Nice to see some upbeat–but-expert thinking on fragile states, which are all well on their way to becoming the biggestheadache/impossible problem in development. By the way, has anyone realized that the acronym for Fragile and Conflict Affected States is …… FRACAS? If not, remember you read it here first……
Anyway, back to the optimism. This is from a new paper by Laurence Chandy of the Brookings Institution, Ten Years of Fragile States: What Have We Learned?
Chandy reflects on what has changed since the World Bank established a taskforce to examine how to deal with what were then called LICUS (Low-Income Countries Under Stress). They don’t call them that any more, not least because many of them (Pakistan, Yemen) are middle income. But this group of countries suffers from name changes and constantly evolving typologies more than any other. (Another aside, DFID at one point created a ‘poor performers’ team, and then wondered why no-one wanted to work for it…..). That matters because it affects aid flows, which are twice as volatile for FRACAS as aid flows to stable countries.
And here’s his optimistic conclusions:
“Today, there is mounting evidence that aid to fragile states can work. Furthermore, with less than a dozen stable low-income countries left, donors no longer have the same excuse for overlooking the needs of the 30 or more fragile states. These needs loom ever larger. Over just the past six years, the share of the world’s poor living in fragile states is estimated to have doubled from 20 to 40 percent. No fragile state has yet achieved a single Millennium Development Goal.
Nevertheless, donors still face a difficult decision in determining whether to aid fragile states, and if so, by how much. Achieving results in these settings almost certainly requires greater expertise and time, which translate into higher cost and risk. A successful start to the second decade of fragile states policy would see donors redesign their resource allocation models to capture this reality. New models should:
• Recognize that fragility does not end with graduation to middle-income status. Where donors make special allocations to low-income fragile states compared to low-income stable countries, an equivalent policy should be employed to distinguish allocations between fragile and stable middle-income countries.
• Allow for more stable financing to fragile states. Donors should avoid trying to pin a trajectory on each partner country and instead concentrate on mitigating the instability inherent to fragile states by providing stable aid flows, supported by improved approaches to risk management. Aid commitments should be embedded in country compacts, which can serve as a useful tool for stabilizing flows.
• Reassess the cost-effectiveness of aiding fragile states. There is an enormous potential for aid to help fragile states if it is properly designed and managed. This potential needs to be weighed up against an accurate sense of the costs of aid delivery. The effectiveness of aid flows to fragile states could be enhanced further by establishing a more systematic approach to documenting and learning from development interventions. This effort should be carried out under the supervision of the g7+ and focus on interventions with significant scope and scale.”
The g7+, by the way, is a group of 19 FRACAS that has organized itself to lobby for improved aid – a big improvement on donors and others speaking for such states in their absence. Check out its website, which houses this slightly weird 3 minute youtube pitch to the recent Busan aid conference. And here’s the Broker’s scorecard of how Busan performed on FRACAS – not great, it seems.