The United States is committed to advancing the Global Fragility Act (GFA) as part of its global response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior State Department, USAID and Department of Defense officials said on Wednesday at a virtual gathering of development and peacebuilding organizations and experts convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace to facilitate discussions on how to implement the legislation.
The health and economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic threaten to reverse decades of development progress. While the international community has mobilized substantial sums of aid and financing to address the pandemic and its impacts, the scale of the crisis demands an even more ambitious response. With the virus’s peak still ahead for many countries, there remains an opportunity to rally support for international collaboration on preventive measures that could stave off the worst-case scenario while addressing underlying sources of fragility.
A “mixed” response from the international community is threatening a worst-case scenario for fragile states facing COVID-19. USIP’s Tyler Beckelman says countries need to recognize “the best strategy for defeating the virus is defeating it everywhere” and cooperate on aid in fragile contexts.
As the unprecedented humanitarian and economic impacts of COVID-19 begin to be felt across poor and conflict-affected states, there is a risk that policymakers will lose focus on longer-term priorities—like conflict prevention and economic development.
During the past few months I have spent working with religious minorities in Iraq, I have realized that these communities and Iraq’s anti-government protesters seek the same outcome: a democratic, safe, and pluralistic country.
Although COVID-19 has yet to hit the Middle East with full force, the pandemic’s second and third order effects could impact the region in the most profound ways. The virus threatens to exacerbate the region’s deep-seated ills—poor governance, inadequate economic growth, deep societal fissures, pervasive conflict, and displacement—and shape the Middle East’s post-pandemic landscape.
Iran’s outbreak has been the worst in the Middle East by far and there are concerns that the pandemic’s spread is significantly worse than reported by Iranian authorities. The virus hit at a particularly bad time for Iran with the economy already suffering from the impact of U.S. sanctions. USIP’s Garrett Nada discusses the debate over the number of cases, Tehran’s decision to ease containment measures, and whether the coronavirus crisis could open the door to de-escalation with the United States.
As more developed nations have struggled desperately to contain and manage the COVID-19 pandemic, the specter of the virus rolling through the more fragile countries in the Sahel, Horn of Africa, and parts of the Middle East is a terrifying, slow-motion train wreck with the potential to trigger a devastating multidimensional-tiered health, economic, political, and security crisis. It also provides an urgent call to action to do things differently in fragile states so they can recover better.
Nigerian leaders struggling to reduce violence in the country’s myriad conflicts should take some lessons—from their own response to the coronavirus. While Nigeria’s COVID-19 ordeal is still unfolding, its eventual casualties unknown, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and several governors have modeled the ways to reduce catastrophic outbreaks. The simple existence of a national prevention center with sustained resources has proven critical. Key officials have applied vital principles, acting at the first sign of danger and keeping the public widely informed. These are precisely the ways to confront Nigeria’s other national plague—of violence.
“Do you know how nomads prevent conflict?” a Kazakh friend once asked me. “I turn this way; you turn the other way. We start walking.” In ordinary times in Central Asia, this traditional “social distancing” may be enough to avert friction. But in a time of pandemic, it isn’t. Like elsewhere, the novel coronavirus is challenging Central Asian states and societies in new ways and revealing a great deal about the character of peoples and their governments. Here’s a look across the region at how the crisis has affected its states and how leaders have responded.