OECD States of Fragility Report – Meeting Post-2015 Ambitions

by | Mar 26, 2015

This afternoon, in New York, the OECD is launching its States of Fragility 2015 report which explores how new sustainable development goals and targets (SDGs) can be implemented in countries and communities that lack the political stability and institutions to support inclusive growth, or that are affected by very high levels of violence.

The report was written with colleagues at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and is part of a broader effort to switch the focus from what should be part of the post-2015 development agenda, towards how the new agenda can be delivered.

It argues that we have no hope of delivering the SDGs in large parts of the world, unless we get serious about tackling fragility.

Robust global growth, and more equitable patterns of distribution, have the potential to lead to rapid and continued further reductions in all forms of poverty, but this would mean that those left behind would increasingly live in fragile situations.

The OECD started work on this report long before the Open Working Group had published its proposed list of goals and targets, and they deserve considerable praise for their willingness to make an early start on exploring delivery challenges.

Back in May 2013, Alex and I were asked to write a paper by the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda, where we looked at the implications of business-as-usual trends for the sustainable development objectives that governments were likely to sign up to. The title of that paper – The Future is Not Good Enough – sums up the conclusions we reached.

SDG 16 reads as follows:

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

The goal splits into three parts. The institutional and access to justice dimensions were not in the MDGs, but they are far from new to international development practice. The 2011 World Development Report – in whose genesis past and current CIC staff played an important role – challenged the international community to do more to help build legitimate institutions, and to invest in citizen security, justice, and jobs as part of building more stable societies.

Since then, the g7+ countries – all of which have been affected by conflict – have begun to define how they want the international community to support them as they transition out of fragility. But new momentum and investment is needed both for countries within and outside this group, and we need to do more to generate evidence about what works to tackle fragility.

The third dimension of SDG16 – targets to reduce all forms of violence, and to end violence against children – offers new challenges. Safety is critical for all of us, and one of the most important, and unrecognised, determinants of inequality is those who suffer violence in their everyday lives, and those who do not. Violence is also a universal threat, and tackling it requires countries of all income levels to act.

I have explored this emerging agenda mainly through the lens of target 16.2 – which calls for an end to all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse against children. If Not Now, When? Ending Violence Against the World’s Children explores what is needed to begin delivering this target. There are also exciting research agendas emerging around the broader challenge of violence prevention – with WHO and the University of Cambridge exploring what it would take to halve violence globally.

The big question for leaders when they attend the UN Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda in September in New York will be if they are serious about implementation, or whether 17 goals and 169 targets are just for show.

The new OECD report begins to explore the SDG16 delivery challenge (and the implications of fragility for delivering poverty, growth, education, health, etc. goals and targets).

But it is just a start – we now need urgently all the international systems, governments and other stakeholders to turn a normative conversation into a strategic one, and to answer the question of what will be done differently when the new agenda comes into force on the 1st January 2016.




  • David Steven is a senior fellow at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

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