By Ricardo SantosRGS_photo

In my first blog post in this topic I quoted the G7+ group of countries’ main goal: “to stop conflict, build nations and eradicate poverty through innovative development strategies, harmonized to the country context, aligned to the national agenda and led by the State and its People.” In its presentation document, they also state that the group “was formed to work in concert with international actors, the private sector, civil society, the media and the people across countries, borders and regions to reform and reinvent a new paradigm for international engagement.

Such an inclusive agenda suggests an openness to engage in constructive forums, both internally and internationally. In a future blog post I will look into the processes of internal dialogue. This one will focus, however, in the international coalitions that are taking shape around “fragility” and how the G7+ fits into these. It will then look into the several fragility assessments and look into the international partners being called to participate. As in the other blogs, a focus in Timor-Leste will allow us to had an extra layer of analysis, looking at what international development partners were called to be part of the fragility assessment exercise and those that do not appear in the roster.

An incursion such as this has to start with the question?: “What is a fragile country?” and “Which are the fragile countries?”. I looked into the lists of the two main development aid donors, if we are to consider the amounts of aid committed: the OECD-DAC countries and the biggest multilateral donor, the World Bank. However, before that, one can look into the definitions of fragility. In its latest report on Fragile States, the OECD-DAC state that what defines a fragile state or province is that it lacks “the ability to develop mutually constructive relations with society and often have a weak capacity to carry out basic governance functions.” (OECD-DAC 2013:11). In the World Bank websites we may not find a definite definition of a Fragile State but in a publication on fragile and conflict affected situations we find that “[v]iolence and conflict are driven by a range of political, economic and security related factors. The vulnerability of countries to violence and conflict (…) is often associated with the absence of capable and legitimate institutions that can address and manage those stresses, whether they are internal or external in nature.” The undertone is in the weakness of governing institutions, or states, to either meet their “basic governance functions” or “manage” political, economic or security related stresses. By looking into the Timorese Fragility Assessment I described in a previous blog post some economic and social preconditions of a “exit from fragility” path may be missing from these definitions. The OECD-DAC definition seems to open some space for the role of the state in enabling these preconditions to be considered. Nevertheless, there’s not much difference between the definitions and also not much from the lists.

The OECD-DAC lists the following countries as fragile: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chad, Comoros, Rep. Congo, Dem. Rep. Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Kiribati, Dem. Rep. Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Fed. States of Micronesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, West Bank and Gaza, Yemen and Zimbabwe. The World Bank is slightly smaller, with 37 countries, discards Cambodia, Georgia, the Dem. Rep Korea, the Kyrgyz Republic, Rwanda and Sri Lanka and adds Libya, Madagascar and Mali to the group. We can find all the 18 G7+ countries in either lists, safe from Papua New Guinea, a country of much concern to the Australian Aid (and International Relations) effort. However, considering that the G7+ group is seeking also to change aid practices towards countries classified as “fragile”, it is important to notice that half of these are still not part of the peer learning exercise they are sponsoring.

It is also important to understand with which other countries is the G7+ partnering and establishing a dialogue. Critically, other than 15 out of the 18 G7+ countries and multilateral agencies and institutions such as the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Union, OECD, United Nations Development Group (UNDG), World Bank, the only countries endorsing the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States are members of the OECD-DAC. This is a telling fact. If the G7+, seeking to represent the “Fragile Countries” are trying to change an “Aid culture” and the practices of donors, it is interesting to notice that none of the BRICS bought in into their manifesto and roadmap. One might presume that this self-exclusion comes from their strategic stance of not joining with the said “traditional donors”. However, both Russia and China adhered to the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action[1], and Brazil’s adherence is to be confirmed. In that sense, if there’s still no clear move towards having the BRICS joining the OECD-DAC, there seems to be a common adherence in principles.

That doesn’t mean that BRICS countries are not actively involved in the changes needed in the structures and processes of aid, or, better yet, of cooperation towards development. This more active role is being the object of research of the Rising Power in Development Programme at IDS. They are also active in the debates towards an International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, also being followed by IDS in its Development Frontiers in an Insecure World research project. Notably this seems to be a space conquered by the G7+ group. Among the 18 “fragile countries” participating in this dialogue, only Ethiopia and Nepal are not members of the group. Notably, however, none of these countries have a seat in the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Noticeably, also, among the remaining participants in the international dialogue, only Brazil, China and Chile are not OECD-DAC members. Even if this, notably OECD hosted initiative, is a slightly more open space and the presence of Brazil and China is strongly welcomed, one cannot stop wishing that more voices are brought to the dialogue.

A look into the Fragility Assessment exercises is also informative. As the G7+ introduction publication denotes, the G7+ group is piloting assessments in 6 countries: Afghanistan with the partnership of Denmark, Netherlands and United Kingdom, Central African Republic with the partnership of the European Union, Liberia with the partnership of Sweden and United States, South Sudan with the partnership of Denmark, Netherlands and United Kingdom and Timor-Leste with Australia as partner. Again, the partnership of the G7+ with OECD-DAC is clear. There is, however, a significant scope for inclusion in the dialogue.

An analysis of the international stakeholders in the Timorese Fragility Assessment suggests further space for improvements. The exercise involved the bilateral agencies of Germany (one participant), New Zealand (2), Australia (6 participants, from AusAid, Australian Federal Police and Australian Military) and Japan (2). It also involved several multilateral donors (FAO, World Bank, ADB, UNICEF, UNMIT and UNDP). Notably, a few relevant international development partners were not involved in the exercise: among the OECD-DAC, the United States (2nd major donor, according to OECD-DAC statistics, after Australia), Portugal (3rd), the European Union (5th), Korea, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Canada and Finland. Among other international partners, China and Brazil have been strong allies of Timor-Leste since its independence, with increasing ties. If the G7+ seeks a process of dialogue between all actors engaged in the development of each member country, the process must be as inclusive as possible. In a next blog post on this theme, I will discuss another reason why I would advocate a full involvement of all donors: the TRUST guidelines of donor engagement are, following the New Deal, key factors of success in the exit path out of fragility. That can only be possible with the involvement of all donors.

In a brief summary, it is clear that the creation of theG7+ group and their New Deal bring new voices into the aid effectiveness dialogue. As an instrument to gear into the debate the experience of “fragile countries”, especially given its proclaimed ethos, there are already signs of a relative success. However, there are also clear signs of improvement opportunities. The G7+ can, and maybe should, seek to involve the other half of countries under the “aid geared to fragile states” model of the World Bank and OECD-DAC. The International Dialogue also opens the opportunity of bringing into reflection the new aid narratives proposed by the BRICS countries, particularly those of China and Brazil. Looking at Timor and, considering that all other fragility assessments have been supported by a group of countries, why not bring Brazil, for instance, as a partner in the Timorese exercise? Finally, as part of the peer learning process, now that some of the pilots are producing first results, why not have another G7+ country as a partner, much in the spirit of the OECD-DAC peer review exercises? The scope of opportunities to improve is still quite open.

[1] Full list here.