One year into the Decade of Action, the 2030 Agenda is at a critical juncture. Progress on Sustainable Development Goals in fragile contexts had been slowing down until 2019. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) even that progress has stalled or is in reverse. While the full scale of the pandemic-related impact is only now unfolding, States of Fragility 2020 demonstrates the need for urgent, context-specific and collective responses to help those most in need and ensure that no one is left behind. Addressing fragility in the 57 contexts classified as fragile in the 2020 edition of the OECD fragility framework means tackling the fundamental issues that affect people’s lives: poverty, inequality, poor governance, violence, food insecurity, access to basic services, and peoples’ ability to individually and collectively raise their voices to claim their rights.

Fragility is a global problem that disproportionately affects those who are least able to cope with it. The systemic shocks of climate change, global pandemics, conflicts and economic crises are most acutely felt in fragile contexts. In 2020, fragile contexts were home to 23% of the world’s population and 76.5% of those living in extreme poverty globally. Prior to COVID-19, only 8 of the 48 fragile contexts for which data are available were on track to meet the first Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty. Violence, armed conflict and forced displacement are concentrated in fragile contexts. In 2019, 22 of the 31 contexts in active, state-based conflict were fragile, representing 65% of the population of fragile contexts. And other manifestations of misery are concentrated in fragile contexts. While 18.4 of the 26 million total refugees in 2019 originated from fragile contexts, approximately half are living in contexts that are themselves fragile, with seven of the top ten refugee-hosting developing contexts being fragile.

This report shows that fragility is a multidimensional issue that transcends borders and connects to all levels of the global system from the international to the subnational. As countries and communities respond to its impact, COVID-19 has again highlighted the fundamental importance of long-term investment in building resilient societies and sustaining responses to issues of fragility. Over the last twenty years, fragile contexts have increased their links with the global economy, bringing both opportunities for development and risks that need to be managed – such as the current fall in foreign direct investment, remittances, and tax revenues. Putting public financing on a sustainable footing is challenging but necessary, with fragile contexts carrying significant debt burdens. And while financing matters, it does not matter in isolation. Where, how and to whom resources flow – along with the quality of human capital and governance needed to make the most of them – can impact significantly on access to opportunities, incentives to stability or conflict, and resilience to shocks.

In the face of a global fiscal shock, members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) have pledged to strive to protect ODA. Development co-operation can do more, and ODA can work harder, particularly for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The system of actors and approaches to fragility is complex, fragmentary and still poorly understood. Yet addressing fragility is vital for peace. Unattended, issues of fragility cause grievance, disagreement and violence. Sound analysis is needed that identifies the root causes of fragility and violence and capitalises on the potential of all actors across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Such analysis can help build complementary and coherent approaches for peacebuilding and conflict prevention in fragile contexts.

People living in fragile contexts are falling further behind. Fragility must remain a focus for DAC members coherent responses to development and peace. The OECD will provide the policy-relevant data and analysis to assist actors across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus to strengthen their efforts to prevent conflict, support peace, and sustain development. It is evident that COVID-19 has exacerbated existing risks and root causes to multidimensional fragility. As the world slowly arrives to a new normal, the women, children, and men most exposed to these risks in fragile contexts must be at the centre of inclusive, sustainable, and equitable efforts to build back better.


Jorge Moreira da Silva


Development Co-operation Directorate

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