SAT 29 - 1 - 2022
Date: Apr 3, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Development ecosystem: divisions and complexity
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine
Conflict and fragility continue to pose a critical challenge to achieving progress, stability, and peace. Understanding the vulnerability of societies and addressing the cohesion, economic, political, and social weaknesses in pre-conflict, active conflict and post-conflict situations have become a prerequisite for any effective development approach in fragile states.

As reported by the World Bank Group “about 2 billion people live in countries where development outcomes are affected by fragility, conflict, and high levels of violence. About half the world’s poor live in fragile or conflict-affected states.” Exiting strategies from fragility is a global development priority.

In March 2019, the Global Economy and Development Program at Brookings Institution released a report that assesses the findings of a survey of 93 Global Development Leaders who were interviewed during 2018; The survey tackled three main areas: how the international development landscape is changing, how the global development organizations are adapting to this change, and what do they predict in the short and long-term.

The interviewees were a diverse number of organizations working to promote human and economic development. They included governments, multilateral and multinational corporations, development NGOs, and private sector representatives.

The report titled “Global development disrupted: Findings from a survey of 93 leaders,” highlighted some areas of consensus, with the most commonly listed challenge being access to funding and resources. Development leaders reflected on the uncertainty over the prospects of alternative sources of finance. Also, there is skepticism on the availability of private finance for poor countries as a sizable new source of funding reasonable enough to impact investment. In addition, the development leaders shared excitement over the emergence of new actors, partners, and innovations as a promising area.

The survey revealed significant transformation and the existence of chaos in the global development sector. Extensive fragmentation among respondents identify a shockingly broad range of priorities, fears, prospects and pathways.

What is startling is that leaders no longer see ending poverty as a “unifying framework” and development views are no longer defined through a poverty lens. State fragility and climate change were mentioned much more frequently than poverty in the report. Migration was cited more than twice as was before.

The research reflects a complex and divided development ecosystem with an increasing number of players voicing out concerns regarding the difficulty of ensuring relevance in a global system that is moving in various directions. Leaders stated their concerns regarding the relevance of their organizations and their ability to adapt to a turmoil change in the field and the possibilities for adding value to the sector.

Even though, it indicates various levels of optimism. The Leaders detailed an extensive list of developmental challenges among which are: climate change in the lead, youth following by in second place, followed by state fragility, proper governance and a more gender focused approach.

Surprisingly, issues like poverty, inclusion, inequality and human rights that usually come at the head of development issues are seldom discussed during interviews. Moreover, multilateral actors such as the U.N., the World Bank and other development banks and agencies, who are principal actors in global development, were rarely mentioned. Terrorism and extremism were referenced a few times by 93 leaders, while peace got scarce mentions, and violent crime almost none.

Demographics are changing the global development field; Huge numbers of people who have been dislocated for years or even forever in addition to the outburst of migration. Many regions are challenged by an unprecedented youth boom and increases in urbanization. Previous models of humanitarian relief are becoming inadequate and the development community must survey more sustainable methods that go beyond meeting short-term basic needs to more sustainable development approaches.

The 93 development leaders argue localization as the main positive trend by “increasingly local actors possess the knowledge, talent, and institutions to address local challenges and are best positioned to address them.”

Respondents note “stagnation and even backsliding” in fragile countries. This is producing an increasing gap between countries that are developing and growing wealthier on one hand, and those hindered by poverty on the other. This leaves us with the following questions: What appropriate models should developmental organizations prioritize when going forward? How should developmental organizations position themselves to achieve the greatest impact?

But, we also need to ask: What does state fragility mean? And, how does fragility manifest itself?

There are common attributes of state fragility. This may include a wide range of state failure risk elements such as increased corruption, criminal behavior, inequalities, group grievances, uneven economic development, brain drain, factionalized elites, decreased state legitimacy, inability to provide reasonable public services, extensive displacement of the population and institutionalized discrimination.

Finally, it is necessary to frame the fact that states can fail at varying rates, and that fragility impacts world’s richest and most developed countries. A coherent approach to fragility is very much needed. The search for what works in fragile states and what doesn’t should be the forecast in the near and mid-term future.

Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 03, 2019, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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