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Saturday, 11 December 2010

I was recently in the company of Rageh Omar in Birmingham whilst he was chairing discussions with academics on the power and abuse of fragile states.

The delegation wanted to learn more on how fragile states historically become more effective? The term generated from state weaknesses, failures or poor performers, suffering from conflict. We cannot however generalise labelling them all as such, definitions from a wide set of threats, ethnic, communal or religious tensions. It was broadly through tax systems, in the centre of any growing economy there is a necessity to generate revenue. The rationale is to spend and grow the economy. Professor Paul Collier, author of Wars, Guns and Votes, reminded delegates, the appalling needs in our centre of effective states also have a vital part to play in supporting those who have lost stability and infrastructures. ‘They are ill prepared to deliver fast track solutions, gender equity and desperately require a coherent approach.’  

He said fragile states are unable to provide two vital public goods, security and accountability due to lack of leadership. The international community need to increase aid and boost troops to prevent further insecurity.

The thought trapped in my mind for a while. When rebuilding fragile states, what are the main barriers to sustainability?

There a series of complex development challenges we all face in this current climate. Wars displacing people in Afghanistan and Iraq are some areas requiring attention for humanitarian relief. There are others; in Somalia where conflict is historical from tribal and civil wars. In these situations where there is ‘post-conflict’ states following formal end of civil war or the official signing of a peace agreement. The brutality is reoccurrence for basic needs. Far too much attention is given to the national security reform and governance. However many post failures occur, hidden amongst international support, lacking on the post –conflict elements of the recovery process.

The difficulty arises when on the ground public services are not delivered effectively; medical care, educational services and addressing malnutrition. The lowest figures of school enrolment for children under five, added with the burden of high rates of violence and insecurity. A greater need in accountability for these services and priority is down to the hearts of minds of many from the security angle to resolve immediate impact of war. They focus their energies on stability from further outbreaks of new territorial conflict and tribal disputes. There are other barriers, maintaining cleanliness in general because of the lack of uncontaminated water from natural resources to retain healthy lives. Then there is aid to be distributed and stabilised in critical places which take time to reach.


Humanitarian agencies are gradually declining, partially compromised by Human aid workers unable to get to scenes because of the lack of support from the interim security of the state. As we look at moral disasters occurring can we truly feel justice is done? The instability left from fragile states is far worse than outlined; continuous attacks, insurgents, and military are on the minds of Government task forces to rebuild states and managing conflict.


Approaching fragile states modestly, there needs to be a sense of realism, long term planning and issues such as countries have faced like Afghanistan or providing aid in Somalia. Large scale interventions are required to ensure peace is embedded. Human Rights abuses are only prevented when adequate provision on the ground supported by allocated resources. The rates of child deaths increase due to malnutrition are also a concern to relief and health agencies. There is much to debate about cause of conflict and the remedies after fragile states need to rebuild. These along with improved standards, require monitoring. It is organisations such as Save the Children who consistently reinforcing crucial messages, reminding us that state fragility is an important barrier that needs to be overcome in any given fragile state for development and supporting infrastructures. Children are affected the most, the independent children’s rights organisation. Millions of children are effectively denied with no fault of their own, basic amenities, healthcare, food, education and protection from abuse.  Transforming fragile states is more than, developing landscapes, architecture, placing equipment in buildings. Yes these are required but in context, the governance structures focuses too much on these priorities. It is about the children, their future well being, creating history, without smearing culture and heritage they bring to our developing countries that are equally important. Can we safely say these do not also require attention? International eyes should remember humanitarian causes as a priority not only the security matters. The memories of yesterday and the historical events occurred do build a picture of what can be done to eliminate fragile states and development as a way forward. The emphasis of how rich nations could intervene to make positive rebuilding happen cohesively is one we cannot afford to miss. We hope they advocate those interests to develop and capacity build fragile states equally. 


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