State fragility – a challenge for development policy

Troops of the UN mission MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Rumangabo, D.R. Congo

More than 1.6 billion people live in countries affected by violence, conflict and an unstable political situation. Conflicts and state fragility often lead to further development challenges such as poverty, hunger and human rights violations. Even if a conflict is ended successfully, violent clashes often break out again within a matter of years. Fragile states no longer have the capacity to end the vicious circle of poverty and violence.

There is no standard international definition of state fragility. However, indicators for state fragility have been defined in the past few years in various documents, working groups, networks and international organisations and at conferences, and principles have been laid down for international engagement in fragile states.

Generally, countries are considered to be fragile if their government is unwilling or unable to provide basic public services in the areas of security, the rule of law and basic social services. Government institutions in fragile states are very weak or at risk of collapse; the people suffer under great poverty, violence, corruption and political despotism.

Moreover, fragile and conflict-affected states also pose a risk to regional and global security. Where state institutions no longer function, a legal vacuum emerges which organised crime actors and terrorist networks use for their purposes.

Annual analysis

As there is no standard international definition of state fragility, there is no internationally recognised list of fragile states. Fragility can be measured on the basis of various indicators. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) defines the group of fragile countries through an internal analysis it carries out every year.

All countries which borrow from the World Bank are evaluated by the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA). It looks at government policy and at the efficiency of the country's political institutions. The CPIA criteria are grouped into four clusters: economic management, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions. According to the World Bank's definition, all low-income countries which score 3.2 or less on this index are classed as fragile states.

Notwithstanding these countries' poor governance, the international community must not exclude these countries from all forms of cooperation but must work sensitively to improve the situation. Development policy plays a key role in this context. The major challenge arising in political dialogue and in designing cooperation programmes, however, is finding ways to enable development measures to take place in the country without legitimising or reinforcing bad governance.

Promoting good governance

In the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness adopted in 2005, donor countries pledged to assist fragile states, especially in building and reinforcing legitimate and effective state institutions, and to help them develop constructive relations between state and society.

In order to secure peace in the long term, human rights must be respected, protected and actively realised worldwide. Stable democratic institutions have to be created and conflicts have to be resolved non-violently. The principles of good governance also include an independent judiciary, basic social services, transparent public financial management, and an economic system that enables people to generate adequate incomes.

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