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Fragile States: Information

Fragile States

Fragile states is the term used for countries facing particularly severe development challenges such as weak institutional capacity, weak governance, political instability, and frequently on-going violence or the legacy effects of past severe conflict. They account for a sixth of the world’s population of 6.5 billion, but for half of all the worlds’ infant deaths, and a third of all people surviving on less than US$1 a day. Despite major advances in poverty reduction during the past decade, progress in many fragile countries remains elusive. Fragile states have poverty rates averaging 54 percent, compared with 22 percent in other low-income countries. They account for a third of the deaths from HIV/AIDS in poor countries, a third of the people who lack access to clean water, a third of children who do not complete primary school, and half of all child deaths. The 2008 food and fuel shocks and the global financial crisis have further stressed these countries’ economies and poverty reduction strategies.

In many countries, fragility and conflict go hand-in-hand, reinforcing each other. Stepping out of this “conflict trap” remains an elusive goal for many post-conflict-countries: an estimated 40 percent relapse into conflict within 10 years. In recent years the international community has given a great deal of attention to these states, and the World Bank has considerably scaled up its capacity to respond to their needs through policy and institutional reforms and initiatives to strengthen external partnerships.

Post-Conflict Financing
Recent research has identified high returns to aid investments after conflict. The International Development Association (IDA) is the Bank’s main source of resources for fragile and conflict-affected countries. Of the 79 IDA-eligible countries and territories, 33 are currently considered fragile; they are home to 15 percent of the total population of IDA-eligible countries.

- IDA commitments to fragile states have increased from US$772 million in FY00 to US$1.6 billion in FY09.

- In addition to the performance-based IDA allocation, fragile and conflict-affected countries may receive exceptional allocations to address their particular needs. For the IDA15 period, donors extend the period of eligibility for such exceptional allocations to 10 years.

Emergency Response
In 2007 the Bank introduced a new emergency response policy, which helped support a corporate-wide response, and greater management attention, to emerging global crises. A review after two years of implementation showed that the new policy has allowed for faster processing of emergency lending, paved the way for important partnerships with development partners working in crisis and emergency settings, and triggered a Bankwide effort to enhance institutional support to country teams working in these situations.

In fragile and conflict-affected countries, even more than in other low-income countries, it is important that aid be provided in an integrated way. Thus the World Bank fosters strong partnerships with the United Nations Agencies, the United Nations Peace-Building Commission, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and its Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC), other multilateral development banks, and bilateral donors. For example, in 2008 the Bank and the UN signed accords designed to speed up joint responses to crises and emergencies; and the Bank, the European Commission, and the UN signed a Joint Declaration on Post-Crisis Assessments and Recovery Planning that was implemented that same year. The Bank also participates actively in the OECD/DAC International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF).

Research, Knowledge, and Learning
As an intellectual leader in the area of fragility and conflict, the World Bank has initiated a focused program of research, knowledge, and learning to catalyze innovation and sharpen operational effectiveness. Through this program, the Bank expects to gain an improved understanding of structural and country-specific factors that contribute to institutional and governance fragility, and strengthen consensus on approaches to fragility and conflict.

- Other research efforts address peace and development; political analysis; conflict, crime, displacement, and violence; and the compilation of comprehensive databases on land mines and armed conflict. In addition, the 2011 World Development Report will focus on conflict and fragility.

- To disseminate knowledge on fragility and conflict, the Bank has a Global Expert Team for fragile and conflict situations, which supports country teams in a range of areas.

- The Bank regularly delivers a four-day learning course for staff and external participants, and it has prepared guidance notes on rebuilding public administrations, cash transfer programs, and Bank core competencies, among others.

Learn More

IDA at Work: A retrospective look at what IDA has achieved in select areas over the last 10 years. Learn more

What is IDA? The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that provides interest-free credits to the world's poorest countries. Learn more

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