Working to Consolidate Fragile States and Prevent Conflicts



The failure of State structures in fragile States is at the root of the spread of insecurity, corruption phenomena and the disintegration of society. The refoundation of the State is a priority for French Cooperation, as a pre-requisite to implementing development policies and structural reforms.

In post-conflict settings, it is essential to bring into convergence the processes for peace consolidation, humanitarian aid and development, in order to achieve an integrated reconstruction system. The objective is to provide a cohesive set of policies around the public authorities being reconstructed and synchronisation between the programmes.

The initiatives aimed at restoring legitimacy for institutions come alongside civil society building projects, so as to enable the implementation of intermediation with the public authorities, the re-establishment of a social dynamic and the construction of a pacified society.

French Thinking on Fragile States

Receiving more and more attention in debate in the international community, the concept of “fragile States” was borne of the realisation that it is not enough to express concern about countries in crisis or post-crisis situations, on which the international community’s attention is focused, but that it is essential to aim toward preventing crises from erupting.

The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is coordinating an inter-ministerial think-tank initiative on the issue of fragile States, which has led to the elaboration French strategy in the area.

Rather than looking to establish a restrictive definition or coming up with a list of fragile States, France’s thinking is based on a checklist of fragilities, which enables a more analytical look at these complex situations, which require individual solutions, tailored to the specifics of each country. The categories of fragility studied are the downfallings of the Rule of Law, the State’s inability to take action, its illegitimacy, the economy’s dysfunctioning, the facilitation of society and the regional environment.

This thinking process has thus established itself at the height of evolution on the debate about governance, which now covers a broader, more traditional, multi-sector dimension, regarding not only improving the management of public affairs, as well as the need to take care of the society itself.

For, above and beyond the State’s inability or lack of determination in taking up its sovereign powers and providing the essential public services to the populations, one of the main factors in those fragilities is the lack of a plan for society and national construction shared by the populations. The latter often feel marginalised by leaders who do not seem to pay any attention to their fate and with whom they cannot identify. Should that dimension fail to be taken into account, it is unlikely that the challenges present can be addressed and that lasting recovery be achieved.

The issue of fragile States, moreover, gave rise to a publication in 2007, under the guidance of the Ministry and the French Development Agency: a multi-disciplinary book entitled, “Fragile States and Societies, Between Conflict, Reconstruction and Development” (published by Karthala).

Strengthening our prevention action in a multilateral and bilateral setting

Conflict prevention is a true challenge for the international community. French cooperation aims towards synergies with the European Union and other bilateral and international donors, in particular the UNPD (EUR 8 M protocol agreement signed in 2006) and the World Bank (for example, under the Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme - MDRP).

It also backs support initiatives that are more specific to sub-regional organisations, such as the Economic Community of Western African States - CEDEAO, in order to build their capacity for prevention and early warning about tensions on the ground.