After nine years of its foundation, the g7+ faces a development agenda that is much different from before. If in 2010 the language was that of development effectiveness, now the group seems to have extrapolated that. The g7+ has grown to have 20 member countries and has consistently advocated for a different engagement with fragile states. The way we understand it, the most distinctive aspect of this engagement has been its crucially principled stance towards the way people think and do peace and development. Specific tools such as the New Deal, the PSGs, FOCUS and TRUST seem to be most valuable when they are advanced with the aim to foster new and more inclusive dialogues, redefine the terms of engagement and find space for fragile states in the international scenario. Meanwhile, the key
challenges lie precisely in how these tools can be operationalized without losing sight of such important principles or turning them into templates. This has not always been done successfully and on that depends the g7+’s very possibilities of advocating for fragile states: if the group cannot showcase local successes, they will always risk losing attention in a world where attention span is most certainly decreasing. Cases of successes also help maintain the group’s internal cohesion, offering member countries precisely the kind of hope and confidence the g7+ has been valued for from the beginning. However, with limited resources, it will always be a challenge for the g7+ to stretch itself between advocacy and action on the ground. The key lies in this balance.
This review, commissioned by the g7+ Secretariat as an independent study, maps out past and present g7+’s achievements and the challenges the group faces in terms of the core current events in the international scenario: there are more countries experiencing conflict than at any time in the past 30 years;1 by 2030, it is estimated up to 80% of the world’s poorest may be living in fragile and conflict-affected states2 and that by 2050, as many as 143 million people could become climate migrants in just three regions (Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America).3
The key recent achievements of the g7+ show the group still counts with its mains assets: an articulate and effective secretariat; passionate people on the ground; an extremely relevant and consistent agenda; and some solidly supportive ears outside. However, even achievements need to be rooted in engaging narratives, accounted for and communicated. The g7+’s contributions for the approval of SDG16, for instance, are well acknowledged, yet the group has not taken advantage of that momentum and symbolic capital. Contributions to changes in resource flows and allocation, such as seen in the World Bank’s IDA17 and, to some extent, IDA18 and new Strategy for Fragile States, in turn, are largely known outside the group, but not well known among members. On the other hand, F2F and the impetus created by the New Deal and Fragility Assessments are highly valued among members even in countries that have not quite put these into practice, while externals find these either not well implemented, or even currently irrelevant – ‘out of fashion’. This is perhaps much related to the difficulties the group has historically faced to find a place among other developing countries. Both for internal support to outbound strategies and external knowledge of inbound processes, we make recommendations that range from fostering skills for political analyses to rebranding ‘fragility’ internationally.
Indeed, the way the group will choose to address the issue of the very term ‘fragility’ might be key for its capacity to face internal and external problems. Internally, the term still finds rebuke, especially among African countries; internal debates and whole-of-government approaches can help foster a consensus. These would, in addition, address the need to invest in diversifying the image of the leadership that is convened, inviting more active participation on the part of all members. Timor-Leste has offered remarkable leadership but clearly now needs others to step up; moreover, the group would benefit from actively showing their agenda is common and shared. Externally, ‘fragility’ faces difficulties dialoguing with the universality and indivisibility encouraged by the 2030 Agenda. The g7+ might want to address this challenge in a more direct way, positioning itself in terms of what being fragile means in this scenario; indeed, valuing their own expertise would be smart now that ‘peace’ is everywhere. However, at the same time, the group needs to seek quality partnerships where they can be found; this expertise, therefore, should not isolate the g7+ but, on the contrary, serve to foment complementarity.
We also suggest the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda is a perfect entry point for the g7+’s agenda on solidarity, one that is naturally connected to all that the group has been defending, especially in the figure of the much-advocated SDG16. Nevertheless, as the study indicates, there might be pitfalls in this international inclusiveness discourse, as much as inclusiveness itself is extremely welcome and part of the g7+’s own advocacy. Changes in the way resources will be allocated, for instance, are complex and need perhaps to be constantly scrutinized before the group takes firm stances regarding subjects like terrorism and preventing violent extremism, to make sure such positions will actually benefit its members, and not stigmatize, nor indirectly take away resources from other important areas. The subjects are extremely relevant for fragile states, but a cautious approach is recommended. Overall, the balance has been very positive. The group delivered much, even if not nearly all that it promised. The review showed there is great support still. In fact, the g7+ seems to be a special case in which the amount of support is not necessarily attached to a capacity to completely fulfil promises made. While all the time there are certainly new trends in development politics that constantly defy one’s focus, the g7+ has shown an incredible capacity to follow up on partnerships and consolidate a network of optimist supporters. The group’s way of doing things has certainly found resonance and should be nurtured, which should not, however, steal away from the motivation to make changes to adapt to this new and challenging development scenario.