Fragile States

Resource Flows and Trends

image of Fragile States

By 2015, half of the world’s people living on less than USD 1.25 a day will be in fragile states. While poverty has decreased globally, progress on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 is slower in fragile states than in other developing countries. Fragile states are also off-track to meet the rest of the MDGs by 2015.

Fragile situations became a central concern of the international development and security agenda in the 1990s. Since then, powerful forces have been influencing the causes and manifestations of fragility, including the combination of democratic aspirations, new technologies, demographic shifts and climate change. The last five years have been especially tumultuous, encompassing the 2008 food, fuel and financial crisis and the Arab Spring, which began in 2011.

These events have influenced the international debate on the nature, relevance and implications of fragility. While situations of fragility clearly have common elements – including poverty, inequality and vulnerability – how can we make sense of the great diversity in their national income, endowment in natural resources or historical trajectories? How do we move towards a more substantive concept of fragility that goes beyond a primary focus on the quality of government policies and institutions to include a broader picture of the economy and society? This publication takes stock of i) the evolution of fragility as a concept, ii) analyses of financial flows to and within fragile states between 2000 and 2010, and iii) trends and issues that are likely to shape fragility in the years to come.


The changing face of fragility

Whereas most countries in fragile situations were low-income a decade ago, today almost half are middle-income. As aid is a small part of the development equation in middle-income economies, more attention is needed on how aid can leverage structural change and catalyse non-aid flows to promote development. In spite of this shift in income level, poverty remains concentrated in fragile states. It is estimated that by 2015, half of the world’s people surviving on less than 1.25 dollars a day will be found in fragile states. This is because the fight against poverty is slower in fragile states than elsewhere, and because of the high income inequality within such states. Beyond the humanitarian imperative to address global poverty where it is concentrated, fragility matters because of the risk it poses to regional and global stability. Addressing fragility as a driver of poverty and instability requires a more robust understanding of fragility, its causes and dimensions. In particular, it requires seeing fragility as a deeply political issue centred on the social contract between the state and society, and it requires greater consideration of the role of stress factors (internal or external).


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