The Role of the New Deal in Supporting Countries Transition out of Fragility: A G7+ Perspective

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    The New Deal was born against a background of ineffective responses in the form of development intervention to countries affected by conflict and fragility. Responses varied from military interventions to softer tools of diplomacy and development programmes, often delivered in an incoherent fashion. The recipient countries have rarely been on the deciding seats of these, whereas experience has shown that the peacebuilding and statebuilding is primarily an endogenous process and has to be led by the country itself.

    A legacy of faltering responses to fragility 

    Conflict and crisis drive and trap the country in the state of fragility of institutions, which further complicates the vicious circle of poverty. All components are intrinsically linked to each other and to kill the cycle they each need to be addressed in a holistic mechanism. Traditionally practiced quick fixes to building a strong foundation have not been successful. Sustainability of the intervention and the outcome thereof has to be ensured, which in the context of fragility, requires helping build durable, sound, and context-specific solutions. These should serve as a fertile ground for resilience, and thus support a country on its pathway out of fragility. This, in practice, would mean supporting building and nurturing of the state institutions, in order to help them be more responsive and effective to address the needs of the people. However, there is no one single and scientifically proved approach workable universally. This means that we need to challenge and change the decade-long established approach based on common assumptions.

    External support can help catalyse change. The care with which development interventions are formulated for fragile states can be the difference between enabling and maintaining a peaceful society served by effective state institutions or bringing internal tensions to a boil resulting in furthering the gap between the state and societies. However, the multilateral system of development cooperation is composed of actors with varied and diverse priorities, beliefs and mindsets. The increasing number of inter-relating actors serving in a multi-dimensional approach leads to further fragmentation, duplication and lack of coherence. This severely hampered progress in fragile states and increased the need for a stronger unity of views on the ways and approaches for development intervention. There was, in short, an urgent need for a unified, but adaptable-to-context’ approach and framework of development intervention in fragile and conflict-affected states.

    The New Deal – how can it help the transition from fragility to resilience?

    With the New Deal, we have, for the first time ever, a unified, agreed and context-adaptable framework. This allows for increased opportunities for a multitude of actors to align behind one vision articulated through inclusive consultation and led by the country in need, which - in turn - improves the chances for resilience. It allows for a clearer division of labour between development partners, and thus for a stronger harmonisation and coherence in effort. Most importantly perhaps, the notions of trust, confidence, partnership and mutual accountability are central, which changes the relationship between country and development partners from a donor-recipient one into a (developing) partnership. Endorsed by more than 45 countries and development partners, the New Deal  has started to shift the line of thinking for development intervention in countries in fragile situations.

    The New Deal for engagement in fragile states

    Seeing unsatisfactory results in fragile states, a self-selected group of fragile countries (g7+) came together to discuss the parameters for a new approach to engage with fragile states. These discussions were held under the umbrella of the International Dialogue for Peace Building and Statebuilding, an international forum between fragile and conflict affected countries, their international partners and civil society, established in Accra in 2008. This culminated in a ‘New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States’, presented and endorsed as part of the at the 2011 High Level Forum for Aid Effectiveness in Busan.

    The New Deal aims at fundamentally shifting the engagement in fragile states, through inclusive country-led and country-owned transitions out of fragility, based on a joint understanding of the specific drivers and conflict and fragility.

    Three components make up the New Deal:

    1. The Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSG’s) are intended to define and measure progress in peacebuilding, and include Legitimate Politics, Justice Economic Foundations, and Revenues and Services.
    2. The FOCUS principles aim to clarify the process a country and its development partners undertake, and comprise of a fragility assessment; One Vision, one plan; a Compact; using the PSG’s to monitor; and Support to political dialogue leadership.
    3. The TRUST principles aimed to hold development partners accountable in order to create mutual trust, through risk-sharing; the use and strengthening of country system and capacities and timely and predictable aid.

    The New Deal is currently being implemented in seven countries, and others are following (Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Somalia, Comoros, Central African Republic and Guinea Bissau are in the planning phase).

    Today, the g7+ has a membership of 20 countries. The International Dialogue continues to facilitate discussions between the g7+ countries, donors, and civil society on the implementation and progress of the New Deal. A New Deal implementation monitoring exercise was recently concluded and an independent review will be conducted before the end of 2015, when the formal pilot phase of the New Deal ends. 

    The New Deal has affected the understanding of the fragility and remedies thereto. First it recognises, or rather has as its basis, the interdependence of peace and development. Effective, inclusive and transparent institutions are at its core, and all are guided by the pivotal importance of helping improve state-society relations. Secondly, by recognising that the service delivery is the responsibility and function of the state institutions, it centres the role of development intervention on enabling the state institutions meet their obligation. Thus the New Deal tends to avoid that development partners assume a parallel estbalishment to the state institutions.  Further, it outlines a vision of the transition out of fragility that is not a one-step process; it acknowledges that it is a long-term process, with a number of different phases a country will have to travel through, one step at the time. 

    The Fragility Spectrum in particular serves an important function, as it lays out – for each country – what its different stages from crisis to resilience look like, and what transition steps are necessary to move out of fragility. Although many aspects of this fragility spectrum are highly context specific, many others are shared. This provides a good – and growing - basis of understanding of what the key elements of a transition from fragility and resilience are. As such, it provides a middle ground between ‘one-size-fits-all-solutions’ and ‘every context is fully different’, and it is exactly this middle ground that has been missing in peacebuilding and statebuilding practice.

    How can the full potential of the New Deal be fulfilled?

    The New Deal calls for transformative shifts in policies and strategies, it calls for a break from business-as-usual, both on the side of development partners as on the side of g7+ governments, and even on that of civil society. Such transformative shifts require deep political support and buy-in. Without this fundamental commitment to breaking away from business-as-usual, the step-change that is necessary will not come forth. Incentive structures within development partner agencies based on the tendency for quick results, and the domestic pressures they face, reduce their ability to fundamentally change the way they do business. The recent New Deal Monitoring report shows a mixed picture, where we can see both the more politically sensitive issues lagging behind in implementation (e.g. measuring progress on the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals - PSGs, changing ways to deal with risk), as well as those that require a fundamenal shift in incentives (e.g. making use of country systems strengthening capacities).

    It is thus necessary to sustain and deepen the commitment to the New Deal principles. To be clear, this does not necessarily mean a rigid implementation of the process steps of the New Deal; the New Deal was never intended to be a 10-step guide to peacebuilding and statebuilding. It means taking the vision, the values and principles of the New Deal seriously, and making all necessary efforts to make this vision a reality. The New Deal is inherently a political process, and it should not be reduced to a technical exercise. Buy-in must broaden at the level of the development partners (where it should expand beyond development agencies), as well as at the level of g7+ governments (where it should expand beyond the New Deal focal ministries ).

    The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding has helped in providing space to the members (development partners, g7+ governments, and civil society) to speak about those challenges in a frank and honest manner and pave the way to the reforms needed to be instilled. Yet, in order to widen the sphere of discussion to broader constituencies, we will need to elevate the image and profile of the dialogue, ensure it is supported by strong technical policy infrastructure, but also has a heightened political profile. 

    This was never as relevant as it is today where we are embarking upon a new phase of negotiations on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. The PSGs were developed in response to the acknowledgement that conflict-affected and fragile states lagged far behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The sustainability of the impact of the benchmarks of MDGs achieved with the help of influx of development aid is a question mark. A new development framework will need to take this history into account, and incorporate a goal on peaceful societies and effective institutions as these are fundamental if we are serious about empowering these countries to fight poverty and fragility. Knowing the degree to which these new Sustainable Development Goals will influence the policy agenda in the years to come, the inclusion of this goal is of the highest importance to the g7+. Without this goal it is hard to see how the vision of the New Deal can become reality.

    The importance of the post-2015 agenda for fragile states

    The post-2015 agenda has also been an opportunity for the g7+ to profile itself more prominently in the inter-governmental, diplomatic domain. Our Special Envoy, then-chair of the g7+, H.E. Minister Pires, was a member of the High Level Panel formed by the UN Secretary General to advise on the post 2015 agenda. The g7+, in collaboration with other International Dialogue members, have actively advocated for the inclusion of peacebuilding and statebuilding in the post 2015 agenda during and in between the UN General Assembly meetings every year since 2012. The most recent example is the g7+ High Level Side event held on the 22nd September in New York, which has again shown how the collective voice of conflict-affected countries in fragile situations can go far.

    Yet, an agreement on the inclusion of a goal on peaceful societies and effective institutions is only the beginning. The way targets will be set and progress will be monitored will be the real testing ground for this new framework. Maintaining a balance between global goals and locally identified and applicable targets will be a challenge to come. The New Deal, and in particular the Fragility Spectrum, can assist in the elaboration of mechanisms for implementation and monitoring. The New Deal thus does not only provide evidence on the relevance of peace and effective institutions in the post 2015 agenda, but will also facilitate the aftermath discussion on the nitty-gritty of the post 2015 framework such as the indicators and benchmarks.  

    Sustaining the effort

    For the g7+, these issues are not academic; they are a matter of life and death. The g7+ is deeply committed to supporting its member states in their transition out of fragility and is grateful for the members of the International Dialogue on Peacebuidling and Statebuilding and other key constituencies who are equally committed to the cause. But the road is still long, and will be bumpy.

    The outbreak of violence and conflicts in Central African Republic and South Sudan – as well as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa - is an alarm bell for the regional and global actors to take all measures to help prevent the countries falling back into crisis. It should strengthen the resolve to address the root causes of fragility in these countries, and to help them break out the vicious circle they find themselves in. In times of crisis, good principles and commitments tend to be marginalised in favour of immediate crisis response. Yet, it is especially in times of crisis when sustained attention to the underlying weaknesses is warranted.

    The road out of fragility is long, and setbacks along the way can be expected. But only with sustained attention – based on the values, principles and commitments of the New Deal – can countries break out of the traps they are in to the benefit of their citizens and the world at large.

    Habib Ur Rehman Mayar is a Senior Policy Specialist at g7+.


    This article was published in GREAT insights Volume 4, Issue 1 (December 2014/January 2015).

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