Greater Than the Sum Of Its Parts? Assessing "Whole of Government" Approaches to Fragile States

Kaysie Brown
June 15, 2007

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Experience shows that outside efforts to help reform or reconstruct fragile states must simultaneously address issues of security, governance, and economic growth. Greater than the Sum of Its Parts?, a new book published by the International Peace Academy and written by CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick and program associate Kaysie Brown, looks at how seven governments—the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and Sweden—are seeking to rise to this challenge. They find that "whole of government" approaches remain a work in progress. Despite a few promising innovations and pilot projects, individual governments continue to struggle in their efforts to define the purposes of policy integration; to formulate a strategic vision to guide their efforts; to create robust structures of coordination; to create new funding streams tailored to the conditions of fragile states; to build critical civilian capabilities to address priority post-conflict needs; and to evaluate the impact of new strategies and policies. The authors offer practical recommendations for how donor governments can improve their engagement with fragile states:

  • START TALKING: Donor governments must commit to honest internal dialogue about how to balance and prioritize the multiple goals and objectives involved in working in fragile states.
  • THINK STRATEGICALLY: Donors should develop a unified national strategy toward each fragile state they plan to engage, and this should drive a comprehensive assistance strategy.
  • INSTITUTIONS MATTER: Donors should make institution-building a major focus of their engagement with fragile states, and devote a greater share of their foreign aid to fragile states.
  • GET SERIOUS: Senior political and departmental leaders must make a clear public commitment to whole of government strategies and provide explicit guidance to relevant agencies.
  • MONEY TALKS: Donors should cautiously embrace pooled funding arrangements and standing contingency funds.
  • EVALUATE: Donors must develop new ways to evaluate the impact of their interventions on state fragility.

Advance Praise for Greater than the Sum of Its Parts?

Fragile states remain the greatest development challenge of our time. This study does an excellent job of reviewing how western democracies are dealing with the challenge. It is one of the few that has the analytical rigor, depth of insight, and full understanding of the interdepartmental and interdisciplinary approaches necessary to address the issues: a fine accomplishment full of needed candor and practical recommendations.

Andrew Natsios, former Administrator, United States Agency for International Development

Current attempts to join up development, security and diplomacy when dealing with fragile and post-conflict states still often generate more heat than light. The authors offer some overdue answers on the difficulties and the importance of making the approach work.

March Malloch Brown, former Deputy UN Secretary-General and Administrator, UN Development Program

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