German Institute for Development Evaluation
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26.02.2020 - Evaluation report published: Lack of state capacity poses a particular challenge to development cooperation in fragile countries

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) classifies more than 50 states around the globe, including Afghanistan, DR Congo and Myanmar, as fragile. At the same time, more than half of German development cooperation is implemented in fragile states. The German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval) has conducted a study investigating German development policy in fragile states, and has made some predominantly positive findings. However, a lack of state capacity – in other words, deficient administrative structures and a limited ability of the state to provide basic services – is identified as a particular challenge for the success of projects in these countries.

Understanding fragility: states lacking in authority, legitimacy and capacity

1.8 billion people worldwide live in fragile states. Fragility is characterised, for example, by armed conflicts or a lack of access for the population to justice or health services. If development policy measures are to be suitably adapted to the respective local context, an appropriate understanding of fragility is required. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) classifies fragility based on three dimensions: the state monopoly on the use of force (authority), acceptance of the state’s political rule (legitimacy) and state capacity (that is, the state’s ability to provide basic services and a functioning governmental administration).

Positive assessment of concepts and strategic orientation

The DEval study assesses the strategic orientation of BMZ in dealing with fragile states largely positively. Moreover, an allocation analysis in the evaluation reveals that the funds allocated by BMZ comply with its strategic specifications. One exception in the period under consideration, however, is support for non-state actors in fragile contexts, an area where BMZ fails to achieve its strategic specifications. DEval therefore recommends examining guiding principles on cooperation with non-state actors and ensuring that these principles are implemented.

A lack of state capacity affects the success of projects

When it comes to implementation, it is in particular apparent that development projects in states with a higher state capacity are more effective. State capacity is thus essential to ensure the success of development policy projects. DEval therefore recommends that BMZ conduct a detailed analysis of the risks in partner countries with a poor state capacity so that these risks can be taken into account in planning.

Projects in fragile countries do not have poorer ratings

Due to the high level of insecurity, it is particularly difficult to implement development cooperation measures in fragile states. However, an analysis of evaluation reports by the KfW Development Bank and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) shows that projects in countries that are classified as fragile are generally not rated as being less successful than those in non-fragile contexts.

Data basis

The report draws on a data basis comprising, for example, an analysis of the development policy strategies of BMZ and the funding it uses. In addition, text mining methods have been used to compile a synthesis of 471 evaluation reports by the KfW Development Bank and the GIZ.

The “German Development Cooperation in Fragile Contexts” report can be accessed on the DEval website. A summary in German is available here.

Scientific contact

Dr. Sven Harten

Head of Competence Centre for Evaluation Methodology, Deputy Director

Telefon: +49 (0)228 336907-950

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