It is important to establish that there is no universal definition of “fragility”, and periodic advances in the understanding of fragility have led to changes in the way that this issue is addressed by the international community. The information in this document was compiled as background reading material for the 51st Brussels Development Briefing on the topic of Agriculture as an engine of economic reconstruction and development in fragile countries.
Addressing fragility is not just a matter of responding to political or economic pressures – it is central to the achievement of the global Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasise the risks of violence to human security as well as to global peace and security. Understanding the role of violence and fragility is crucial to realisation of the SDGs. SDG 16 in particular aims to course-correct for the evidence that a far greater number of people are exposed to violence than ever before and, as a foundation for all other SDGs, that sustainable development can only thrive where there is security.
In addition to risk factors arising from conflict or violence, rural producers and smallholder farmers are additionally vulnerable to economic shocks and market fluctuations, as well as to environmental risks related to climate, pollution, and proximity and exposure to natural disasters. Beyond the national boundaries, the effects of fragility have increasingly spread regionally and internationally, notably in respect to migration and refugee flows moving away from areas affected by conflict, violence and other factors of fragility. “Population movements not only demonstrate the complex risk landscape in conflict-affected areas, they have also created new dynamics, including deepening fragility, with global political repercussions”. This has been felt in Europe over the last couple of years, where the political landscape has been significantly affected by the influx of populations from countries affected by conflict, violence, or other characteristics of fragility.
Working effectively in fragile states requires a long-term, context-specific approach. Agriculture must play a central part in boosting fragile countries’ economies and alleviating poverty (World Bank and FAO). Many factors (weak institutions, insecurity, a persistent insurgency, destroyed infrastructure, environmental degradation and climate change) contribute to severe decrease in crop yields. Investing more in agriculture50 would ensure moving from emergency to resilience and long-term development.
There is a need to mitigate risks to the population by investing in local capacities for early warning, preparedness and response. Coherence between humanitarian and development strategic frameworks as well as donor’s coordination still needs improvement. Development partners need to agree on approaches driven by national strategies and based on harmonised needs assessment and planning. Linked to this is the need to identify funding solutions that will enable flexible, rapid and predictable funding for countries emerging from crisis.
Smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable to climate shocks and weather-related disasters, poor governance, conflicts and market fluctuations. Access to inputs and knowledge, ICTs to quickly share information and extension/advisory services will contribute to the resilience of agricultural livelihoods. Appropriate and enabling policies, institutional structures, capacities and finances for disaster risk reduction and crisis management must be in place at local, national, regional and global levels to reduce increasing levels of threats from multiple types of shocks affecting the agriculture sectors and related food security. It is also important to monitor and to predict crisis and disaster risks and their likelihood of occurrence and effects as much as possible on agriculture sectors. Such risk monitoring must be coupled with timely alerts to trigger accurate decision-making at institutional and community levels.
Reducing the root causes of vulnerabilities of individuals and communities with livelihoods depending on crop, livestock, fish, trees and other renewable resources is fundamental. Crisis and disaster risk protection, prevention and impact mitigation through the application of risk sensitive technologies and good practices, risk transfer and social protection are crucial to strengthen agriculture livelihoods and lessen, or even cancel the effects of a potential shock on them and enable them to bounce back better.
National ownership and international commitment are needed to reduce fragility fragile states have untapped opportunities to pursue development. Capitalising on them will require national ownership, international commitment and innovation.
Donor coordination remains necessary (ODI). A big part of the problem with donor coordination in fragile states contexts is that foreign, military, and political objectives coexist with developmental ones, which makes it much more difficult for donors to agree on a common platform or set of interventions. Despite the fact that, over time, there has been a considerable accumulation of lessons regarding state-building interventions, very often these lessons are simply not learned or shared across countries and among donors.