The Economic Impact and Effectiveness of Development Aid - Economic Affairs Committee Contents

CHAPTER 5: Fragile States

59.  Conflict undermines stability, order and economic development. According to DFID, countries experiencing major violence between 1981 and 2005 had a poverty rate 21 percentage points higher on average than those which did not. About 1.5 billion people live in countries suffering repeated waves of political and criminal violence.[73]

60.  The 2011 World Development Report stated: "People in fragile and conflict-affected states are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those in other developing countries, more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school, twice as likely to see their children die before age five, and more than twice as likely to lack clean water."[74]

61.  The report continues: "Yet when security is re-established and sustained, these areas of the world can make the greatest development gains." Examples given include Ethiopia more than quadrupling access to improved water from 13% of the population in 1990 to 66% in 2009-10 and Mozambique more than tripling its primary school completion in eight years to 2007.[75]

62.  The Government believes aid can help. Spending in fragile and conflict-affected states is to increase from 22% to 30% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) between 2010 and 2015. With the programmed growth of overall ODA, this equates to an almost doubling of annual expenditure from £1.8 billion in 2010-11 to £3.4 billion in 2014-15.[76]

63.  DFID argues aid can help build peaceful states by:

  • Addressing the underlying causes of conflict and fragility
  • Supporting conflict resolution mechanisms
  • Supporting inclusive political settlements and inclusive political systems
  • Developing core state functions—such as security, justice, finance, and macroeconomic management
  • Responding to public expectations—such as for jobs and basic services.[77]

64.  DFID cites examples such as clearing minefields in Nepal, road building in the Democratic Republic of Congo and malaria prevention and treatment programmes in Ethiopia, building up police and justice services in Iraq and training midwives in Pakistan.[78]

65.  But aid programmes in conflict affected or threatened fragile states are more risky and uncertain of success than in peaceful nations. Clearly the scope for corruption and waste is greater and it is more difficult to put aid to good use, especially where the state may not even function and the risk of violence is ever present.

66.  Aid can even worsen conflict if it is not—or is perceived not to be—fairly distributed between warring factions. Ms Wardell told us that the DFID programme in Nepal in 2002 was benefiting one group—the elite—more than the ordinary people and that it was not getting to the poorest and most disadvantaged.[79] This led DFID to revise their programme.

67.  Witnesses nevertheless argued that aid to fragile states should continue. Sir Tim Lankester, formerly Permanent Secretary of the ODA (now DFID) said: "It is immoral, I think, to walk away from the very poor in countries where states are not functioning."[80] In conflict zones aid should not go through the central government: "I would not be propping up the Government of Somalia; I would be working through non-governmental channels."[81] Mr Michael Anderson, Director-General, Policy and Global Issues, DFID, explained DFID's approach in fragile states where government may be weak or have broken down: "We frequently find that in fragile states we have to partner with NGOs, with sub-national entities and sometimes with particular ministries."[82]

68.  Professor Collier argued the key goal in post-conflict countries was to generate jobs to keep fighters away from conflict: "The only realistic place for job creation in a post-conflict environment—which is fundamentally uncompetitive in anything that is internationally tradable, except for natural resources, which do not create jobs—is in reconstruction, the construction sector, which can generate masses of jobs."[83]

69.  He also sees an important role for aid in support of stability: "a holding operation preventing things falling apart"; Somalia was an example of "the enormous costs of what happens when a country really falls apart. The lesson of Somalia is basically that whatever it costs to avoid that situation is money well spent." [84]

70.  But Professor Collier also argued donors in post-conflict countries had often been distracted from their core competence by pursuing unrealistic objectives: "The fantasy that we have been pursuing as an international donor community is that what these countries need is an election and democracy and that we can then rapidly let go."[85] In Afghanistan, hopes and aims were unrealistically high: "We massively overloaded the agenda. What was going to happen in post-conflict Afghanistan? It was going to fix our drugs problem, for a start, and it was going to achieve gender equality. Basically, it was going to become Denmark in two years. This was preposterous."[86]

71.  Rory Stewart MP also gave Afghanistan as an example of overblown donor community input, citing the vast amounts of spending—equivalent to the annual domestic revenue of the entire Afghan national government—overwhelmingly from the US, in the area of law and justice aimed at building institutions in the Western liberal model.[87] He said: "The reality at the end of 10 years of investment is that 85% of Afghans continue to completely avoid the formal justice system ... They will be brought to trial—if, indeed, you can call it a trial—by other people in the village."[88]

72.  Although he acknowledged there had been "some success in Bosnia and Kosovo working with certain kinds of institution" Mr Stewart saw no template for handling aid in fragile states: "What works in Bosnia does not necessarily work in Afghanistan. I am trying to get away from this lessons-learnt mania and the idea that there is some generic expert in post-conflict resolution or state building who can leap on a plane to Somalia and opine."[89]

73.  The risks of failure in aid to fragile states are greater than elsewhere, as is the scope for misuse of aid funds. For the Government's planned increase in aid to fragile states to have any chance of being effective we recommend careful selection of programmes and continuous evaluation of their effect, and a robust anti-corruption strategy.

74.  Where security policy and aid policy overlap with the aim of bolstering stability, circumstances are often challenging and outcomes uncertain. Lessons must be learnt from the unrealistic goals set for aid in Afghanistan. In the UK, DFID see the Government's Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) as a useful aid to decision-making. We agree with Rory Stewart MP who told us that "the liberal imperialist idea ... of creating governance and stability in a post-conflict zone through the application of development aid is mistaken."[90] Decisions on intervention should be carefully weighed on the basis of thorough analysis of local circumstances and realistic and proportionate assessment of what is achievable.

73   DFID 1, para 90  Back

74   World Bank, World Development Report 2011, Conflict, Security and Development, page 5 Back

75   World Bank, World Development Report 2011, Conflict, Security and Development, page 6 Back

76   House of Commons International Development Committee, Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: DRC and Rwanda, Twelfth Report of Session 2010-12, HC 1133, page 7 Back

77   DFID 1, para 87  Back

78   DFID (Conflict Pool) Back

79   Q 202 Back

80   Q 57 Back

81   Q 58 Back

82   Q 150 Back

83   Q 329 Back

84   Q 317 Back

85   Q 329 Back

86   Q 329 Back

87   For example, expenditure by the US State Department and USAID on governance and development in Afghanistan has averaged US$5 billion per annum since 2009, compared to Afghan domestic revenue of approximately US$1bn (US Congressional Research Services "The Costs of Iraq, Afghanistan and other Global War on Terror Operations since 9/11", March 2011, RL 33110 and IMF, International Finance Statistics, January 2012). Back

88   Q 342 Back

89   Q 343 Back

90   Q 340 Back

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