Local engagement to strengthen the New Deal for Fragile States

December 4 2012: The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and the associated International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) process represent a new way for fragile states and their aid donor partners to work together. Jennifer Erin Salahub, from the North-South Institute, argues that more meaningful inclusion of civil society organisations, particularly locally-based organisations will contribute to better, more sustainable implementation of the New Deal.

Participants at the Second Global Meeting of the International Dialogue, Monrovia (15-16 June 2011). Copyright OECD.

More meaningful inclusion of CSOs, particularly locally-based CSOs, will contribute to better, more sustainable implementation of the New Deal.
The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and the associated International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) process represent a new way for fragile states and their aid donor partners to work together. Through the IDPS, they exchange views on country-level experiences, build consensus around fundamental principles and good practice related to peacebuilding and statebuilding, and identify realistic objectives for action. While the main players in the IDPS are governments, multilateral agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) also have limited roles. I suggest that more meaningful inclusion of CSOs, particularly locally-based CSOs, will contribute to better, more sustainable implementation of the New Deal.

CSO participation in the IDPS to date

At first glance, CSOs have been quite involved in the IDPS process since its inception. They have participated in all three major IDPS meetings and fed into the development of the New Deal. CSO representatives have also been involved in the steering committee and working groups of the IDPS to plan and implement the New Deal.

However, meaningful participation by CSOs has been limited, I think, for three reasons. First, the IDPS process is mainly focused on national governments and CSOs do not have full member status like their government counterparts.

Second, the speed at which the IDPS process occurs and the haphazard way in which it sometimes happens makes it difficult for CSOs based internationally to coordinate with each other and provide a timely, thoughtful and representative response.

Third, CSOs based in fragile states often prefer to spend their limited resources on their essential functions rather than engage in a faraway process the value of which may not be obvious. No CSO engagement is possible without resources to cover costs and the IDPS’ modest budget will need to be increased to facilitate greater participation.

How CSOs can add value

Drawing on the successful integration of a broad range of CSOs in the Rio+20 process (explained in greater detail here), I think there are two main lessons for the IDPS process.

First, CSOs could help put into practice the New Deal’s focus on the relationship between the state and civil society.

Second, they could help build ownership of the New Deal implementation at the local level. Building local ownership of peacebuilding and statebuilding would increase the legitimacy of state institutions and contribute to a more sustainable peace. As mediators between the state and the grassroots, CSOs can play an important role in helping to develop the sense among individuals that they have a stake in these processes. They also serve as a conduit for integrating country-level experiences into international processes such as the IDPS.

More specifically, CSOs could:

  • play an important role in holding governments to account and fostering open and inclusive political dialogue;
  • raise awareness of the IDPS, the New Deal, and the process for implementing it in developed and developing countries and internationally;
  • help identify the root causes of conflict and fragility, topics that have so far been neglected in the IDPS process;
  • help develop IDPS tools and indicators to measure progress on the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals;
  • monitor pilot programs that implement the New Deal and progress on achieving the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals;
  • refocus the IDPS away from a technical conversation about better aid to a dialogue on better development based on country-level experiences.

In order to achieve successful implementation of the New Deal, make most of the IDPS, and take full advantage of the potential of CSOs to help in those processes, the IDPS and its member governments should:

  1. Welcome CSOs as full members of the IDPS on equal footing with state members.
  2. Clarify processes and provide sufficient time for all members and participants to reflect, consult, and provide high-quality feedback on draft documents.
  3. Provide reasonable, predictable funding to the IDPS, with specific budget lines for the participation and coordination of CSOs.
  4. Integrate domestic and international CSOs into frameworks for implementing and monitoring progress on the New Deal at country and global levels.
  5. Recommit to a wider dialogue through the IDPS and refocus discussions away from technical questions of aid delivery to a broader conversation about peacebuilding and statebuilding as part of the development process and rooted in country-level experiences.

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Comments

There are 2 comments Show comments

Chris Underwood on December 7, 2012

A very thoughtful piece and one which I agree within, at least in part.

But having just come back from Liberia, and having witnessed at least one country-level discussion among civil society leaders there on how to ground New Deal indicators in the very complex and challenging questions that the process throws up, and which in turn go to the heart of the future of the country’s prospects to continue on a journey toward long term peace, I do think in many cases the contributions you say civil society “could be” making to the process are in fact already being made.

Here’s my account in case it is of interest

http://www.chrisunderwoodsblog.com/2012/12/making-new-deal-work-view-from-ground.html

On the IDPS, however, your points are very well made indeed – both in terms of process and resourcing. After all, you only get out that which you put in, and if any process was worthy of investment this is it.

Jennifer Salahub on December 14, 2012

Thanks for your feedback, Chris. It’s great to know that civil society is so actively engaged in New Deal processes in Liberia. My experience with Liberian CSOs means this doesn’t come as a surprise! They are a formidable group.

I think my comments are directed more at the national level governments and donors which make up the IDPS and, despite the excellent work of an expanding group of CSOS, remain very focused on the state and its institutions.

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