I would like to congratulate David Cameron, his co-chairs Donald Kaberuka and Adnan Khan and the Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development on the publication of their excellent report Escaping the Fragility Trap. This document adds a much-needed dimension to the public debate on international development and aid policy.
Critically, it underlines some of the key lessons my teams have found working at the heart of governments across Africa over the last ten years.
First, that local solutions are most effective. As the report states “The solutions to such fragility… will be largely domestic. That may be slow and tough, but it is likely to be more lasting. Homegrown solutions and locally negotiated coalitions of governments, businesses, and civil society are the things that will make well-designed international support more likely to be effective.” Real and lasting change happens when assistance is based on the priorities of the country in question.
Second, the difference between effective states and ineffective ones is principally in the quality of their government and its delivery. Look around the world, and see neighbouring countries – similar size population, resources and natural potential – one succeeding, one failing. Take the following examples: Rwanda compared with Burundi, South Korea with North Korea, Venezuela with Columbia or Poland with Ukraine. On this point, the commission is very clear, stating “Only governments can lift societies out of fragility.”
Third, I hope that the report will be studied and its recommendations taken on board by the international community. The proposals it makes are radical shifts, but absolutely necessary. It is time aid agencies and donor governments focus on working with recipient countries to build sustainable change, not deliver long checklists of unrealistic requirements based on current norms in OECD countries.
Finally, it highlights the importance of economic growth and job creation in shaping how assistance is provided. Fragile countries face a great many extreme challenges, so prioritisation and sequencing is vital. Try to do everything and you will not achieve transformation of the kind seen in countries that have had a determined focus on rapid economic growth, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia. Prioritisation, planning and performance management – ‘the 3 Ps’ – are part of the approach we use at TBI to help governments deliver on their transformative goals.
This is the work that my Institute currently carries out in 13 African countries, assisting their governments to deliver stability and prosperity for their people.
I very much welcome the addition of this report into the public debate.