TACOMA, Washington — On December 19, 2019, Congress adopted the groundbreaking bipartisan Global Fragility Act. According to a bill summary by the Congressional Research Service, the intents of the act are as follows: “help stabilize conflict-affected areas, address global fragility and increase U.S. capacity to be a leader in international efforts to prevent extremism and violent conflict.” The overarching goal of this act is to end the violence that currently plagues 70 million people around the world. Rather than addressing the symptoms of violence, the act will address the causes with the hope of creating a more peaceful world.
The Relationship Between Violence and Poverty
Fragile states riddled with violence often have high rates of poverty. Such states include Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. As of 2020, they are the highest-ranking states with the most concerning ratings in the security apparatus and economic indicators. The vicious cycle between violence and poverty often seen in fragile states can involve and be exacerbated by a combination of hardships, including, but not limited to, natural disasters, tension among ethnic and religious groups, food shortages, disease and a lack of education.
There are three common factors among fragile states that explain this cycle: insecurity and economic collapse, due to one of the aforementioned reasons, and an unfit government, which can cause insecurity and economic collapse. These three factors circle around and around, worsening the cyclical nature of state fragility.
How Will the Act Combat Global Violence and Poverty?
The act aims to combat global violence through the use of four strategies:
- “Anticipate and Prevent Violence:” This strategy pertains to prevention with the intent to anticipate conflict and begin the peacebuilding process before it is too late. This point includes supporting women, children, religious peoples and other marginalized groups.
- “Achieve Locally Driven Political Solutions to Violent Conflicts and Large-Scale Violence:” This strategy focuses on stabilization and proposes the utilization of “locally driven” solutions to violence. This point includes crafting sustainable peace agreements and ceasefires.
- “Promote Partnerships for Stability, Resilience, and Peace:” This strategy reinforces “burden-sharing” by cultivating collaboration between the United States and other nations in order to foster stability. This point includes engaging partners to provide assistance with governmental and economic aspects in fragile states.
- “Enable an Effective, Integrated U.S. Government Response:” This strategy refers to proper management with the goal of creating a more effective and cohesive response from the United States. This point includes proper recruitment and training to cultivate diverse staff with the ability to address fragile states. Furthermore, there would be fervent oversight including risk assessments to ensure that the approaches utilized are modified and shifted as necessary.
With regard to global poverty, the act’s success would ensure that states can focus their resources on education, disaster preparedness, agriculture, disease eradication and so much more. The act would effectively break a link in the chain that binds violence and poverty, allowing countries to recover from their turbulent pasts and move toward a brighter future.
How Will the United States Benefit?
Occasionally money must be spent so that money can be made or saved, as is the case with the Global Fragility Act. The act has set aside $1.15 billion to prevent conflict and build peace in the most fragile countries over the course of the next five years.
The reason behind this investment is straightforward: when a military response is required for a conflict abroad, American taxpayers provide the funds. Preventing conflict abroad will save American taxpayers’ hard-earned money. According to the Mercy Corps, “every $1 spent on peacebuilding would reduce the costs of conflict by $16.”
What Progress Has Been Made Since the Act’s Adoption?
There have not been any published updates about the act’s progress, and this is likely due to it being less than a year old and COVID-19 taking the world by storm. However, Mercy Corps and The Alliance for Peacebuilding have cultivated a non-partisan coalition of nearly 70 peacebuilding and development organizations that vow to ensure the success of the act. The Global Fragility Act Coalition stated that they will work diligently with Congress and the administration in the years to come.
With COVID-19 derailing 2020, it is unlikely that specific progress will be made before the end of the year, as there have been no updates thus far. However, the Global Fragility Act is a beacon of hope and it is evident that it has potential. The tangible strategies that have been laid out by the United States government coupled with the dozens of organizations pushing for the success of the act have created a sustainable structure of support for fragile states going forward.