Development Assistance to the MENA Region’s Zones of Conflict & Fragility: A Background Paper to the World Bank's 2011 MENA World Development Report

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Fragile states, as research has demonstrated, are particularly vulnerable to armed conflict, under-development, and poverty. They have been the worst performing contexts vis-à-vis the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and are widely believed to pose the greatest challenge not only to humanitarianism and development but also to security within their surrounding regions as well as to global stability. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been at the centre of the fragile states agenda with the recent or ongoing occurrence of chronic crises and sporadic bursts of large-scale conflict in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere. This paper provides an overview of who is engaging where and with what levels and forms of assistance in the MENA region, particularly in the four fragile contexts identified there by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): Djibouti, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen (though reference is made to other contexts). Particular emphasis is also paid upon harmonization among donors and the contributions of the Arab-identified multilateral and bilateral donor institutions such as the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The findings suggest that while funding for fragile states in MENA has overwhelmingly been on the rise, most of this assistance has surrounded the crisis in Iraq and has served to respond to point-source crises in the occupied Palestinian territories. Financing for humanitarian and development operations in countries teetering on the brink of conflict or deeply affected by fragility has largely been insufficient. In other words, aid has been used far more commonly as a form of crisis-response than as a means of crisis-prevention.
Arab donor institutions, while perhaps providing sums of unrecorded aid to places such as the West Bank and Gaza and Yemen, appear to have become decreasingly willing to provide development assistance to fragile contexts in their own backyards (while providing an increasing amount of aid to stable countries within and beyond MENA). Furthermore, Arab donor institutions have tended to provide a form of disburse-and-depart donorship in which attention to the use and effectiveness of their aid is neither monitored nor promoted. Despite such weaknesses, Arab donor institutions are poised to take leadership over development assistance in the region, particularly in sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture, in a manner which is in some respects more appropriate than some models put forward by nations within the “traditional” donor club, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD. A more productive means of engagement between DAC donors and Arab donor institutions must be established and one which is perhaps rooted less in “harmonization”, a term which suggests a shared (and at least partly political) perspective or strategy, and more in joint assessments and planning, pooled financing, technical coordination, lessons learning and mutual capability sharing/exchange.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWorld Bank
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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