Implementing the SDGs in Fragile Countries

08 July 2016   ·   PeaceLab2016 editorial team

On 8 July, the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS) and FriEnt jointly organized an international expert discussion Implementing the SDGs in Fragile Countries: What lessons for Germanys new guidelines on crisis prevention and peace support?

The objective was to assess the implementation of the SDGs in fragile and conflict-affected countries in the context of the New Deal on Fragile States. The discussion was attended by members of the CSPPS, the OECD/INCAF and government officials from the German foreign and development ministries.

The event coincided with the launch that same week of the public debate on the development of new guidelines on crisis prevention and peace support that the German government plans to adopt in the spring of 2017. Among other themes, the following three points were discussed directly in relation to the new guidelines.

Germany is crucial to help shift international attention to long-term crisis prevention

Even though all international actors agree that prevention is vastly preferable to crisis reaction, the international community has made no progress on prioritizing it. It is hard: successful prevention does not yield quantifiable results. Public attention is focused on the crises that have already erupted. And the resources that any government, including the German one, have at their disposal are limited – both in terms of money as well as in terms of the time senior politicians have available. Given these dynamics, political leaders often prioritize short-term interventions over long-term crisis prevention. To change this, the world, as one participant put it, needs “powerful and influential champions”. The new guidelines, that participant suggested, are a chance for Germany to become such a champion.  

Crisis prevention is a long-term and deeply political process

As was pointed out during the discussion, the three Peace and Statebuilding Goals the world has made the least progress on are goals 1 to 3 on legitimate politics, security and justice in fragile and conflict-affected countries. As was argued in the discussion, they receive inefficient attention and resources, because they are the most difficult – they require sensitive political negotiation and societal change. Many donors shy away from working on these political processes, because they are under pressure to show results on a yearly basis – something that is impossible when you work on long-term political and societal change. As one participant in the discussions said: if any donor country is able to show results within one year, it is not working on the difficult issues. The new guidelines by the German government could provide an opportunity to recognize and institutionalize the need for long-term and multi-year programming on crisis prevention. The longer term perspective would also need to be taken into account by the German parliament; both government officials and MPs would need to explain to their publics that peacebuilding takes years and decades, not months.

Civil society plays an important role in German crisis management and peacebuilding efforts

It was emphasized in the discussion that the new guidelines will be a government document, but that it is important to emphasize the role civil society plays, both in the debate on its development as well as in Germany’s peacebuilding efforts on the ground. In the debate over the next few months, it will not only be necessary to discuss the role of German and local NGOs, but also to critically interrogate how to engage stakeholders that may not be traditional partners of diplomacy – but traditional actors within local societies. The shrinking space for civil society to work in many countries will also be an important issue for discussion.