The concept of international development is complex, contentious, multifaceted, and permeable around the world. The Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch’s event on Wednesday, March 26, Time for a “New Deal”: The g7+ as an Emerging Voice for Fragile States, validates the aforementioned assertion. The Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch provided a rare and invaluable opportunity to listen to and converse with delegates of the g7+ who have been integral in the development of its ‘New Deal for Engagement.’ While the discussion mainly engaged three delegates, Francesca Bomboko, Erin McCandless, and Hafeez Musca Ali Wani, four other delegates were present who also made insightful contributions to the conversation.
Erin McCandless, an Adjunct Professor at the New School for Graduate Studies at New York University and a civil society representative for New Deal working groups, provided an insightful and succinct introduction to the event by explaining the New Deal and how it is significant or ‘new.’ Pivotal to McCandless’s description was her assertion that the New Deal is an attempt to turn development on its head and overhaul the delivery of aid. She outlined five main reasons concerning how and why the New Deal would revolutionize aid and development. McCandless expressed the importance of having those fragile and conflict-affected countries that are endeavoring to develop, take the lead in their own development. She also mentioned the g7+’s commitment to creating a New Deal that encouraged and exemplified openness and transparency in development. As is evident in the content of the New Deal, McCandless stressed how important it was for the g7+ to create a complete and common framework under which all states could work. She also spoke of the g7+’s dedication to building legitimacy to development initiatives. McCandless closed with her fifth main remark concerning the new focus of the New Deal, which is to find the catalysts and drivers of conflict to adequately address them.
Francesca Bomboko, the National Coordinator at the Ministry for Planning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), shifted the focus of the dialogue to the influence of the New Deal on the DRC, which had the lowest fragility score of all the participatory states. More specifically, she spoke to the formulation of the fragility assessment by the g7+ and its impact on the DRC. In essence, the fragility assessment is a framework or guide that states can use to assess their current status, with the goal of having their fragility assessment lead to the formulation of a compact specific to that state and its issues. Bomboko clarified that the donor-funded assessments are conducted mostly by a government’s finance and planning ministry. Bomboko mentioned that despite the highly contentious election that took place in 2011, the DRC scored high on political inclusiveness because evaluators appreciated that an election did take place. Particularly pertinent was Bomboko’s affirmation that each state’s fragility scores are valid but difficult to compare as each state’s score is relative to how it views and uses the given scale.
Hafeez Musa Ali Wani, NGO Secretariat, Focal Point in South Sudan, provided insight into South Sudan’s implementation of the New Deal and particularly, the results of its fragility assessment. Ali Wani cited it as a good example of a pilot state that implemented the New Deal. As well, Ali Wani sought to explain the extent to which donor states consider risk management in aid distribution. To that end, Ali Wani asserted that while the risk of engagement by donor states may be great, oftentimes the risk of non-engagement is greater. He also mentioned that donor states should not just frame risk analysis as the costs and benefits associated with engagement, but should also consider the costs and benefits associated with the existence of active conflict within a state, as the benefit of peace is typically higher than the risk of engagement. Ali Wani also sought to determine what South Sudan’s fragility assessment missed that contributed to the outbreak of conflict on December 15, 2013, and outlined a number of different factors the fragility assessment might have overlooked. One such political factor mentioned was the need to restore stability between the public and private sector.
The Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch’s event, Time for a “New Deal”: The g7+ as an Emerging Voice for Fragile States, spoke to the significance of international development, the New Deal, and the g7+ vis-à-vis Canada and Canadian foreign policy. Canada’s historical identity as an actively engaged state is perhaps just that, historical. While the quality of Canada’s engagement over the years is debatable, what’s more is now the quantity of its engagement, as Canada continues to scale back on initiatives. Canada’s budgets for such endeavours have diminished and consequently, it seeks to promote private investments to maintain its efforts. Such a strategy is dangerous if private funders are unaware of what to do. To that end, it is important to stay educated on our government’s policies and to get involved its initiatives.
Sara Mena Greco
Guest Blogger, Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch