DILI – It’s hard not to be moved when Francesca Bomboko talks about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To the world, the DRC, as it is known, is a resource rich but conflict-ridden society that the international community largely considers a lost cause.
But for Bomboko, the career public servant and human rights crusader, the DRC is home.
“It is the duty of every human to fight for the freedom of others. We have to continue to struggle for each other.” José Luis Guterres Timor-Leste Vice Prime Minister
She sat among a small group of peers from Liberia, the Solomon Islands and GuineaBissau in late January and personalized the political story of how a series of conflicts and political coups upended her homeland and its people. In particular, she focused on the temporary government and well-meaning institutions that were established after the conflict.
“After the war, we had an interim government that set up four commissions to tackle all issues,” Bomboko said. “Some progress was made but only in some. In the case of our peace and reconciliation commission, it became clear that there was no real incentive to get the truth, people were concerned about their political future.”
Representatives from 10 countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other fragile states, such as Liberia, the Solomon Islands and Guinea-Bissau came together in Dili for the g7+ Secretariat Technical Meeting in late January. While many have written off these countries, these leaders refuse to quit or give into often prevailing sentiment that progress cannot be made. Each country is part of the g7+, a 19-member group of fragile states dedicated to peacebuilding, statebuilding and poverty reduction.
The purpose behind the meeting was to put the New Deal into motion. An innovative and groundbreaking document that sets an ambitious set of goals for stability, development and poverty reduction, the New Deal builds upon the vision and principles articulated from the Millennium Declaration and advocates for key peacebuilding and statebuilding goals (PSGs). Fragile states are not reaching the MDGs due to larger and more complex challenges. The missing link is that these states need help building credible governments and transparent institutions with strong capacities.
For example, countries cannot reach universal primary education if their schools have been burned and teachers scattered. Global partnerships cannot be created if there are conflicts within countries. Achieving the MDGs requires peace and state institutions to deliver services and maintain that peace.
“This is the time for the New Deal to be the real deal,” said Vice Prime Minister José Luis Guterres in his comments before the delegates. “It is the duty of every human to fight for the freedom of others. We have to continue to struggle for each other.”
The PSGs are a foundation to enable progress toward the Millennium Development Goals and guide work in fragile and conflictaffected states. The five goals of the PSGs are legitimate politics, security, justice, economic foundations and revenues and services. The other core elements of the New Deal are FOCUS (Fragility Assessment, One vision, one plan, Compact, Use PSGs to monitor and Support political dialogue and leadership) and TRUST (Transparency, Risk-Sharing, Use and strengthen country systems, Strengthen capacities and Timely and predictable aid).
The New Deal places countries at the center of their development agendas and requires leadership from within respective countries. During the Dili summit, countries articulated their development challenges in various breakout sessions and focused on specific goals intended to promote growth and stability. Each mini-gathering focused on specific country challenges. For example, one session focused on policy development, while another was a dialogue on articulating good government practices.
Discussions on actions and tangible results are necessary for these fragile countries, defined as “a period of time during nationhood when the PSGs must be applied to transition to the next stage of development as articulated in the Millennium Declaration.” These countries lag behind on achieving even one of the MDGs. Due to political and economic factors, these states are farthest behind and some are falling further behind.
According to the World Development Report, 1.5 billion live in conflict-affected and fragile states. About 70% of these states have seen conflict since 1989. Basic governance transformations can take as long as 40 years.
The g7+ countries want to reverse those trends and take ownership of their development needs and aspirations.
“We are all looking for very tangible outcomes,” said Cornelius Walegerea, Chief Planning Officer for the Solomon Islands. “If it is country-specific, we have to do it according to our country contexts.”
During the three-day summit, countries outlined specific challenges to the Peace and Statebuilding goals, as well as best practices.
To set the New Deal in motion, countries took each of the five PSGs and rated their progress according to a transition phase. For example, legitimate politics is one of the PSGs. Countries self-rate based on their stage of developments. Level 1 is characterized as “crisis and conflict-affected”, whereas Level 3 is “restore and reconstruct” a post-conflict level. The highest level is 5, which is “invest and innovate.”
After countries rated themselves according to each of the PSGs, they mapped out actionable goals to overcoming barriers to development. Each map is country-specific and sensitive to that country’s needs. That plan is referred to as the fragility spectrum to monitor progress and develop country level agreements with development partners.
The fragility spectrum is at the heart of the New Deal and is the mechanism to put the PSGs into action. The fragility spectrum helps countries identify the stage they want to reach with a timetable of five years. Advancing or descending depends largely on policy options.
There were positive examples that countries wanted to leverage. In South Sudan, the world’s newest country, there is an influx of professional expatriates returning to the country such as doctors. The Central African Republic noted that they have a very good system of political dialogue and came with recommendations for peace conciliation. In Guinea-Bissau, the country has put an aid management process in place.
The working session focused on key challenges, such as ongoing conflict, election tampering and constant need for financing.
Chad has experienced conflict since 1979. Chad has a perennial need for funding and the lack of it hinders peace plans. Like DRC, Chad also must also consider humanitarian concerns. The DRC and Guinea-Bissau face similar challenges regarding financing. Chad has spearheaded several transparency initiatives to make the government more accessible.
“We are not on our way towards exiting fragility and conflict,” said Armand Kasumbu Borrey of the DRC. “(The risk of further conflict) exists in each of the four countries (the DRC, Chad, Afghanistan and South Sudan). Arms are still seen as a way to go.”
Afghanistan aid coordinator Hamid Jalil noted that reforms have been undertaken to improve transparency and accountability but are hampered by electoral fraud. Despite improvements in the electoral process, Jalil said that fair elections remain a key challenge.
Organizers said that the g7+ aspires to share its ideas on an even greater platform. This year, member countries intend to submit the PSGs before the United Nations General Assembly.
Foreign aid can be better utilized, and other countries could benefit from the experiences of the g7+ member countries to fully realize the Millennium Development Goals and ensure that no country lags behind the rest of the world.
During the Dili meeting, countries formed a delegation to present the vision and principles of the g7+ before the United Nations in September. The purpose of the g7+ is to help countries help themselves, said head of the g7+ Secretariat Helder da Costa.
“We look forward to the work ahead,” he said.