Pires: In Fragile States, War Costs More Than Development

“It is a simple equation,” Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance of Timor Leste, said. “War costs more than development. When I began as Minister of Finance, even I was staggered by how citizen-state contracts could help solidify security, help rebuild lives, and put the state on a path to stability.”

Speaking to a policy forum at IPI on April 18, three high-level officials from fragile and conflict-affected states described their efforts to address the distinct challenges their societies face, emphasizing five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) as pre-requisites to meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They were addressing a situation where almost one in five people, 1.5 billion, live in fragile and conflict-affected states, none of which has met a single MDG yet.

The officials represented the g7+, a group of 20 fragile and conflict-affected countries that are home to 365 million people. In addition to Pires, who is chair of the g7+, other panelists were Francesca Bomboko from the Ministry of Planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ali Dirir Farah, Deputy Minister of Finance and Treasury of Somalia. These experts spoke in the context of the New Deal for the Engagement of Fragile States, which was agreed up at last year’s Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.

Ms. Pires spoke of the experience of her country in establishing stability and preventing further crises. Ms. Pires said that the grievances of armed rebels were addressed by listening to them and providing economic packages. “Many people said we were paying them off,” she said. “This might be true, but five years on, these men have continued to honor their citizen-state contract and there has never been any more trouble from them.” “In Timor Leste, when services began to flow, when pensions started to be paid to the elderly, the sick, the single mothers, when economic growth translated into tangible infrastructure that could help build their communities, schools, parks, roads, people stopped fighting,” she said. “People began feeling justice through just resolutions by the state.”

“Economic reforms and security reforms went hand in hand. Quick wins gave us to the time to make long-lasting change, including change to our post-conflict mentality, which is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome,” she continued. “Donors need to give the government the time and space for these transitional periods. Without this support, the consequences can do significant harm.”

“Let me be clear,” she concluded. “In fragile and conflict-affected countries, it is even more important to attend to our social responsibilities. It does not take technical assistance to figure this out. It takes money. Money that translates to services.”

Ms. Bomboko spoke of the complex situation in the DRC. She said that aid is unpredictable and varies year-to-year and province-to-province. Current aid modalities do not support building national capacity due to the limited trust between donors and governments. Much aid is channeled through other means, data is scarce and provided very reluctantly by donors, she said.

“This is why the DRC welcomes the New Deal,” she said, as it addresses many of these issues. Mr. Farah touched upon similar issues his government has faced with donors. “The experience of Somalia is much worse than other countries that experienced protracted conflict because of the total collapse of central state authority,” he said.

Channeling aid through NGOs and UN agencies, means that “very little external financial assistance was received by the country. This makes it almost impossible for the transitional government to plan expenditure and to implement government projects and programs,” he said.

“The amount of money donors claim to have given in the name of Somalia through its implementing agencies and the reality on the ground of the intended programs are astronomically apart.”

In addition, Helder da Costa, head of the g7+ Secretariat provided opening remarks, saying, “We find basic foundations that are missing. How can we achieve our MDGs for education when our schools have been burned down and our teachers scattered? How can we improve maternal health if state institutions are so weak, vital services cannot be delivered?”

“The New Deal not only talks about the PSGs as a priority in fragile and conflict-affected states, it also talks about the ways we engage with our partners. At its core, development needs to be a country-owned and country-led process using what we call the focus and trust principles,” he said.

The meeting was chaired by IPI President, Terje Rød-Larsen, who remarked that “I’m seated here with a band of modernizing revolutionaries.”

Interview with Emilia Pires, Chair of the g7+ Group of Fragile States

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