Executive summary

States of Fragility 2018 demonstrates the need to invest in more ambitious results. The report is published at a time when the collective ambitions of Agenda 2030 – a call to action for people, planet, prosperity and peace – are three years into delivery. Yet delivery of results is already in jeopardy. The 58 contexts classified as fragile in the OECD’s 2018 fragility framework are stark reminders that fragility, in all its multiple manifestations, has the potential to spoil the realisation of this collective ambition, and leave people living in these places far behind.

The report is organised in ten chapters that are intended to shed light on data and analysis that will be useful to policy makers as well as practitioners as they consider their engagements in fragile contexts. The first part of the report focuses on the state of fragility in the world today, starting with appraisals of 12 key trends that demonstrate fragility’s complexity and breadth. It then looks at how fragile contexts are faring in their progress towards sustainable development. The second part of the report examines the various sources of financing that exist to address fragility. The third and final part of the report brings this information together to assess whether current financing and programming approaches are well aligned to the unique needs of fragile contexts.

Overall, the intention of this report, then, is to provide the evidence needed to inspire a correspondingly ambitious and proactive response that will deliver better results in fragile contexts. The key messages therefore aim to ensure that our collective ambition – that of governments in fragile contexts, regional organisations, bilateral and multilateral actors, civil society, and the private sector – is broad enough to overcome fragility. This is in recognition that fragility is one of the most profound challenges of the 21st century.

Key messages

Ambition: We must recognise fragility if we want a better world

The increasingly interlinked nature of today’s world means that suffering is no longer confined by national borders. Most of the distressing developments dominating headlines everywhere – conflict, terrorism, homicides, the threat of pandemics, forced displacement, disasters, famine and more – have fragility at their core. Poverty, too, is increasingly concentrated in fragile contexts. By 2030, more than 80% of the world’s poorest could be living in these places unless more concerted action is taken now. These perils exact unacceptable levels of human suffering. They are incompatible with the vision for a better world embodied in Agenda 2030.

Ambition: We will accept complexity and address all dimensions of fragility

Fragility is not simple. The OECD’s multidimensional framework attempts to capture fragility’s intrinsic complexity while still providing useful guidance. Nevertheless, addressing fragility will require greater acceptance of this complexity through tailoring differentiated approaches to fragile contexts and working across the full spectrum of issues, some of which are inherently difficult and sensitive.

Ambition: We will invest in more and smarter aid in fragile contexts

Official development assistance (ODA) matters immensely in fragile contexts. Aid is the only financial flow that directly invests in the foundations for peaceful and stable societies, an investment that invites more inclusive growth and sustainable development. Aid will remain critical, as it will take many years for most fragile contexts to have a diversity of financing options at their disposal, including from private sector. When part of a larger financing strategy, aid can also incentivise and constructively reward progress and results that promote stability.

Ambition: We will step up our efforts on prevention, peace and security

After a high point in 2010, financial commitments to conflict prevention and peacebuilding have levelled off and have yet to regain popularity. In fact, in 2016, only 2% of total ODA to fragile contexts went to conflict prevention. Only 10% went to peacebuilding. The international community must now demonstrate that its financial commitments to the prevention and sustaining peace agendas match its rhetoric. If the legitimacy and sincerity of these agendas is to be protected, they must be given the chance to succeed.

Ambition: We will invest in the data to better understand, anticipate and respond to multiple states of fragility

Knowledge and understanding of fragility have grown impressively in the past decade, but the data have not kept up. Gaps persist in our ability to capture subnational and regional dynamics and the pace of change within societies. Moreover, it is difficult to gather information about informal systems such as networks, institutions, processes and economies. There is growing recognition that people’s perceptions matter to overall fragility and yet this type of data is hard to collect and to integrate into programming. Additionally, without greater investment in data, accurate measurement of progress − or lack of progress − towards achieving the SDGs in fragile contexts will be elusive.

Ambition: We will support the capacity of governments to deliver inclusive solutions to their own states of fragility

Governments in fragile contexts must chart their own exit strategies from fragility. To enable them to do so, donors should invest in targeted technical assistance as well as strengthen capacity for domestic resource mobilisation, budget execution, decentralisation, and small and medium-enterprise development. Partner governments should also invest in developing peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies. Mutual accountability frameworks can ensure that all actors are working towards coherent results on nationally defined priorities and that everyone is living up to their commitments.

Ambition: We will never lose sight of the end goal of delivering hope and better lives for all people in fragile contexts

There has been a deficit of development to deliver hope to people living in fragile contexts. Successful results must be about more than just keeping people alive during crises or ticking boxes on an evaluation form to say a certain activity was delivered. Success must be about demonstrably supporting people in building a better future for themselves and their families and about honouring people’s hope for a future that can accommodate their dreams and aspirations. Delivering better lives is central to the values of aid, sustainable development and sustaining peace. This ambition must guide all engagements in fragile contexts in order for transformational change to occur.

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