The Global Fragility Act Passes into Law

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following months of advocacy, the United States Congress finally passed the Global Fragility Act (H.R.2116 / S.727) on Dec. 19, 2019. The Act is aimed at increasing the United State’s efforts towards eliminating factors that promote violence and instability. As a part of this year’s Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Global Fragility Act passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 297-120 and in the Senate by a vote of 71-23.

The Poverty Trap

Across the world, violence has plagued third world nations, pushing many into what is known as the “poverty trap.” Countries such as Afghanistan and Congo have experienced the devastating consequences of war and violence for decades without a permanent solution in sight. In many cases, violence can be seen as a primary cause of global poverty and fragility.

Currently, approximately 800 million people live in extreme poverty. While some are able to escape the poverty trap, others fall into it with limited aid. According to the 2011 World Development Report by The World Bank, nations split apart by civil war and ethnic conflict have a difficult time with development as they lack the needed resources. In the end, global fragility has created a need to find a solution aimed at eliminating ongoing violence in order to prevent the ultimate poverty trap.

American Assistance

From America’s perspective, instability in other nations poses a large threat to U.S. national security. American officials have used foreign aid as a method to ensure regional security. Furthermore, instability around the world has led to humanitarian crises as millions of individuals are displaced or are in need of assistance due to terrorism, criminal activity and ongoing violence. The U.S. has played a large role in supplying these nations in need with foreign assistance.

In 2012, the U.S. was “the largest bilateral donor.” In fact, the U.S. provided around “$31.2 billion in economic assistance and $17.2 billion in military assistance.” The Marshall Plan during the Cold War and the aid packages given to Egypt and Israel as part of the David Accords are just some examples of where this money goes. Not only have these packages helped other nations in times of conflict but they have also helped the U.S. foster economic growth and democratization with other countries. Even with these positive aspects, however, there was never a long term plan focused on eliminating the root of the issue.

The Global Fragility Act

The Global Fragility Act was introduced on April 8, 2019, by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Adam Smith (D-WA), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Bill Keating (D-MA) and Francis Rooney (R-FL). The Act aims to be that long term plan. The Global Fragility Act is based on the advice from the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States, an initiative aimed at recommending a new approach for U.S. policy. This Task Force focuses on aligning “U.S policy instruments, from foreign assistance to diplomatic engagement, in support of preventing extremism in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Near East.” With this in mind, the Global Fragility Act encompasses five main points focusing on U.S. diplomatic development and security efforts.

  1. launch a Global Fragility Initiative to “address the risks of fragility by stabilizing conflict-affected areas and preventing violence and conflict”

  2. select areas where fragility poses the greatest threat for the piloting of innovative diplomatic and programmatic U.S. action in support of the Global Fragility Initiative;

  3. sanction the Complex Crises Fund, a strategy pocketed by Congress that provides vital, flexible funds to USAID for preventing future crises;

  4. target the root causes of fragility, such as extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity and weak governance;

  5. inform Congress on which methods are effective in preventing conflict

Congress appropriated $230 million to support the Global Fragility Act’s implementation in 2020. The Act authorizes three funds: the Prevention and Stabilization Fund, the Complex Crisis Fund and the Multi-Donor Global Fragility Fund. The Prevention and Stabilization Fund supports the alleviation of violence and the stabilization of conflict-affected areas. $200 million is allocated to the Prevention and Stabilization Fund for each fiscal year from 2020 through 2024. The Complex Crisis Fund supports programs that mitigate or respond to emerging or unforeseen international conflicts and $30 million is allocated to the fund for each fiscal year from 2020 through 2024. Lastly, the Multi-Donor Global Fragility Fund helps to oversee public and private contributions to advance multilateral coordination and guarantee effective programming and burden sharing.

The Global Fragility Act also has additional support from more than 50 civil society and non-governmental organizations. Its passing marks an important victory in the fight against global poverty as it sends a bipartisan message that the U.S. needs to address the causes of violence for its own safety and for the safety of others. It also pushes other nations to take action on their own as this issue affects everyone globally. By shedding light on the drastic consequences brought by violence and poverty, the Global Fragility Act calls for direct action and involvement to aid countries in need.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

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