Trends in conflict and fragility are changing. New regions and an increasing number of middle-in- come countries are experiencing instability.1 But many of the problems in conflict-affected and fragile situations remain, including in the g7+ group of fragile states. Several of these countries are still low-income and aid dependent, and a majority of them are not expected to reach the goal of halving poverty by the end of 2015, nor to reach several other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).2 Most continue to experience the same shortfalls of international engagement year after year. Fragility has proven to be resilient, with several countries experiencing recurrent and protracted crises.
Traditional North-South development cooperation, with its formal, highly regulated, risk averse, and high-transaction systems,3 has delivered limited results in conflict-affected and fragile situations. This is despite the volume of aid – which ac- cording to the OECD amounts to over 38 per cent of Official Development Assistance (ODA) – and efforts to make it more effective.4 The practice of South-South Cooperation (SSC) has increased in recent years, partly in response to the limitations of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)-led approach to aid; that is, one dominated by the global North. In its dominant form, however, SSC is largely practiced by middle-income and emerging economies, which also may not be well placed to represent the poorest and most fragile of contexts.
The g7+ has emerged in the past few years as a group of conflict-affected countries that aim to support each other in addressing their own fragili- ty, including through the idea of Fragile to Fragile (F2F) cooperation. F2F cooperation has emerged partly in response to the perceived deficiencies of existing forms of cooperation. While it remains to be seen whether the g7+ and F2F cooperation can provide a robust and meaningful solution to these issues in practice, it is nonetheless an important evolution within the global development context.
This paper examines the emergence of the g7+ and the F2F approach, and discusses the extent to which, at this early stage, it might provide a different and necessary form of support from the established models of the DAC, SSC and triangular cooperation. It also situates the g7+ and F2F within the context of the post-2015 development agenda, notably in relation to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 1948, the first peacekeeping mission and the first high-profile mediator were deployed as innovative solutions by a young United Nations. Nearly seventy years later, United Nations (UN) peace operations – which span peacekeeping operations to special political missions, good offices and mediation initiatives – are a central part of the Organization’s efforts to improve the lives of people around the world. More than 128,000 women and men serve under the blue flag in almost 40 missions across four continents working to prevent conflicts, help mediate peace processes, protect civilians and sustain fragile peace processes.
UN peace operations have proven highly adaptable and contributed significantly to the successful resolution of conflicts and to a declining number of conflicts over two decades. Today, however, there is evidence of a worrisome reversal of some of this trend and a widely shared concern that changes in conflict may be outpacing the ability of UN peace operations to respond. The spread of violent extremism, overlaid onto long- simmering local or regional conflicts and the growing aspirations of populations for change, is placing pressure on governments and the international system to respond. As UN peace operations struggle to achieve their objectives, change is required to adapt them to new circumstances and to ensure their increased effectiveness and appropriate use in future.
A number of peace operations today are deployed in an environment where there is little or no peace to keep. In many settings today, the strain on their operational capabilities and support systems is showing, and political support is often stretched thin. There is a clear sense of a widening gap between what is being asked of UN peace operations today and what they are able to deliver. This gap can be – must be – narrowed to ensure that the Organization’s peace operations are able to respond effectively and appropriately to the challenges to come. With a current generation of conflicts proving difficult to resolve and with new ones emerging, it is essential that UN peace operations, along with regional and other partners, combine their respective comparative advantages and unite their strengths in the service of peace and security.
In many ways, UN peace operations have become more professional and capable over the past decade but significant chronic challenges remain. Resources for prevention and mediation work have been scarce and the United Nations is often too slow to engage with emerging crises. Too often, mandates and missions are produced on the basis of templates instead of tailored to support situation-specific political strategies, and technical and military approaches come at the expense of strengthened political efforts. In the face of a surge in demand over the past decade, the Organization has not been able to deploy sufficient peacekeeping forces quickly and often relies on under-resourced military and vii
police capacities. Rapidly deployable specialist capabilities are difficult to mobilize and UN forces have little or no interoperability. Secretariat departments and UN agencies, funds and programmes struggle to integrate their efforts in the face of competing pressures, at times, contradictory messages and different funding sources. UN bureaucratic systems configured for a headquarters environment limit the speed, mobility and agility of response in the field. These chronic challenges are significant but they can, and should, be addressed.
Four essential shifts must be embraced in the future design and delivery of UN peace operations if real progress is to be made and if UN peace operations are to realize their potential for better results in the field.