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State fragility

German and international activities in fragile states

View through a bullet hole to the northern part of Mogadishu, Somalia, where African Union troops fought the Al-Shabab militia

Since 2001, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been defining the group of fragile, conflict-affected and violence-affected countries based on an annual assessment through a crisis early warning system. In 2018, 65 of 94 countries evaluated were accorded the status "fragile". 25 countries were deemed to have a "high potential for escalation" and 40, an "acute potential for escalation" (the most serious category).

These figures highlight the importance of taking preventive action and focusing development cooperation programmes systematically on peacebuilding. As a matter of principle, Germany aligns its activities in this field with the efforts of the international community. At the international level, Germany is closely involved in the drafting of strategies on engagement in fragile states, for instance within the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Interministerial guidelines

Peacebuilding requires a whole-of-government policy approach within Germany, too. The German government laid this down for the first time in its 2004 Action Plan 'Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Peace-Building'. In June 2017, it adopted new guidelines entitled 'Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace'. This document replaces and continues the 2004 Action Plan and the 2012 document 'For a coherent German Government policy towards fragile states – Interministerial Guidelines'. The interministerial bodies that were set up in previous years continue to operate. They include a number of task forces – country-specific working groups that are formed to bring together expertise from different ministries when a crisis occurs and to enable the German government to respond quickly to new developments.

The lead agency for the drafting of the new guidelines was the Federal Foreign Office, but the BMZ was closely involved in the process.


Case-by-case selection of partners and instruments

A child in front of a UN vehicle in Kivu in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fields of action, potential partners and instruments for development cooperation have to be chosen for each country on a case-by-case basis. Special attention must be given to the local context and local tradition and culture. That is why local organisations and decision-makers are always taken on board in reform processes. After all, it is the people themselves who should take decisions and assume responsibility.

If a government is not willing to engage in dialogue, German support often has to be limited to humanitarian aid, for instance food aid through international aid agencies. But if a government is ready to pursue reforms, Germany can implement statebuilding projects. This includes programmes which boost democratic public participation, teach non-violent conflict management strategies, help to establish transparent and efficient public administrations, and strengthen civilian control of the security sector.

The Civil Peace Service (CPS) is a key instrument for German peace policy when Germany works together with fragile states. One focus of German peace experts is cooperation with local civil society. The more unstable the starting conditions, the greater the flexibility with which Germany must deploy its development policy instruments and cooperate outside state structures – with grassroots non-governmental organisations and faith-based aid agencies, for example.


Strategy development within the EU

The European Union regards state failure as a key threat to its member countries. In its 2003 European Security Strategy entitled 'A Secure Europe in a Better World', it emphasised: "Spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order."

State fragility was also the focus of the first European Development Report, 'Fragility in Africa – Forging a New European Approach'. It was presented at the European Development Days in 2009. The report considered state fragility as a major risk not only for the people affected on the ground but also for neighbouring regions and, thus, for all of Africa and for Europe.

In 2017, the European Union and its member states signed a new European Consensus on Development entitled 'Our world, our dignity, our future'. In the document, they agreed to place an even stronger focus in future on supporting sustainable development in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Through joint programming based on joint conflict analysis, they want to combine their expertise and their financial resources. This is hoped to enhance the effectiveness of the EU's development cooperation with fragile states.


OECD Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States

In 2005, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD drafted ten principles for good international engagement in fragile states. Following a pilot phase, the Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations were adopted in April 2007 and have since provided important guidance to the international community. These are the ten principles:

  • Take context as the starting point
  • Do no harm
  • Focus on statebuilding as the central objective
  • Prioritise prevention
  • Recognise the links between political, security and development objectives
  • Promote non-discrimination as a basis for inclusive and stable societies
  • Align with local priorities in different ways in different contexts
  • Agree on practical coordination mechanisms between international actors
  • Act fast ... but stay engaged long enough to give success a chance
  • Avoid pockets of exclusion

Based on these Principles, the BMZ is active in the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF). It has co-chaired the Network together with the UK since January 2018. The Network coordinates the DAC's work in this field and draws up recommendations for international engagement in fragile states.


New Deal between donors and fragile states

Another international forum in which the BMZ is taking part is the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. This group, too, is hosted by the DAC and brings together donor and conflict countries. Within this framework, the document 'New Deal on International Engagement in Fragile States' was drafted at the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, in 2011. The document contains international goals, recommendations and commitments on strengthening governmental and civil society institutions and engaging in peacebuilding in conflict situations.

In 2014, the Secretariat of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding published its first monitoring report on the New Deal. It looked at ways in which the New Deal partners have changed the way they conduct their work in fragile and conflict-affected states. The monitoring exercise found that the picture was mixed. While some progress had been made, there had not yet been a fundamental shift in actors' patterns of thinking and behaviour.


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