The g7+ was formed in response to a gap identified by fragile and conflict-affected states about the ways in which they could achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)– global goals established by the UN which aimed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
Despite many countries having success in achieving the MDGs, Fragile and Conflict Affected States were still left behind in meeting the Goals. The MDGs focussed on priorities which were not aligned with the real situation of many countries affected by conflict; yet these countries were nevertheless measured against standards set by the MDGs and, thus, were so often shown to be failing. There was no strong representation from countries in a fragile situation during the negotiation of the MDGs framework to ensure the priorities were not using a one-size fits all approach.
They said, “Ok, the children are not being educated. The children are stunted. The infant mortality is high, etc.” We said, “How can the children be educated if we have instability? There is no security, so which parent is going to allow the children to go to school? Which farmer is going to grow vegetables? –
In the MDG framework, conflict-affected countries were not being recognised or rewarded for trying to meet the prerequisite goals such as ensuring peace and security and thus appeared to be performing poorly. And yet, within their own countries, they were making genuine progress in achieving those indicators.
Countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia were reforming their security sectors to help build security in their newly post-conflict countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, stability was the priority, especially in the East, where huge numbers of refugees had to be accommodated, including migrating cattle herders from neighbouring countries due to the effects of climate change. In Togo, the government was working to rebuild democratic foundations, which had deteriorated and led to donors cutting aid between 1994 and 2005, severely limiting development prospects .
These and other achievements might not have shown up as indicators of success as measured by the MDGs or other international measurements, but these achievements represented important steps away from conflict and fragility in our member countries.
They were also often not recognized in the donors’ reports. However, for our member states these achievements were the necessary building blocks to get to a position where the MDGs could begin to be attainable.
In terms of the effectiveness of foreign aid, our experience shows that aid often gets tied up in foreign controlled programs, also, historically donors have not demonstrated enough care to ensure that where they channel aid actually aligns with the recipient country’s priorities and makes use of existing local systems and processes.
The discussion on aid effectiveness started to receive global attention at the first High Level Forum that took place in Rome in February 2003. In that Forum, principles for aid effectiveness were set out and agreed upon in the Rome Declaration on Harmonisation.
The Rome Declaration highlighted several critical aspects: firstly, that development assistance should be based on the priorities of recipient countries. Secondly, donors should intensify their efforts to work through delegated cooperation at the country level and increase the flexibility of country-based staff to manage country programmes and projects more effectively and efficiently. Lastly, good practice is encouraged and monitored, and backed by analytic work to help strengthen the capacity in the recipient countries to take leadership in determining their development path. The Rome forum then led to the Second High Level Forum on Joint Progress toward Enhanced Aid Effectiveness, which took place in Paris in 2005. The outcome was the “Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness”
in which, for the first time, donors and recipient countries agreed to hold each other accountable for their results. It was recognised that aid could – and should – be producing better impacts.
The Paris Declaration was endorsed with the desire to base development efforts on first-hand experience of what works and what does not work with aid. The declaration set out five fundamental principles for making aid more effective: Ownership, Alignment, Harmonisation, Results and Mutual Accountability.
This recognition of aid challenges in fragile states produced the ten OECD Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States which was formally endorsed at the Development Assistance Committee’s High Level Forum in 2007. These principles were taken further by organising ‘Round Table 7’ on Conflict and Fragility, which was co-chaired by France and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Kinshasa in June 2008.
The ‘Round Table 7’ discussion played a critical role in formulating the importance of peacebuilding and statebuilding and the need for government leadership and ownership over priorities and policy direction as the first step for sustainable development. This was highlighted in the Kinshasa Statement. Importantly, the statement called for the need for international dialogue between countries in fragile situations and development partners on peacebuilding and statebuilding.
H.E. Kosti Manibe, Former Minister of Finance from South Sudan
The Kinshasa statement was then presented at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which took place in Accra, Ghana, in September 2008. This forum was seen as a watershed moment. For the first time, fragile countries had the opportunity to speak at the same level, and in the same forum as the decision makers of donor countries and organisations. This enabled more frank conversations about the problems with aid among countries affected by conflict and fragility, and called for them to have an equal voice. Various multilateral donors then also spoke about their efforts to simplify procurement processes and streamline their procedures – which was music to the ears of recipient countries.
The Forum concluded with issuing the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA), which called for the establishment of an International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding and asked for fragile countries to voluntarily monitor the implementation of the principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations. Seven countries (Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste) volunteered to do the monitoring. Subsequently, these 7 countries became the founding members of the g7+.
With an agenda clearly set, fragile states and their development partners decided to meet again in Paris in December 2008 to discuss the nature of this new dialogue. Just before the meeting started, the French Foreign Ministry, who hosted the meeting, suggested that countries in fragile situations and development partners meet separately in order to have a chance to discuss shared concerns before coming together in the meeting. Fourteen recipient countries were present at this closed-door meeting.
Initially, each Minister of the fourteen recipient countries spoke about the positive progress that had been made with development in their country thanks to the support of donors. When it was the Minister of Finance of Timor-Leste, H.E. Emilia Pires’s turn to speak, she asked
“Why, if everything was going so well, are our countries still fragile?”
She went on to outline some of the problems with aid: fragmentation (when aid comes in too many small pieces from too many donors, making it difficult for partner countries to effectively manage), weak alignment to government plans, and the lack of national capacity and the abundance of natural resource wealth, which countries were not able to capitalise on. When Minister Emilia Pires finished, other Ministers started to ask if they could speak again. This proved to be a pivotal moment to break the ice and open a space for a more frank discussion about the similar challenges countries face and their experiences with conflict and fragility.