In the American context, the term “New Deal” is associated with the dramatic government overhaul put in place by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the wake of the Great Depression. In the international political arena, there is now an altogether different “New Deal” created by the g7+, a young coalition of assertive fragile states.
Supporters of the g7+’s New Deal hope it will be as game-changing as its predecessor.
The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States is intended to change the paradigm of international engagement with fragile states. It is the foundation of the g7+’s goal to amplify the role of the states governing the 1.5 billion people who persevere in fragile environments around the world.
The g7+’s New Deal is structured around three pillars:
- Peace-building and state-building goals.
- Inclusive and country-led transitions out of fragility.
- Relationship-building with donor partners.
Notably, three of the five peace-building and state-building goals relate to good governance, which suggests members believe some degree of institutional resilience and rule of law is vital for development. Membership in the g7+ thus requires states to admit that their capacity for good governance is weak and unsustainable.
The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States has not gone unnoticed. In 2011, more than 40 countries and organizations endorsed it at the High Level Forum for Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. Supporters include Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands, Germany, Denmark, and the African Development Bank – a diverse community that facilitates peer learning and dual engagement activities.
Such interactions meld country ownership with accountability in a way that conditionality cannot. The progress that nations choose to hold each other accountable for is informed by South-South understanding. The constraints, challenges, and capabilities that affect one member often apply to other members. The initiative therefore carries legitimacy not replicable in traditional development partnerships.
Partner countries and multilaterals have taken steps to support pilot countries. In one example, Sweden and the United States partnered with Liberia, with the U.S. Agency for International Development providing technical assistance to Liberia’s New Deal task force.
The World Bank, while not a specific pilot country partner, has been also proactive by facilitating South-South knowledge exchange about oversight of extractive industries and integrating fragile state issues into its country strategies.
The U.N. has an important role in New Deal implementation because it has a peacekeeping or peace-building mission in nearly every pilot country. Although the General Assembly has not formally endorsed the New Deal, individual U.N. agencies have been vocal about supporting the endeavor.
At headquarters level, a U.N. task force on New Deal implementation is co-chaired by the Peace-building Support Office and the U.N. Development Program. The heads of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support, and the U.N. Development Program have instructed their country representatives in pilot countries to provide active support for New Deal implementation.
At the country level, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan have incorporated New Deal principles or mechanisms into their strategies.
However, it remains to be seen how far the momentum generated by recent global consultations and agreements will carry the g7+ in achieving their goals. After all, the New Deal is an unapologetically ambitious framework. Its implementation is, as always, subject to political will and financial resources.
Four states took the first step of conducting baseline fragility assessments, with positive results for fostering national dialogue, but three pilot countries remain at the starting line. Partnerships have not moved as quickly as projected, and g7+ members acknowledge they must “speed up and scale up” implementation. Additionally, basic objectives of g7+ members, such as defining ‘fragility’ and securing government buy-in, remain challenges.
One major concern of g7+ observers is whether all members are committed to engaging sub-national government stakeholders, civil society and local populations. Successful New Deal implementation is in part dependent on national government accountability to those they govern. Civil society has been involved at International Dialogues on Peace-building and State-building and some country-level workshops, but its broader participation is limited and unknown.
For example, South Sudan recently presented a draft assessment to stakeholders, but it is unclear how well civil society was represented at that validation workshop. Yet South Sudan itself noted that a strong civil society is crucial to the accountability of public institutions and advocacy of marginalized groups. By emphasizing more deliberate and transparent engagement with stakeholders outside of the national government, g7+ members can better ensure that their work reflects the priorities and values of their populations.
Effective implementation will require members to capitalize on international interest, particularly in the run-up to 2015. That means collaborating with state, private, and grassroots sectors; maintaining transparent status updates; as well as focusing on governance peace-building and state-building goals to solidify stability gains as well as attract economic opportunities.
Ideally, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will back his declaration that the U.N. “will play its part” with advocating for New Deal funding, and U.N. agencies will be flexible with requests for alignment with national priorities. Most importantly, member states should remember what makes the g7+ unique: they should continue to hold each other publicly accountable for their results.
Despite these challenges, the ramifications of the New Deal are already being felt. Its acceptance by the international community has made it harder to ignore the priorities of fragile states, who are now speaking with a clearer, more assertive voice on the international stage.
International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. “International Dialogue Update, Jaune 2012.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Secretary-General’s Remarks at Fragility Assessment Workshop.” 15 August 2012.
Photo courtesy matt.h.wade via Flickr