This note sets out the rationale and benefits of a ‘spectrum approach’ to fragility, and the purpose and use of country-specific fragility spectrums and indicators (developed through fragility assessments). It also discusses the utility of a consolidated fragility spectrum and a shared menu of indicators. The note is the result of the g7+ discussion on the Fragility Spectrum. Fragility assessments were undertaken in five g7+ countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Timor-Leste.
The paper first sets out the definitions of fragility and resilience agreed by the g7+ and discusses the benefits and use of the fragility spectrum tool. It then synthesises the rich material from countries that have already filled out country-specific spectrums and indicators through a consolidated fragility spectrum and menu of indicators. The paper discusses how to avoid misusing these resources. Finally, it describes the stages of fragility across the spectrum that are beginning to emerge. This document and these tools are shared as a work in progress, to be continually updated as and when other member states complete fragility assessments.
The g7+ definition of fragility is purposely broad so as to incorporate the diversity of experiences of fragility. It is intended as a marker to make clear how the challenges are perceived, but it is not a binding prescription:
- A state of fragility can be understood as a period of time during nationhood when sustainable socio-economic development requires greater emphasis on complementary peacebuilding and statebuilding activities such as building inclusive political settlements, security, justice, jobs, good management of resources, and accountable and fair service delivery.
However, in many countries the term ‘fragility’ is highly controversial, and many prefer to focus on ‘resilience’ as the positive inverse of fragility. Resilience is seen as the end point that states in fragile situations are working towards:
- Resilience refers to the ability of social institutions to absorb and adapt to the internal and external shocks and setbacks they are likely to face. Fragility thus implies that the consolidation of nationhood, and the safety, security and well being of the citizens are at risk of a relapse into crisis or violent conflict. This risk is gradually reduced as the institutions develop the necessary ability to cope with the type of threats they are exposed to.
The fragility spectrum is a qualitative tool, not a quantitative one. It attempts to understand the specific stage a country may be in, taking into account the overall transition process underway. A transition from fragility to resilience is not always linear, and relapses may occur. It should also not be assumed that transitions are naturally progressive, and that one stage will naturally or automatically lead to the rest. Relapse is common, and countries can easily be trapped in a stage for a long period of time. The fragility spectrum should be used as a way to visualize these trajectories, not to punish countries for relapses.
The stages of fragility are: (1) Crisis; (2) Rebuild and reform; (3) Transition; (4) Transformation; and (5) Resilience.