Managing Risks in Fragile and Transitional Contexts

The Price of Success?

image of Managing Risks in Fragile and Transitional Contexts

From the anarchy of Somalia to the relative stability of Nepal, fragile and transitional situations represent a broad spectrum of contexts. However, they share some common features: these are risky environments – for the people who live there, for their governments, for neighbouring countries, and for those who seek to provide assistance. Positive outcomes are hard to achieve and the risk of regression in countries emerging from armed conflict is high.

International engagement in these situations presents significant risks for donors and implementing partners, but also holds the potential for substantial rewards in terms of improved results and outcomes. Indeed, more often than not, the risks associated with not engaging in these contexts – both for the countries themselves and for the international community – outweigh most of the risks of engaging in the first place. The question therefore is not whether to engage but how to engage in ways that are context-specific and do not come at an unacceptable cost.

This publication provides the evidence to help donors understand how to balance risks and opportunities in order to protect the integrity of their institutions while delivering better results to those who need it most.



Aid, risk and state fragility

This chapter sets the scene by outlining what is meant by risk and risk management in the context of fragile and transitional settings. A new risk framework is presented, based on three categories: contextual, programmatic and institutional risk. The authors define key terms, such as “ fragile”, “transitional”, “risk” and “risk management”. They suggest that these definitions should be adopted by all DAC donors to allow for a more integrated analysis of risk and opportunity.

The chapter also outlines the range of international principles for donor engagement, some of which are contradictory when applied to work in fragile and transitional contexts. It explores some of these dilemmas, and concludes by emphasising that short-term, ad hoc, incoherent and poorly co-ordinated national and international interventions will not be successful. Several donors are now advocating more holistic and joined up approaches to working in these settings, and their approaches are briefly described.


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