Two months after the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which took place in Busan, Korea (November 29-December 1, 2011) and which led to the adoption of a New Deal for International Engagement in Fragile States, the Geneva-based peace-building community, including representatives from academia, international organizations, civil society organizations and diplomatic representations, met (January 25, 2012) to discuss the implications and challenges ahead in a conference organised by the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform and the Geneva Declaration of Armed Violence and Development.
Erwin van Veen, Policy Analyst on Peace and Security within the International Network on Conflict and Fragility run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and others praised the universalizing dimension and legitimacy of the New Deal – the outcome of an OECD-initiated dialogue which now includes emerging donors such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the g7+ group of 19 self-declared fragile countries, and which will seek formal endorsement by the UN. However, some participants regretted that this international agreement remained focused purely on aid and aid flows, leaving out more fundamental considerations regarding the relations between peace-building and state-building, a nexus at the core of situations of fragility.
Concern was expressed with regards to several assumptions underpinning the document that still remain to be unpacked. Participants questioned the idea that sources of fragility are similar in every affected country and that the way out of fragility is a linear process that can only be mastered by strengthening the state through more inclusive and conflict-sensitive forms of assistance.
Many emphasized that peace-building is not about strengthening a state but about transforming the relations between the state and society. In conflict-affected and fragile societies, the state is often a means of institutionalizing a system of patronage alien to the idea of public good. Besides, sources of fragility and resilience are to be tackled not only within state institutions but also within society (sources of leadership, social cohesion, social capital, business confidence). It is therefore critical to think beyond the narrow paradigm of the state and ensure the proper involvement of non-state actors in peace-building and state-building efforts.
Graeme Simpson, Director of Policy and Learning at Interpeace, New York, therefore called for a New Deal that would go beyond the relations between donors and aid recipient governments - a Real Deal that would ensure accountability of the recipient governments towards their constituency, a genuine commitment to local participation and multi-stakeholder decision-making, involving both women and youth. He emphasized the importance of pursuing a critical dialogue within the frame of the implementation of the New Deal to monitor how donors and their counterparts will effect the changes that were proclaimed in Busan.
(photo © Geneva Peacebuilding Platform)