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 outlook for fragile states

The prospects for aid, growth and poverty reduction in fragile states are gloomy on the whole, apart from some outliers. The long trend of growth in ODA to fragile states is at serious risk given the current fiscal crunch in OECD countries. About half of fragile states are expected to see a drop in programmable aid between 2012 and 2015. This ODA fall is likely to occur at the same time as poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in fragile states. Countries of particular concern are those that: 1) are already under-aided and are likely to see a further fall in aid, such as Niger; 2) combine projections of falling aid with slow growth, such as Sudan, Chad and Kosovo; or 3) are highly dependent on aid but are likely to see aid levels fall, such as Afghanistan. Middle-income fragile states will also face specific challenges that will require continued attention. Rapid changes related to demographics, technology and climate change can generate collective action and social change or lead to “perfect storms” (crises combining many dimensions). High fertility rates and large proportions of youth will continue to drive demand for social services, jobs and political participation. The spread of technological innovation – especially mobile phones – may be one of the most consequential changes affecting fragile states in the decade ahead, providing new means of information, communication and collective action. Climate change and environmental degradation will affect fragile states more directly and severely than other countries.


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