On May 20th the House passed the Global Fragility Act. As the Senate moves the bill through the legislative process, we’ve collected some questions about the bill, what it does, and the impact it will have on the fight to end extreme poverty. Below we provide answers to those questions. Let us know in the comments if you have other questions about the Global Fragility Act!
1. What does fragility have to do with ending extreme poverty?
ONE is still fighting for what it always has: ending extreme poverty. But poverty is increasingly becoming concentrated in fragile states. By 2030, upwards of 620 million people (80% of the world’s poorest people), could be living in fragile contexts. Historically, the U.S. government has concentrated on providing development assistance to relatively well-governed poor countries. But fewer and fewer of those living in extreme poverty are located in relatively-well governed poor countries. State fragility reinforces poverty, which in turn reinforces and deepens fragility. It is a devastating cycle.
Many countries struggling with fragility are poor themselves. And yet, people living there have the same expectations of their governments as we do of ours: access to education, healthcare facilities, security, etc. Fragile states lack the capabilities (and sometimes the desire) to extend policies and services to the last mile, and the gap between expectations and reality can be vast. This is why we need a new approach that does a better job of delivering development assistance to people living in the hard to reach places. If we are serious about ending extreme poverty, we have to learn how to work in these more difficult contexts
2. Is this an anti-terrorism bill?
No, this bill would not provide support for any counter-terrorism activities. This bill does give the United States government more flexibility to respond to the root causes of fragility by addressing the conditions that drive people to radicalization and violent extremism, such as exclusionary and discriminatory policies, lack of access to services, and poor governance. However, not all fragile states face threats from violent extremism, and in those contexts, the bill would not require including preventing and countering violent extremist activities.
3. Would this approach have worked in Iraq or Afghanistan?
It is hard to know if this type of approach would have worked in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, we do believe that the approach of this bill would elevate the position of development in relation to security and diplomacy – which, looking back, seems like a weakness in the United States’ engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. That engagement had security and defence at the forefront, directing development programs.
This bill will allow development professionals to come in at the beginning of the process and help design the assistance programs. In addition, this bill would increase transparency and accountability around U.S. foreign assistance in fragile states by requiring regular reporting to Congress on progress. This will give Congress and the public an opportunity to ensure there is a proper balance between development, diplomacy, and security activities in fragile states and that they are working in unity. We are hopeful that this new approach will demonstrate that putting development on an equal footing with security and diplomacy improves long-term outcomes and more efficiently addresses the root causes of violence and fragility.
4. How are we measuring and tracking outcomes?
This bill requires a 10-year plan to be developed for every priority country selected. Each plan is required to be developed in coordination with civil society, include goals and objectives, and a clear description of how different parts of the government will work together. It also requires the executive branch to report to Congress on progress towards the goals and lessons learned from failures every two years. This new reporting requirement will create a body of evidence to demonstrate which activities are most successful and merit additional resources over time.
5. Why do we think this approach will work? Are there any success stories?
We think this approach will work because it allows plans to have the flexibility, coordination, and local engagement that address the unique drivers of fragility in each selected country. It acknowledges that different settings may require different solutions and rejects the idea of one-size-fits-all.
There is a long history of donor countries trying and failing to work in fragile countries. However, we believe this bill provides the opportunity to try a new approach: one that accepts the likelihood of failures, and encourages our diplomats, aid workers, military officers, and their local partners to take those failures as opportunities to re-evaluate, learn, apply that learning, and adjust their approach. There is a growing body of evidence of successful small-scale programs aimed at reducing and preventing the root causes of fragility. Some examples from work partner organizations are doing can be found here. This bill will allow the U.S. government to test these approaches more widely. The country plans and indicators will be developed in coordination with implementing organizations on the cutting edge of learning what works to reduce fragility.