Will it be a ‘New Deal’ or a ‘Raw Deal’ for FCAS?

By guest-blogger Julia Sanchez, President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, the national platform for Canadian civil society organizations working on international development.

Based purely on need, enhancing our focus (and resources) on fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) is not a hard case to make.

As the World Development Report 2011 reminded us, of the world’s 7.1 billion people, just over one fifth or 1.5 billion people live in areas affected by conflict, fragility and violence. No low-income FCAS is expected to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, when the MDGs expire. Clearly, a shift to FCAS is timely and essential. And the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States represents an opportunity for doing that, given the degree of ownership it has by the G7+, a new grouping of fragile and conflict-affected states.

But to have a positive impact, FCAS need both a New Deal and a better deal. As BetterAid and Interpeace, a global platform working to improve the impact of aid on development, noted at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan, this means providing key resources through modalities that are conflict sensitive, or at least do no harm. Such resources must help support responsive institutions that address the causes of conflict, build local capacities for peace, and address people’s needs and concerns in security and development.

[To] be a game changer, the New Deal can’t just be a back-room deal between donors and fragile states, and their respective governments. It needs to engage the respective societies, citizens and CSOs of these states.

The New Deal also risks becoming a raw deal in the absence of a substantial scaling up of resources. Since 2008, global funding to 15 of the G7+ countries – if you exclude Haiti and Afghanistan – has hovered around $5 billion. It is also concentrated in very few countries. (Canadian aid to FCAS fits a similar pattern.) The DAC’s 2013 data on conflict and fragility notes that half of the aid to 47 countries the OECD identifies as fragile goes to just seven recipients. These countries all represent high risks to donors in an age where failure is not tolerated.

While engaging in FCAS clearly presents monumental challenges, change is not impossible. Look at what has happened in South Korea, Argentina and Chile, the former Yugoslavia, Mozambique, and to some extent Colombia and Rwanda. None are perfect situations, but many of these countries have emerged from situations of extreme violence, to generate open, economically vibrant and relatively inclusive societies.

But, as we all know, this transformation has not happened overnight. It has taken several decades for many of these countries to get to where they are. These are long term investments and long term transformations, in an age of donor risk aversion and impatience. To marry a short-term results agenda with a “generation long endeavour” will require donors to manage (their and the public’s) expectations, to demonstrate and celebrate small results and incremental progress where it occurs, and to support sustained engagement in fragile states.

To be successful, the international community is also going to have to identify synergies between a number of different agendas. 2015 is a big year that will witness a new post-MDG framework, Beijing +20 discussions, ongoing climate debates, a renewed Hyogo framework for disaster risk reduction and ongoing progress on the New Deal. Given limited political appetite and energy, finding some convergence between all of these frameworks will be essential. And it is not impossible that peace-building and state-building goals could be among the key ingredients to long term social and economic stability and change for a growing number of the world’s population.

Finally, to be a game changer, the New Deal can’t just be a back-room deal between donors and fragile states, and their respective governments. It needs to engage the respective societies, citizens and CSOs of these states. As InterPeace has noted, these actors need to define, monitor and deliver aid, and demand better governance and service from their governments. In fact, as The North-South Institute has noted, CSO engagement in the New Deal could be the real value- added of the agreement. Our own experience through the last High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, where civil society even had a Sherpa for the negotiations of the final outcome document, was truly transformative. It is a model of inclusion that we – as members of the Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness – hope to bring to the post-2015 context and the New Deal.

Opportunities bring with them possibilities; and challenges, potential failures. But as the OECD has noted, “the risks of failing to engage in these contexts outweigh most of the risks of engagement”.

Will Canada heed this advice? It can’t afford not to.

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This blog post is part of an online discussion on “Development in Fragile States? Lessons and Options for Canada” building on a symposium held at the University of Ottawa on February 8, 2013. Bringing together academics, Canadian government representatives and non-government experts, the conference and this blog series aim to create space for constructive, evidence-based policy dialogue on the development dimensions of Canadian engagement in fragile and conflict affected states.

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