Humanitarian and development officials across governments, regional organizations and multilateral agencies are exploring options to navigate aid in the absence of partnership with national authorities. This final chapter sets out actions that can be taken within existing donor strategies and policies to respond more quickly and flexibly to situations of estrangement, as well as longer-term changes to facilitate more consistent, coherent and effective assistance.
The number of people currently living in FCS – where relations between national authorities and major donors are estranged – is rising. It is no longer possible to treat such contexts as exceptional.
This paper has outlined the complex challenges that the ruptured relations between donors and national authorities present for development aid. Building on diverse case studies and practice, this concluding chapter identifies ways in which donor approaches and actions can be adapted to promote delivery in politically estranged settings. It also offers recommendations for more consistent and effective donor policy and practice.
This paper’s recommendations are based on the following findings:
- One-half of the total population of current FCS live in politically estranged situations. Unconstitutional changes in government, large-scale human rights abuses and corruption undermine development and threaten both regional and international stability. Standard development approaches and partnership frameworks cannot be applied to such situations.
- These situations create accountability dilemmas for donors: as relationships with national authorities break down, the needs of recipient populations increase. Donors thus become more accountable to those populations. Accountability to donor domestic constituencies also becomes more visible and complex.
- In such instances, domestic pressures mount in many donor countries to withdraw development assistance. Heightened political visibility at home is complicated by the reduction or withdrawal of diplomatic and development presences in recipient countries. This makes coordination with other donors more sensitive and complex. Where violence and conflict are widespread, security and access restrictions further complicate the task of staying engaged.
- Estranged relations also create information and coordination gaps. Such gaps pose challenges for identifying and prioritizing needs, recipients and partners; what to deliver, and how; and when, where and how to adapt to changes on the ground.
- Current humanitarian–development divides exacerbate these dilemmas. Siloed frameworks do not support the maintenance of basic services in politically estranged situations. Basic economic functions, livelihoods and community dispute resolution are essential to prevent further collapse and large population movements. Humanitarian actors alone cannot deliver functions such as currency arrangements and payments systems.
- There are sound national interest, geopolitical, collective security and ethical reasons for donors to meet urgent needs; prevent further social and economic disruption and spillovers; increase resilience; and support a transition to normal relations where possible.
- But meeting urgent needs does not mean ignoring the sources of estrangement. There are proven approaches and modalities to deliver aid without legitimizing unlawful regimes, fuelling further conflict and human rights abuses or ignoring corruption risks.
- To date, these approaches and modalities have not been systematically considered by development donors. This results in delayed policy and operational responses in specific situations and deepens human, social and economic disruption – as Afghanistan demonstrates. It can have perverse effects on conflict economies – as in Syria. In some cases, such as the Central African Republic and Venezuela, it increases the potential for alternative funding sources to fill aid vacuums.
- In politically estranged situations, aid delivery must be designed and undertaken in ways that both maintain donor domestic support and respond to the specific political and economic conditions of the estranged country. The latter includes reaching those most in need, managing risks, and adapting rapidly to opportunities to improve or, if necessary, further distance relations with national authorities.
The following recommendations are intended for donors committed to aid effectiveness and relevant multilateral organizations. They are divided into three sets. Set A focuses on practical actions that can be taken within existing donor strategies and policies, some of which are already being explored in specific contexts by donors and multilateral actors. Set B proposes changes to national and multilateral strategies and policies to facilitate more consistent, timely and effective approaches in politically estranged situations. Finally, Set C identifies areas for further research and work.
A. Practical actions within existing donor and multilateral strategies and policies
Build domestic donor support:
- Bilateral donors should prioritize and invest in targeted outreach with priority donor domestic constituencies for specific estranged contexts – especially parliamentary bodies, relevant diaspora groups and mainstream media. Outreach may include regular briefings, targeted opinion surveys on specific situations and proactive media monitoring. Multilateral actors can support donors’ domestic outreach by providing concrete data and offering in-person briefings, including from humanitarian and development actors working in the estranged country.
- Strategic communications to priority domestic constituencies should focus on individual human needs and impact; preventing regional and global spillovers; navigating geopolitical competition; and demonstrating value for money. Donors’ public messaging must pre-emptively address valid concerns about legitimizing abusive governments or facilitating corruption. Establishing expectations in advance, avoiding unrealistic commitments and focusing on messages that ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption or abuses means finding and quickly acting on instances can help build domestic confidence.
Establish clear channels of dialogue and conditions with national and local actors:
- Increased conditions for aid are inevitable in politically estranged contexts. Donors should consider opportunities to exchange and consult in advance, both on the conditions they intend to establish and the actions required from recipient country actors for aid to flow. When standard development partnerships break down, existing donor coordination mechanisms – such as humanitarian appeals or MDTFs – can facilitate exchange on political and programme conditions. Input from regional partners and exchanges with policymakers with experience of similar episodes can help inform conditions.
- Conditions should be limited to core issues that are relevant to both humanitarian and development actors and communicable to partners and authorities. Examples of such conditions include commitments around principles of humanity, impartiality (in targeting beneficiaries, as well as in selecting implementing staff and agencies), transparency, access and redress. Area- and/or sector-focused conditions are preferable to ‘all or nothing’ conditionality at the national level.
- Clarity on how conditions will be monitored and assessed is essential. National and multilateral donors may consider drawing on the reporting of credible independent bodies, combining local and third-party monitoring, and expanding local and third-party monitoring beyond fiduciary performance to issues of exclusion and human rights (see recommendation 12).
- Joint donor funding and management of dedicated in-country capacities can support consistency and effectiveness, by monitoring how political conditions are programmatically applied and how insights from implementation can inform political conditions. Identifying redress procedures for breaches of political and/or programme conditions in advance can support timely policy response.
- Dialogue with national authorities is essential but its form depends on the degree of estrangement. In situations of limited engagement between donors and recipient authorities, the risk of dialogue silos – focused on politics, humanitarian aid or development – is higher. Empowered political and humanitarian interlocutors should enable exchange between political, development and humanitarian actors, and facilitate development and humanitarian actors to relay issues and analysis. Donors can assist by supporting specialized and reinforced staff or secondments, including individuals with macro-economic and risk management capacities.
- In some settings, development and humanitarian issues can provide useful entry points for dialogue and can provide helpful leverage in exploring political agreements. Guidance from governments and multilateral HQs on integrated dialogue with estranged authorities can help political actors to incorporate such perspectives, while empowering and supporting development and humanitarian actors to mitigate the risks involved.
Use effective delivery and oversight mechanisms:
- Bilateral and multilateral donors can consider the scope for a two-step political economy analysis to support and complement humanitarian and basic services needs assessments: first, an initial quick analysis, drawing on a risk and resilience assessment conducted through workshops that bring together field and HQ staff; and second, a more comprehensive assessment that successively draws on inputs from regional, national and local organizations, as well as community and beneficiary feedback. Under the auspices of a designated interlocutor, donors, multilateral and regional partners can also consider periodic structured exchange of information and analysis on political and economic developments in an estranged context.
- Bilateral and multilateral development donors and institutions can consider making more frequent use of the following menu of proven aid modalities in their response to political estrangement with national authorities, adapting them to country circumstances and the degree of estrangement. Each option will have different benefits for local capacity and governance, political and fiduciary risks, timing implications and costs. The balance between political and technical considerations in each context must be weighed. This requires discussion among and within donor bureaucracies, local partners and multilateral agencies responsible for delivering programmes.
- Community approaches, involving financial transfers to communities, with appropriate monitoring and mechanisms for redress;
- Semi-autonomous national delivery or coordination agencies, whether pre-existing or bespoke, to maintain basic services provision and localized development support;
- Regional programmes focused on regional public goods that make sense locally and internationally, with direct benefits to vulnerable groups or long-term issues;
- Ring-fenced support to sectoral or subnational state entities that can operate impartially and are acceptable to local communities, including on different sides of political and conflict divides;
- NGO-contracting for basic services with consistent geographical coverage, service-provision standards, beneficiary inclusion and transparency of expenditures; and
- Targeted technical assistance to both civil society and government. For government, this should be limited strictly to engagement with technical personnel in areas that encourage adherence to international obligations, delivery of basic services or transition back to constitutionality.
- In situations where the source of estrangement is localized policy action by the government, donors may consider applying these aid modalities in the affected subnational area or sending coordinated signals in national programming. Mechanisms for the former include linking development objectives to inclusion, transparency and redress in affected subnational areas. For the latter, mechanisms include the continuation of development programmes, but with ring-fencing and increased oversight.
- Bilateral and multilateral humanitarian and development actors can invest more in coordinated direct beneficiary feedback and community accountability mechanisms in estranged settings. This includes financing local feedback mechanisms as programme components. International third-party monitoring should be used only when needed to mitigate concerns over the safety, security and independent voice of citizens, beneficiaries and local institutions. Multilateral development banks can participate in humanitarian discussions on accountability to affected people (AAP), given their significant overlap with design of the oversight of development programmes.
B. Developing policy and strategy to support effective action in estranged situations
Donor country leadership, both desk-based and in-country, can adopt many of the approaches above within existing policy and strategy. Yet many donors report challenges in adapting tools and approaches on a case-by-case basis, often resulting in prolonged internal debates and slow decision-making. The following recommendations set out strategy and policy adaptations to facilitate more consistent approaches and timely practical action in such situations.
- To facilitate donor policymaking and coordination in specific estranged situations, bilateral donors, the UN and multilateral development banks can consider setting out, in relevant national and multilateral strategy and policy documents on fragile states, two key points of policy to underpin a modernized crisis management framework for estranged situations:
- Redefining basic services to include functions necessary to deliver agreed outcomes in education, healthcare and social protection. These are support to livelihoods (in some cases through the private sector), community-based dispute resolution and the maintenance of basic macroeconomic functions (notably currency exchange and payments systems). Practical application could be explored, as a first step, in areas common to development and humanitarian actors, such as the overlap between humanitarian actors’ work on cash programming and development actors’ work on social protection.
- Elaborating a menu of options for modalities that can be considered for potential application in estranged situations. A menu of options could include sufficient level of detail to facilitate donor dialogue and decision-making in specific contexts, according to the political economy and needs of the recipient country, donor constituency concerns, and assessment of the authorities’ willingness to compromise on delivery and oversight approaches.
- OECD DAC members could consider the development of a common framework for engagement in politically estranged circumstances, building on influential DAC principles for good international engagement in fragile states and guidance on aligning peace, development and humanitarian approaches (See Annex for an example).
- The UN (through its Sustainable Development Group) could revisit its guidance on strategic planning for development in exceptional circumstances and develop options to propose to donors and recipients in specific country contexts. These options could draw on modalities identified in this paper, to preserve local institutional capacity and accountability, while protecting against abuse.
- The UN, World Bank and the IMF, with inputs from regional organizations such as ASEAN, the AU and the EU, could develop a joint, two-step tool for assessment in estranged circumstances. This grouping of organizations could also consider the idea of ‘guardrails’ for estranged situations, building on the idea that geo-economic fragmentation will exacerbate geopolitical contestation, and can be mitigated by mediating trade and exchange to facilitate basic services.
- The IMF could consider a stock-take of lessons from surveillance in situations of political estrangement, with a view to adopting consistent best practice. The IMF could also consider adopting, as part of its forthcoming guidance on implementation of its Strategy for Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, approaches to dialogue and technical assistance on currency arrangements and payment systems in estranged situations.
- National donors and multilateral institutions could review their programming policies and procedures to identify barriers to adaptive programming:
- National donors could consider policy changes to increase flexible funding through MDTFs, programme-based approaches, multi-year support, core resources and negotiated replenishments, to provide multilaterals with the capacity to assist in pooling risk and adopting new approaches; and
- Bilateral donors and multilateral institutions could consider new guidance on adaptive programming to:
- Focus on adaptation in the overall portfolio, not only individual projects to move resources between modalities quickly;
- Trial solutions more, including embedding trialling, evaluation and scale-up in the design of programmes;
- Adopt emergency mechanisms to change development objectives mid-stream, enabling project restructuring;
- Consider contingent zero-based components in projects, where project design includes components that are unbudgeted but can be activated without new project approvals; and
- Consider clear delegation to field-based committees for changes within specific parameters and ceilings.
C. Further research and policy analysis
This paper focused on modalities for the delivery of aid in a subset of FCS where standard development frameworks and practices, including those adapted for fragile states, cannot be easily applied. Many areas for follow-up research have arisen, of which four are outlined below:
The use and interaction of principles of engagement, conditions and sanctions in estranged settings. Many multilateral and regional organizations, as well as individual donor governments, have frameworks in place that sanction or set conditions on the provision of assistance in estranged situations. These range from formal measures in response to unconstitutional changes of government, to economic, trade and travel restrictions on individuals and organizations, and from the application of the humanitarian principles in specific contexts, to development and financial institutions’ conditions around aid and penalties for breach. Many development and humanitarian donors are uncomfortable with the language of conditions, and there is a lack of understanding on how international sanctions and aid conditions intersect. There is a significant body of research on sanctions, including their impact on humanitarian assistance. However, the ways in which political and programme conditions are applied in politically estranged situations, and how they align or interact with international sanctions and humanitarian assistance, have received less attention. Examining this relationship could help clarify, and offer new perspectives on, how both sanctions and aid conditions might be more effectively set and applied in estranged situations.
Aid financing instruments in estranged settings. In producing this paper, two sets of related questions arose relating to financing instruments, which could usefully be the focus of further research:
- Is the division between development and humanitarian budgets (and in many donors, development and humanitarian departments) fit for purpose in today’s world? Those countries facing the greatest developmental lag and concern over global and regional public goods are also generally those facing prolonged and high-cost humanitarian needs. As noted above, in each practical context, development and humanitarian activities can be made more complementary without changing global policies. Yet this often involves immense efforts and workarounds to deal with the rules of different departments, budgets and programming. What are the risks and opportunities in considering a blending of budgets and decision-making structures?
- How can multilateral development banks navigate the financing needs of politically estranged countries/situations? These situations are inappropriate for loans. Grants could be available, under IDA or for IBRD under special facilities. But there is a moral hazard issue if governing authorities that follow poor governance paths continue to enjoy beneficial aid flows. Moreover, international financial instruments, even if grant-based, are also not easily adapted to support community-level activities, NGO-contracting or semi-autonomous entities without government leadership. Do multilateral development banks need to consider a new allocation window and new instruments for politically estranged states?
Dialogue with non-DAC donors on estranged situations. The presence of non-traditional donors and funding sources in many such settings challenges the scope and impact of collective international action. Evolving alliances and allegiances amid the current heightened geopolitical competition increase the scope for estranged environments to become a battleground for regional and global rivalries. At the same time, many non-traditional state donors have seen their political and financial investments undermined, while the security of their citizens has been negatively affected by crises in fragile and conflict-affected environments. Engagement with non-DAC donor states could help DAC members to make better assessments of the risks and opportunities of staying engaged in estranged settings, and to design more effective responses. At a minimum, it may help identify areas of potential shared understanding and common themes that support more cohesive and impactful international responses to crises involving major unconstitutional acts.
Lessons from countries that have previously been estranged. Critical insights on the perspectives and consequences of estrangement can be gained by working with political leaders, government officials, researchers and CSOs who have experience of national crises that included the suspension or withdrawal of development assistance. This work could include interviews and case studies to explore the strategies and actions that hindered or contributed to a return to constitutionality and the resumption of development partnerships.
Estranged relations between donors and national authorities are, by their essence, difficult to navigate. But the prevalence of such situations today demands policy response tools. The study from which these recommendations are drawn is a first attempt to systematically assess, across different regions and country cases, options for staying and delivering when relations between donors and authorities break down. Further analysis and policy debate will be required, including on the sustainability of current humanitarian and development systems, and financing. But, in advance of that, bilateral and multilateral development actors can take policy and practical steps to better anticipate risks of estrangement and respond when aid relationships break down. Pursuing those steps can help identify and articulate the role of development in today’s more contested geopolitical environment.