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Fragile states, conflict, and chronic poverty

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Andrew Shepherd

Briefing/policy paper

  • The CPRC redefines fragile states as those that do nothing to reduce individual risks for citizens, or in fact increase them through predatory behaviour.
  • Conflict intensifies and perpetuates chronic poverty – as people lose assets and income and access to markets, and as social service spending falls. Chronic poverty can also lead to conflict – particularly through social discontent and where violence offers a means of livelihood for poor people.
  • In fragile states and post-conflict situations needs are enormous and there is a focus on maintaining security and ‘kick-starting’ the economy. It is vital that policies for recovery include the needs of the poorest. These must be underpinned by a viable ‘social compact’ and fiscal reform.
  • A viable social compact is a set of mutual obligations between the state and its population, and is fundamental to notions of justice, legitimacy, and for long-term peace and stability. Risk-reducing interventions are critical to building a social compact in fragile and post-conflict situations, and achieving just and efficient taxation and good revenue collection performance should form its basis.
  • Basic service provision aimed at the poorest and hard to reach, infrastructure to remote areas, and social protection can help stimulate growth, ensure basic standards of living, increase livelihood security, and lessen the potential for renewed conflict.
  • Policies must be based on an understanding of the political economy, and of who is involved and how, in each context.
  • It is often best to prioritise one or a few focused and tractable solutions that respond to major risks, ensuring transparency and limiting the space available to ‘predators’. Aspects of law and order services, social service delivery, and social protection would be leading candidates for this in many fragile or post-conflict situations. The Paris/Accra aid harmonisation and alignment agenda is especially relevant in fragile states.
Tomy Addison, Kathryn Bach, Andrew Shepherd, Dhana Wadugodapitiya