Fragile states: Adapting and enhancing commitment

Article, 25.05.2012

Approximately 1.5 billion human beings live in states which are fragile or affected by conflict. They number among the most disadvantaged populations on our planet. The complexity of the situation in which these people find themselves makes it necessary for development cooperation to modify and adapt its mode of action. If the Swiss Parliament approves the Federal Council’s Message on Switzerland’s International Cooperation 2013-2016, the SDC will be able to substantially increase the aid it provides to fragile states.

According to the definition of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), «states are fragile when state structures lack political will and/or capacity to provide the basic functions needed for poverty reduction, development, and to safeguard the security and human rights of their populations». Basing itself on several sets of criteria and sources, the OECD registered 44 fragile states in 2011, a number which has continually grown over the last 20 years. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is active in several of these states such as, for instance, Afghanistan.

In these countries, development is seriously impeded due to their institutional weakness, bad governance, and insecurity. None of them has reached even one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose objective is a significant worldwide reduction of poverty by 2015. Moreover, the fragility existing in the countries of the South also has repercussions on the countries of the North.

An integrated approach
Even though the volume of international aid delivered to fragile states has increased over recent years, the quality of such aid still remains inadequate. Cooperation today must adapt its mode of action since it is faced with challenges which do not fall within its traditional mandate. This being the case, donors adopted a New Deal at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, in December 2011. The plan seeks to enhance the importance attached to security, the fight against injustice and the creation of jobs.

The community of donors is also of the opinion that an integrated approach is more flexible and more effective. Bilateral and multilateral development cooperation, humanitarian aid, diplomacy, the military: all of these instruments have their role to play, but they are obliged to work in strict coordination with one another in order to adapt to volatile contexts.

Scaling up aid
The Message on Switzerland’s International Cooperation 2013-2016 which is to be debated in Parliament in 2012, plans to increase the aid provided to fragile or conflict-affected states from 15 to 20%. This scaled-up commitment will make it possible for the SDC to accelerate the progress being made toward reaching the MDGs.

In certain regions in which it is already active, the SDC would like to expand its operations, e.g., in West Africa. It would also like to launch new programmes in Myanmar and in the Horn of Africa. An integrated approach is in the process of being established in this region of the world.

Cover von Eine Welt

Dossier in Un seul monde
Fragile and conflict-affected states are home to the poorest populations on the planet and are seriously lagging behind in their development. The dossier in the second issue of Un seul monde in 2012 is dedicated to them. A woman who dared to defy the law of the Taliban describes the evolution taking place in Afghanistan, a state considered fragile and in which the SDC has been present for ten years. The issue also includes an interview with Manuel Bessler, Head of the SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Department.

Un seule monde
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Cover of the Evaluation

The evaluation of the performance of SDC instruments in fragile and conflict-affected contexts found that SDC is well positioned to work in fragile states. It has the right mixture of approaches, good instincts operationally, and can play an important and valuable role in the wider international system. To achieve this potential, SDC needs to become more flexible and needs to complement its technical efforts with political understanding and positioning. SDC has a range of instruments which work in fragile contexts. While the individual performance of these instruments is good, there is considerable potential for better performance, by bringing the different instruments together to address root causes of fragility and conflict.

Evaluation of the performance of SDC instruments in fragile and conflict-affected contexts
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Annexes [en]

Additional information