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Think "Fragile First" warns European Development Report

Originally published
The first ever European Report on Development (ERD) was launched at European Development Days in Stockholm. Europe's top experts put the focus on the challenges faced by fragile African countries in an unstable global economic context. Their report highlights the destabilising effect of the global economic downturn, and makes recommendations for the way forward. It calls on donors to keep their aid promises.

The European Report on Development 2009 deals with the complex and multidimensional issue of 'fragility', with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

EU Commissioner for Development, Karel De Gucht, said: " This report highlights the need to keep developing countries in our minds as we emerge from the economic downturn. We need to think "Fragile First" - those experiencing situations of fragility are most at risk from the effects of the economic crisis and will feel the effects for the longest time, well after other countries recover. Fragility affects populations, surrounding regions and has implications for Africa and Europe as a whole. "

Against the backdrop of the global recession, the ERD stresses the need for the EU to keep - and even strengthen - its commitments towards developing countries, especially the most fragile ones. Fragility calls for long-term, credible engagements and enhanced policy coherence and coordination, so that the EU can speak and act with one voice, the ERD says. It is a key challenge for European development policy, but also for other policy areas, such as security and trade.

The ERD team warns that if donor countries behave as they did during previous recessions, fragile states might have to cope with a decrease in aid flows, which could fall by EUR22 billion in 2009. Most sub-Saharan African countries would be exposed to a reduction of between 15 and 20%. "This scenario must absolutely be avoided" urges the ERD.

The entire report analyses the costs and characteristics of fragility. In particular, it examines the capacity of fragile countries to cope with negative shocks, such as the 2008-09 financial and economic crisis. It also assesses the EU's current engagement and potential to overcome state fragility in Africa, and proposes long-term policy priorities for the future to help fragile countries to stick to the path towards resilience and sustained growth.

Described as the "toughest development challenge of our era", fragility is currently high on the European political agenda. An EU Action Plan for a more coherent and strategic approach to situations of fragility and conflicts is due out in November 2009. The Commission is also refining its instruments and procedures to make them more responsive to the poignant challenges posed by fragility.


Currently, supported by the European Commission and six Member States (Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), the 'Mobilising European research for development policies' initiative seeks to enhance the European perspective on key development issues and to make European academic and policy communities work together.

The main outcome of this initiative is the European Report on Development, which will in future be published on a yearly basis. It is an independent, knowledge-based and forward-looking review of development issues. It will help the European Union to refine its vision on development, enrich its policies and influence the international debate.

This year's first edition of the independent report has been prepared under the lead of the European University Institute (EUI) based in Florence.

An intensive participatory process, bringing on board a wide range of top scholars, policy-makers and civil society representatives, both from Europe and Africa, has been undertaken to conduct this ambitious policy research initiative. This first edition of the ERD will help Europe fine tune its strategic approach to fragility and define more coherent policies in the future.

To read the entire report: