Wherever armed conflict erupts, its causes can almost always be traced back to weak or broken social contracts between government and its people. The U.S. Institute of Peace sees such “state fragility” as a complex issue that needs urgent attention. USIP strives to address the challenge of fragility through new approaches to conflict prevention and by strengthening resilience that promotes a sound social compact between the state and society. USIP has joined in convening the Fragility Study Group, a non-partisan initiative aimed at improving the U.S. government’s approach to reducing global fragility.
As the humanitarian and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, so does the risk that this crisis will fuel new conflicts around the world, while stymying prospects for resolving ongoing ones. The global health crisis is triggering devastating levels of food insecurity and unemployment, especially in the world’s most fragile states, where the social contract between citizens and the state is severed and societies are fragmented and vulnerable to violence. These trends will almost certainly lead to a future spike in instability across these countries, unless concerted international action is taken.
The U.S. government (USG) is preparing to unveil a new strategy over the coming months to tackle the underlying causes of fragility and conflict in vulnerable countries around the world. The strategy comes at an important time, just as the United States and other international donors seek to respond to rapidly increasing health, food, and other emergency needs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. It will be critical that in line with the new strategy, this aid does not inadvertently stoke new tensions.
In 2014, Islamic State militants committed genocide against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Yazidis and Christians, across northern Iraq. Kidnapping, rape, and murder marked this campaign of terror; thousands fled their homes. Six years later, with ISIS defeated militarily and its leader, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, dead following a U.S. raid, many displaced Iraqis have yet to return to their homes. The obstacles they face range from bureaucracy to a fear for their lives amid signs of an ISIS resurgence to Turkish airstrikes against groups Ankara sees as threatening its national interest.
The Conflict Prevention and Fragility Working Group develops timely, policy-relevant analysis at the intersection of the global response to COVID-19 and conflict prevention, identifying practical policy solutions for embedding a fragility lens into the global pandemic response. Building on the findings of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States and the Global Fragility Act (GFA), this group of experts includes thought-leaders with a wide-range of experience and expertise—from advocates to academics to frontline peacebuilders.
The bipartisan Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States will recommend a new approach for U.S. policy that harnesses existing U.S. programs and international partnerships to target the underlying causes of extremism and limit the ability of extremist groups to exploit fragile states.