assistance Committee at the OECD.
Signed by 40 countries, including Canada, the deal sets out five peacebuilding and statebuilding goals for rescuing failed and fragile states: legitimate politics; justice; security; economic foundations; and revenues and services. These are all based on principles of country leadership rather than the dictates of the donor community.
The key distinguishing feature of the New Deal is country ownership of the policy process. This change is perhaps a reflection of donor desperation and geo-strategic realities.
Handing over some of the responsibility for decision making to the leaders of failed and fragile states may be smart politics, but is it smart development policy? Perhaps the decision reflects greater confidence in these failed and fragile states. After all, a number of them such as Sierra Leone and Liberia have managed to achieve economic and political gains over the last five years.
But for places that are still lacking in effective authority, legitimacy, and capacity, will the New Deal work as planned, or is it destined to take its place alongside other notable policy disappointments such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and the Millenium Development Goals?
Our 10-year research initiative evaluating changes in fragile states performance over time is well-suited to provide some preliminary answers to that question. For those countries mired at the bottom of the fragility spectrum, we argue there are few reasons to be optimistic about their likelihood of significant improvement in the short run.
But if a focused effective outcome is to be met, it will be important that an independent evidenced-based capability be implemented to monitor their progress over time.
There are several reasons for that conclusion. First, among the worst-performing countries in our rankings are those that have signed up for the New Deal, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Afghanistan, Burundi, and Somalia. The fact that none of these countries are on target to meet any of their MDGs by 2015 is telling. In evaluating our data over a 10-year period we have found that many of these New Deal partners are part of a group of failed and fragile states that are perpetually stuck in a fragility trap.
These are countries that show little indication of lifting themselves out of their political, economic and social malaise, are some of the biggest recipients of our aid dollars, and—despite being resource rich—in some cases have the lowest GDP-per-capita scores in the world.
Among those caught in the trap are heavily aid-dependent states. As a group, the International Network on Conflict and Fragility reports that official development assistace to fragile states was 50 billion (38 per cent) in 2010. Continue reading