About two-thirds of GIZ’s countries of assignment are now considered fragile. This is the term used to describe states whose governments are not able or willing to uphold the fundamental mechanics of statehood in the fields of security, the rule of law and basic social services (see box further below). In 2021, GIZ worked for different German federal ministries and other commissioning parties in partner countries, in some cases under extremely difficult conditions. Our actions are based on the German Government’s Guidelines on Preventing Crises, Resolving Conflicts, Building Peace. In line with these guidelines, we take a preventive approach in many places. However, where people face acute emergencies, we also work with emergency relief specialists to support them. Parallel to this, we strengthen those persons responsible in villages, towns and cities, and regions wherever possible, so that they can tackle the job of reconstruction and get everyone in the community on board. Fostering a cohesive society means that crises and conflicts can be resolved quicker and more effectively, and action can be aligned with the imperatives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This calls for sensitivity and patience since results are often achieved only gradually and in the background.
‘The day I made peace’
Mali is one example of a long-term preventive approach. Since 2012, this West African state has been in the throes of a national crisis. To counter extremism, we are supporting cultural initiatives there on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office. Considerable importance is attached to the arts in Mali. Cultural forms of expression allow young people to have a say in discussions relevant to their society, and enable them to work as change agents. That is why we are supporting hip-hop festivals, music workshops and drama productions. One example is the cultural initiative Un jour où j’ai fait la paix (‘The day I made peace’). Cultural events reach out to thousands of young people.
In addition to the stabilisation approaches of the Federal Foreign Office, GIZ uses transitional development assistance, a BMZ instrument designed for use in crisis-affected contexts. In northern Iraq, for instance, we are creating jobs for up to 40 days for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and disadvantaged individuals in the host communities. To date, we have been able to provide short-term employment and thus income opportunities for over 39,000 people. With the United Nations Refugee Agency, we also make use of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. This approach combines acute humanitarian aid with longer-term development cooperation. In northern Uganda, for example, refugees and the local population are receiving training that will enable them to install photovoltaic equipment. The people learn together and then translate their knowledge into practice, creating their own prototype solar-powered mobile phone chargers, for instance.
Our work is repeatedly influenced by events that are either unpredictable or that cannot be steered. Our staff members, who are well acquainted with the conditions and interrelations on the ground, enable us to respond to this volatility. We plan for the future with appropriate structures, such as business continuity management. In particularly hazardous regions we use remote management. We can drive our projects forward from a distance with the help of local partners, which might be non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or representatives of local civil society. The offices in the capital city maintain telephone and email contact. Where travel is possible, it is organised only on a case-by-case basis. The security experts in the country offices – in extremely fragile countries there is a Risk Management Office – are consulted prior to any trip. For monitoring – the systematic recording of progress – GIZ has also put in place digital tools and a network of reliable partners that allow it to work effectively from a distance.
Watershed in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan in August 2021 was one of the most dramatic events of last year. But despite the shock waves it generated, our work there has not been in vain. The impacts of progress, for example improved access to electricity and drinking water, enhanced literacy and better training, can still be seen. Along with the international community, German development cooperation has succeeded in increasing the number of children attending school by a factor of 12 over the last 20 years, to more than 12 million – including many girls who can now read and write.
Under the current exceptional circumstances, GIZ continues to support local staff and their families who are endeavouring to leave the country. The German Government stipulates the criteria and preconditions governing the evacuation procedure for local staff, thereby determining who is eligible. On behalf of the German Government, GIZ also organises the evacuation of Afghan staff members of other organisations and individuals classed as vulnerable by the German Government. We deal with air and land transport and arrange appointments for visa applications. By the end of May 2022, we had already helped more than 17,400 Afghans to leave the country and organise onward travel.
Stabilisation involves high-risk project work. Here we are talking about places where the security situation is extremely difficult and where often only the military or humanitarian relief agencies have access. One example is the region around Lake Chad, which has been devastated by the reign of terror wrought by Boko Haram. In order to retain an ability to act under these circumstances, particular expertise is required for monitoring, steering and analytical work. This is where the Stabilisation Platform (SPF) comes in. It was founded in 2021 on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office as an own brand. SPF is hosted by GIZ and consists of experts with a wealth of practical experience, which they then make available to foreign and security policy-makers. The SPF team supports the Federal Foreign Office with wide-ranging expertise gained from worldwide project work, including in fragile contexts in particular. It offers technical advice, pilots new instruments and provides operational support.
Forms of Fragility
- ‘Failing states’ often marked by violent conflict
- ‘Weak states’ with no violent conflicts but where institutions are weak and the ability to provide essential services is limited
- ‘Challenged states’, which are relatively legitimate and able to act, but face threats (such as the consequences of climate change)
- ‘Illegitimate states’, where the political order is not accepted as legitimate by large sections of the population in spite of or indeed because of massive state repression, making the states only superficially stable
- ‘Moderately functioning states’, where the main challenges lie in the state monopoly over the use of force (threats posed by organised crime for instance) and in the ability of the state to deliver services
- ‘Fragile situations’. It is not always an entire state that is fragile; sometimes fragility affects only part of the national territory as a result of particular events.
End poverty in all its forms everywhere
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
The 2030 Agenda and its 17 goals are important benchmarks for GIZ.