THE REAL DEAL: Reinforcing accountability in fragile states

joy May 21, 2014

Some states lack the capability and/or the willingness to progressively promote the shared development of their citizens and are particularly vulnerable to external shocks and internal conflicts. These states have been described as “fragile states” (Naudé, 2012). Fragile and conflict-affected countries are home to 1.5 billion people. Approximately 70 percent of these fragile states have experienced conflict since 1989 with basic governance transformation estimated to take 20-40 years. Almost a third of Official Development Assistance (ODA) is spent in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Unfortunately, this massive influx of funds sometimes ends up creating new avenues for corruption or strengthening already existing corrupt networks through various ways e.g. nepotism, fraud, lack of accountability, over-invoicing etc. This leads to the undesirable situation whereby corruption is a common occurrence within ODA initiatives. The challenge is how we can ensure that development assistance achieves the desired results under such circumstances.

The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States was signed on the 30th, November 2011 at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in South Korea. It has since been signed by over 40 countries and development partners. It offers a new way of working in fragile states contexts. In the New Deal, the G7+ countries and its development partners agreed to:

  • Set goals and indicators for peace-building and state-building.
  • Establish country led and country owned plans based on joint fragility assessment and participatory political dialogue.
  • Strengthen the partnership between fragile states and donors, emphasizing accountability by states and better risk management of aid by donors (Naudé, 2012).

The New Deal establishes key peace-building and state-building goals, focuses on new ways of engaging by supporting inclusive country-led transitions out of fragility, and identifies commitments to build trust and mutual partnerships to achieve better results in fragile states.

Owing to the absence of social accountability, central state-building processes in fragile states are uniquely prone to different forms of corruption from political settlements to service delivery and economic development processes. It has been argued that conflict is linked to a presence of corruption and an absence of transparency. Integrity Action believes that the establishment of an integrity and accountability mechanism in the new deal process is important in building states that are resilient to conflicts. There is a need to build, as a backbone to peace-building and state-building, social accountability across societies. It is critical that a bottom-up approach is instituted to emphasise local accountability and transparency while promoting inclusiveness and ownership throughout the new deal process from the grassroots all the way up. This will bring credibility along with legitimacy of actors in the new deal process i.e. state, development partners and CSOs. By contrast, a lack of integrity and social accountability in the new deal process may increase the risk of instability and falling back into conflict.   

Having acknowledged the importance of incorporating accountability mechanisms and integrity building efforts as a backbone to the New Deal process, Integrity Action recommends the following approach:

      i.        Actors engaged in peace-building and state-building should provide technical support and build capacity for country CSOs to curb corruption and build integrity throughout the process of attaining the peace-building and state-building goals.

     ii.        Actors engaged in peace-building and state-building should strive for more inclusiveness in the new deal process not only for a wider scope of CSOs but also for the citizens at the grass roots.

    iii.        There should be a uniform and effective way for translating results on the ground. There are free and reliable tools that are already available that can serve this purpose e.g.:

a.     GrantCheck

GrantCheck aims to increase transparency and accountability in donor grant giving through an online platform where the giver and recipient can publish and exchange information on grant contracts. GrantCheck provides the big picture of grant disbursements showing which grant recipients have received money from which grant makers.

GrantCheck gives grantees visibility and helps them meet high standards of transparency providing useful mapping and reporting for both donors and grantees.

b.    DevelopmentCheck

DevelopmentCheck addresses the challenge of loss of aid and government funds due to fraud, corruption and mismanagement. It is a user driven and solution oriented online tool for citizen feedback on the transparency, participation and effectiveness of development projects. 

DevelopmentCheck can be a useful tool in monitoring development initiatives in fragile contexts and garnering real-time information on the status of these initiatives along with citizens’ priorities and feedback. The tool offers a transparency and accountability mechanism for these projects particularly in terms of community engagement, effectiveness and satisfaction.

Most importantly, DevelopmentCheck provides a platform for evidence-based results by country focal points.

c.     Community Engagement in Reconstruction

Ensuring accountability to citizens is critical in fragile and conflict-affected states. This means identifying community priorities or user concerns, building responsiveness of service providers, and delivering in line with communities’ needs.

Integrity Action acknowledges that the above mentioned tools may offer a platform of integrating transparency and accountability into the New Deal initiatives. However, country actors (state, development partners, CSOs and businesses) play an important role in ensuring that the tools realise their purpose through their commitment in incorporating integrity principles at all levels of state-building and peace-building. We recognise that the success of these tools depends on the dedication of these actors and the full involvement of women, youth and marginalised groups throughout the process.