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German Development Cooperation in Fragile Contexts

German development cooperation is increasingly taking place in fragile contexts, as more than half of its partner countries are now affected by violence, conflicts and a lack of state authority/legitimacy. As a result of these particular challenges, the effectiveness of development cooperation is threatened. This evaluation provides guidance for policymakers in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and other donors to adapt development cooperation to the context of partner countries with the aim to make it more effective and sustainable. 

Fragile contexts are characterised by a lack of state authority, the inability to provide basic public services (low administrative capacity) and the population´s refusal to consent to the state’s sovereignty (restricted legitimacy). These separate dimensions of state fragility are of varying intensity depending on the country and context in question.

German development policy is confronted with all aspects of state fragility in its partner countries. This evaluation aims to address the structural, political and social causes of inequality and state weakness and to strengthen mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.



Central results and recommendations

BMZ measures fragility using multi-dimensional approaches that are continually subject to further development.

In order to make the measuring instruments that are used even more useful, the indicators on which they are based and their weighting need to be presented more transparently to decision-makers. Moreover, the measurement of fragility could be differentiated based on regions and different actors within partner countries.

German development cooperation follows two approaches in its cooperation with fragile states, namely the promotion of peace and security and the development of government institutions.

By coordinating the respective departments responsible, it aims to ensure that these approaches complement one another. Moreover, by ensuring a common understanding of fragility, overlaps can be avoided and synergy effects utilised.

On average, projects in countries with a higher level of state capacity are more successful.

The capacity of partner countries should therefore be assessed in detail in strategic project planning, taking account of any differences between different target groups and different regions.

We largely distribute the funds for development policy measures in line with our own strategic guidelines.

However, a comparatively small proportion of the funds goes to non-governmental organisations and civil society. The existing principles for selecting suitable development cooperation partners in fragile contexts should be critically reviewed.

Travel restrictions, a poor infrastructure, and weak monitoring and evaluation systems impede evaluations in fragile countries.

It is therefore recommended to expand capacities for using digital methods in the collection of data for monitoring and evaluation purposes. In addition, suitable financial resources and separate budgeting thereof are necessary in order to stay abreast of the special monitoring and evaluation conditions in fragile contexts at the level of the projects.


The evaluation was concluded in 2019. This is a summary of the results and recommendations; you can find the complete results and recommendations in the report.


The evaluation comprised a concept comparison and a strategy analysis, based on the assessment of academic literature, official documents, publicly available socio-economic data and interviews. The structures and processes of German bilateral development cooperation were analysed on the basis of internal and public documents elaborating on the procedures for decision-making. The review placed a particular emphasis here on those steps in the process that relate to strategies on development cooperation in fragile contexts or fragility assessments. In order to tailor recommendations to the needs of BMZ, GIZ, and KfW, the evaluation team refer to the procedures as described in BMZ’s Joint Procedural Reform (GVR).

The evaluation team also analysed evaluation quality and project success in fragile contexts, building on a synthesis of evaluation reports by GIZ and KfW. This synthesis links characteristics of the evaluated project and the evaluation with data on the implementation context. In the context of this evaluation, moreover, the evaluation team developed a procedure to automatically retrieve geographical information from evaluation reports in order to locate the evaluated projects. This data can be linked to information about local conflict events to gauge the enforcement of the state’s monopoly on the use of force at a subnational level. Moreover, the analysis of evaluation quality draws on evaluation guidelines from GIZ and KfW and existing meta-evaluations.



Portrait von Dr. Thomas Wencker
© DEval

Dr Thomas Wencker

Senior Evaluator - Team Leader

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-951


Portrait von Dr. Stefan Leiderer
© DEval

Dr Stefan Leiderer

Head of Department: State Fragility, Conflict Prevention and Governance

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-940


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