A New French Crisis Prevention Strategy Against Fragilization

21 February 2019   ·   French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

Through its newly adopted strategy “Prevention, Resilience and Sustainable Peace”, France renewed its efforts to address root causes of fragilization around the world. Sharing many similarities with the German guidelines, this new approach provides opportunities for deeper synergies and more comprehensive and cross-cutting actions at all levels.

Today, around 1.8 billion people live in states considered to be fragile for economic, political, security, societal or environmental reasons. Since these situations are sources of crises and conflicts, France made it one of its priorities and adopted a new strategy entitled “Prevention, Resilience and Sustainable Peace” in February 2018.

The strategy establishes a three-pillar approach:
1. Addressing the root causes of fragilities before they lead to full-fledged crises (preventive approach)
2. Strengthening the social contract through capable and legitimate institutions (contractualist approach)
3. Better coordination of French actors within international frameworks (comprehensive approach)

A comparative approach between French and German guidelines

The French strategy paper and the German "Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace" share a lot of similarities. They both have a common vision of the response needed to fragility by prioritizing inclusive and long-term actions, integrated between all actors of humanitarian, development and peace sectors. France and Germany also put great emphasis on politics and diplomacy, being conscious of the necessity of political solutions to conflict in complex local histories.

These commonalities do not come as a surprise following our two countries’ commitment to the same new reference framework put forward by the United Nations. This includes the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals but also the joint UN and World Bank “Pathways for Peace” report, which identified prevention and the need for greater coordination among all actors as a priority in view of “leaving no one behind”. The new French crisis prevention strategy is therefore not only the result of the progressive constitution of a new national strategic framework but also a consequence of a global paradigm shift putting the issues of fragilities and resilience-building to the top of the international agenda.

As such, the World Bank and the OECD, through its breakthrough "States of Fragility" report of 2016 played a major role by shifting the definition of fragility toward a multidimensional and universal understanding of the phenomenon. In this framework, fragility no longer refers exclusively to low-income or conflict-affected states, but includes now a wider range of situations including middle-income countries, the general phenomenon of violence (especially urban), as well as subnational (pockets of fragility) and supranational geographic scales (spillover effects of conflicts). For this reason, and so as to allow for a more dynamic interpretation, the new French crisis prevention strategy prefers using the term “fragilization”. This points out a first minor conceptual difference between the French and German approach.

A second one might hinge upon the second pillar previously highlighted. The French approach is indeed in line with the historical priorities of the French development cooperation focusing primarily on state building at all levels (including local level). Yet, this tradition does not preclude a rights-based approach in accordance with the notion of social contract requiring states to meet society’s expectations. On the contrary, France puts great emphasis on the building of not only capable, but also legitimate institutions, able to provide for operational public services in line with citizens’ needs.

Major opportunities for Franco-German cooperation

The French and German documents seem to allow for great opportunities toward more coordinated and comprehensive resilience-building practices. In fact, this is a priority for the two countries with repercussions at the national level - with the promotion of inter-ministerial policies for instance - and at the global level through the call for greater collaboration with the international community.

Such shared will to coordinate and build comprehensive actions raises expectations for deeper Franco-German collaboration in this area. This is already embodied in joint projects like those carried out as part of European funding consortia (for example, a support program to strengthen security in the Mopti and Gao regions (PARSEC), a sum of €29 million from the EUTF and the consortium involving Expertise France, GIZ and CIVIPOL). Similarly, contacts between the French and German humanitarian and crisis response institutions (respectively the Crisis and Support Centre/Stabilization Department (CDCS/MS) of the French MFA and the Directorate-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilization, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance of Auswärtiges Amt), illustrate very well that efforts are already underway at the European level.

The Sahel Alliance indicates the future roadmap

Specifically, the Sahel Alliance is a good example of coordination between international actors, in particular between France and Germany as this mechanism was officially launched on the sidelines of a Franco-German Ministerial Council in 2017. Now comprising 12 members, the core group of this initiative is constituted of 6 champions (France, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, UNDP, Germany, and the European Union) that are each in charge of coordinating a specific sectorial priority (e.g. governance, security, energy and climate). Within this framework, coordination occurs at three levels, from the more strategic levels to the field. The focal points of the Alliance thus maintain a permanent dialogue over general guidelines, while at the sectorial level, working groups focus on the implementation of the Alliance principles. Finally, donors’ teams work jointly on the field to articulate existing projects as well as to identify good practices, difficulties and potentialities for new projects. Such a regional structure with strong local presence and clearly defined multi-partner approach thus appears to show the way forward for a better geographical and sectorial coverage of fragilities.

Yet more could be done to ensure Franco-German cooperation and avoid operating in parallel structures. In order to move forward, France and Germany are in fact currently working on a joint roadmap for development, including prospects of cooperation on fragility. First of all, joint or complementary programs and projects could be sought, with the perspective to expand the Sahel Alliance dynamics. At another level, enhanced coordination in the two working groups of the Sahel Alliance led by Germany and France respectively on basic services/decentralization, and education/youth employment could be explored. Joint seminars could be organized between our two countries in a 3D approach (diplomacy, development, defense) to identify shared strategic areas for action and to ensure follow-up. 

Additionally, a Franco-German seminar on peace, security and development in Africa could be organized at regular intervals alternately in Berlin and Paris with a view to crafting a joint roadmap. Finally, regarding training, complementarities between French and German internal training and capacity building could find a field of implementation in joint training or courses so as to improve the skills of their respective staff working on fragility and conflict related issues.

The remaining challenges and way forward

Besides these opportunities for improvement, we must not lose sight of the remaining challenges. Efforts are for instance being done so as to ensure greater dialogue and coordination between humanitarian, development and security sector actors. In this regard, France highlights that security actors – operating within the confines of their mandate – make a specific and important contribution to development.

Another frequently reported difficulty concerns the operationalization of the shift toward a preventive, long-term approach when many situations deserve our prompt support. As a matter of fact, figures indicate that a minority of global ODA (2 per cent) went to prevention activities in 2016, while the funding earmarked to humanitarian assistance sharply increased likely due to a high number of acute crises and its extension beyond its original mandate to save lives. Yet, these seemingly concurring trends are not irreconcilable: humanitarian and stabilization actions can be designed to participate to these goals by also including a prevention component to mitigate risks of crisis or conflict aggravation or relapse, if this objective is clearly agreed upon from the start.

That is why the French response mechanism was adapted and specifically reoriented toward those issues. Recognizing the growing threat fragilities represent to the realization of the agenda 2030, it was decided to dedicate unprecedented resources to development policy, until reaching 0.55 per cent of gross national income by 2022. In 2019, considerable resources (an additional one billion euros) will thus be earmarked for bilateral projects, in Africa as a priority, to deal with crises and fragilities, education and loss of biodiversity. Specifically, the French government will double the amounts allocated to the AFD’s Peace and Resilience Fund to reach € 200 million per year by 2020 and build long term locally rooted resilience capacities. With regards to the growing need in emergency funding previously identified, France will devote € 500 million to humanitarian assistance and stabilization in 2022.

Finally, as regards to method and staffing, inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation between operators will be key in implementing the new strategy. That is why, issues of fragility, resilience and comprehensive approach will be at the center of multiple French actors’ mandates in the coming years. All these units will pay close attention to the monitoring and evaluation of the strategy based on annual reports, periodic feedbacks and recommendations.

Europäische Union Partner

French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

Hugo Ladroue, desk officer at the Democratic Governance Department. The report “Fragility, Resilience and Sustainable Peace” was prepared by the same Department.