Multiple global financial institutions and think tanks are looking at the effects and hazards of country fragility. With the additional stressor of the COVID-19 pandemic, these threats have intensified. It might be surprising to know that each of these global institutions has generated a list of countries that are caught in cycles that contribute to fragility; and each institution has independently identified similar weaknesses that prevent the countries from escaping this fragility cycle.
Alarm bells begin to chime when countries have a long-term struggle with things like political instability, weak capacities of state, low administrative capacity, weak economic performance, poor social cohesion, weakened financial institutions, or the inability to collect taxes to name some of the key weaknesses.
As the pandemic infection patterns continue to stress all economies, those countries that are more fragile have a much greater challenge than ever before.
Resilience can be built in many ways. Crucial factors for future societies such as sustainable environment and social planning design will not be able to offer adequate tools to deal with upcoming challenges without first improving knowledge of resilience. Resilience actions that can mitigate the effects of the most fragile states must be built in a networked and interconnected multi-level governance approach on local, regional, national, international, and global levels. To best identify how to become more resilient, countries must first look at their fragility status and identify specific areas of weakness to improve. These areas will require much more than quick fixes in isolated projects; they will require systemic, long term efforts based on keen analysis of specific data about the strength of laws and institutions. These laws and institutions are the foundation to support the needed resilience to sustain social and economic growth, and lift the nation from the perils of fragility.
Institutional strengthening is at the core of setting a strong foundation on which a more resilient nation can be built. Building state capacity includes cross sectoral attributes including integrity, democracy, public finance, data management, civil service, and media. Nation building, the act of forging “a common sense of nationhood”, aims at the unification of the people within the state, first by providing the basic social and economic needs to its people, and then, by constructing and structuring a national identity using the capacities of the state.
Fragile states have “cycles”, and these states must break out of those entry and exit patterns to move from fragile to resilient states. Counter-cyclical policies recognized by international research, and sound customized macroeconomic policies based on local profiles are first steps. The probability of success can be increased if these policies are supported by strong governance and anti-corruption measures that ensure proper use of resources to help create and maintain a stable economy. These cyclical changes require long term vision, patient governance, and regular and on-going data collection to measure change over time. Too often, fragile states adopt strategies that they are not yet ready for because the necessary foundation is not present to support them. Too often, due to governance instability, strategies are aborted too soon because they are not producing short term successes.
Resilience is built around the ability to absorb disruption and operate under a wide variety of circumstances. That definition is never more powerful than now, for the perils of fragility are testing all systems’ ability to adapt.