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Focusing on Fragility: The Future of US Assistance to Fragile States

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Sarah Rose


Global development is increasingly intertwined with state fragility. Poverty is becoming concentrated in fragile states, and conflict, violent extremism, and environmental stresses can both stem from and be exacerbated by fragility. As a result, many donors—including the United States—are rethinking how their engagement can better help countries address the underlying causes of fragility, build peace and stability, and cope with complex risks.

The United States is the top provider of official development assistance to fragile states, but much of this aid has not focused on reducing fragility. Even where confronting fragility has been a central objective of US development assistance, the track record of success has been mixed, at best. New efforts are emerging to change this story. Reflecting on lessons of the past, the United States government has been developing new policy frameworks, initiatives, and proposed reforms that seek to address shortcomings in how the US government engages in fragile states. To contribute to this conversation, the Center for Global Development convened a working group of more than 20 experts, including former officials from the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the US intelligence community, along with noted academics and policy experts to identify specific ideas for how the US government can more effectively use its development assistance—in conjunction with diplomatic and security assistance tools—in fragile states.