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A New Deal for Fragile States

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Protests, revolutions and demands for freedom and representation are not strangers to this world. Neither is the frustration that comes along with failed attempts to create a future the masses desire and a political system citizens crave. Political transition is tricky, and only made more complicated by a state’s status at the outbreak of conflict. Fragile states, for example, are among the most difficult to successfully transform.

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) a fragile state is one in which “the extent to which state-society relations fail to produce outcomes that are considered to be effective and legitimate.” Nearly every fragile state experiences drastic social divisions and little ability to come together in pursuit of civil rights and public goods. And the tragedy is contagious. In terms of poverty in particular, states whose neighbors are fragile are more likely to be fragile as well; likewise, armed conflict and fragility perpetuate each other to the extent that the state soon may spiral down from “fragile” to “failed.”

There exists no easy fix solution to this problem. Fortunately, a 2011 agreement endorsed by 44 countries in Busan, Korea, offers a “New Deal” for engagement in fragile states that provides assistance to those international entities considering engagement in fragile state situations.

The “New Deal” outlines five peace-bulding and state-building goals (PSGs) in an attempt to change the mindsets and priorities of the state in question. The five PSGs are listed as such:

1. Legitimate politics – to encourage inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution
2. Security – to establish and strengthen the security of individuals
3. Justice – to address injustices as well as increase public access to justice
4. Economic foundations – to generate employment
5. Revenues and services – to build a capacity for fair and accountable social services

While some may argue that these are fairly obvious goals for state transition, the agreement stresses that patience be used in a conscious and strategic manner. All too often nations and international assistance groups expect too much too soon and eventually give up on an unsuccessful process. If all goes as planned, the trial period in which this particular plan is being implemented on South Sudan and the Central African Republic should see an upswing in social inclusivity and political representation.

In the words of Foreign Policy writer Seth Kaplan, a successful political transition requires people to come together in agreement of a common identity and a certain set of values upon which to base the rest of the nation. Only time will tell the outcome of this fortuitous social experiment.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: The Guardian, Library of European Parliament, Huffington Post, Foreign Policy