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Fragile aid

Developing countries are a broad group. At the top of the pile are emerging powerhouses such as Brazil and China. At the bottom are a poor group called fragile states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Fragile states lack capacity to carry out basic governance functions and are unable to develop constructive relation with society. They are home to half of all children not in primary school and half of all children who die before reaching their fifth birthday. In the next decade, these countries will be the main battlegrounds in the war against global poverty, breeding instability with regional and sometimes global consequences.

Fragile States: Resource Flows and Trends takes stock of the evolution of fragility as a concept, analyses financial flows to and within fragile states between 2000 and 2010, and identifies trends and issues that are likely to influence fragility in the years to come. By 2015, half of the world’s people living on less than $1.25 a day will be in fragile states. Since the 1990s powerful forces have been influencing the causes and manifestations of fragility, including the combination of democratic aspirations, new technologies, demographic shifts and climate change.

The last five years have been especially tumultuous, encompassing the 2008 food, fuel and financial crisis and the (still unfolding) Arab Spring. These events have influenced the international debate on the nature, relevance and implications of fragility. One clear point is that much-needed aid flows are often more volatile for fragile states than non-fragile states. Indeed, every fragile state experienced at least one aid shock–a change of more than 15% of official development assistance per capita–in the past 10 years.

Managing aid is another problem. “Donor darlings” such as Kenya and even Afghanistan, which receive aid in abundance from several donors, can run into problems co-ordinating the use of that aid. But countries such as the Republic of Congo and Iraq depend on one donor for over half their aid. Relying on too few countries for aid can leave recipients particularly exposed to policy changes in the donor countries.

OECD (2013), Fragile States: Resource Flows and Trends, OECD Publishing

ISBN: 9789264190399

©OECD Observer No 295, Q2 2013