Prime Minister of Haiti and Liberia’s Minister of Finance Co-Host Fragile States Dialogue Series
On Sept. 27, the Earth Institute’s Haiti Research and Policy Program at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development welcomed Laurent Lamothe, prime minister of the Republic of Haiti, Amara Konneh, minister of finance of the Republic of Liberia, and Saidu Nallo, representative of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Sierra Leone, for a high-level discussion on the realities and needs of fragile states under the New Deal for aid effectiveness.
In 2011, a voluntary association of conflict afflicted countries created the g7+ group of fragile states and negotiated the New Deal on aid effectiveness. The resulting document identified common commitments and principles that are tailored to the needs of fragile states, which are home to an estimated 1.5 billion (or 20 percent) of the world’s population. The widely endorsed New Deal marked a new paradigm in development by addressing the specific challenges faced by fragile and conflict affected states. However, a number of critical challenges remain. Donors are now engaging more with fragile states but can still be reluctant to work through state institutions in fragile settings and to provide the planning and implementation capacity — both of which are essential ingredients for countries to move out of fragility and are in dire need of strengthening in g7+ states.
The event on Friday was the first session of an Earth Institute-facilitated g7+ dialogue series which seeks to provide a new platform for the leadership of the g7+ group to discuss models and mechanisms to achieve aid effectiveness, to posit challenges and to articulate their common needs of support for sustainable development.
The discussion, moderated by Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development Director Glenn Denning and Haiti Research and Policy Program Director Tatiana Wah, ranged from issues of optimizing public investment through national planning and budget mechanisms in post-crisis contexts to ensuring donors also provide support to build country-level systems so governments can address their own fragility. Both the prime minister and minister of finance posed several key questions to the Earth Institute professors, scholars and students on appropriate policy formulation relating to making aid more effective in fragile states. There will be ongoing discussions and reactions over the next few months following this dialogue series, attempting to address the questions.
Prime Minister Lamothe specifically sought better mechanisms to coordinate aid, non-profits and the private sector around the development priorities and targets that are set forth in their national planning documents. Alex Fischer, associate director of the Haiti Research and Policy Program, asked the prime minister how the national development plans could be translated into better coordinating mechanisms and concrete strategies to align donors with communities and government programs. They both acknowledged that the current Plan Stratégique de Développement d’Haiti only sets out broad models and aspirations, rather than giving concrete implementation needs, priorities or investment sequences to guide donors and partners. Similar to previous discussions at the Earth Institute, the prime minister responded saying that the country requires better information systems, such as facility inventories, high-resolution satellite imagery and socio-economic data, to guide program planning and to transform the plans into decision-support tools.
Lamothe further noted that distinguishing between the type and form of aid support from bi-lateral donors can be crucial for fragile state contexts. For example, the Haitian government maintains a long-term agreement with the Venezuelan government to fund government poverty reduction and development programs. Lamothe argued that fragile states are not typically given this type of unrestricted budgetary support that he considers so essential for a government to rebuild capacity and operations.
Minister of Finance Konneh continued that point by saying that in 2005 (after the Liberian civil war), the national government’s total budget was around $18 million, and that with no tax base and remnants of the warlord’s appointees in civil service positions, the international community had to help rebuild the governance institutions.
Konneh reflected that despite his government’s efforts to convince donors that they have fixed their public finance system and government institutions, many donors refuse to test them by trying them out. He says this undermines further capacity development and building of government institutions. He cited various challenges to achieve the goals of greater accountability of both the government and donors.
The session concluded by discussing how to build principles of mutual accountability between the governments and donors. Konneh detailed Liberia’s open budget initiative, which emerged out of the New Deal to increase accountability and transparency around public finance and government operations. The prime minister of Haiti agreed this was a valuable lesson.
The participants agreed that despite global development goals, the models for development must still be modified for the specific context of fragility. Even when those models and objectives are put forward by the government, many of the mechanisms to achieve them are lacking. The New Deal on aid effectiveness was the first important step to recognize the needs of fragile states, and the ministers requested ongoing support for the Earth Institute team to help articulate their vision for the post-2015 development agenda, to be adapted and made relevant for the g7+ fragile states’ contexts.
This article is one in a series emerging from the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development focusing on fragile state development. For more information on previous events please visit CGSD’s Haiti Research and Policy Program.