The Fragility Study Group is an independent, non-partisan, effort of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security and the United States Institute of Peace. The chair report of the study group, U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility, was released on September 12. This brief is part of a series authored by scholars from the three institutions that build on the chair report to discuss the implications of fragility on existing U.S. tools, strategic interests and challenges. 

Policymakers are increasingly attuned to the security implications of state fragility. Whether we worry that the state in question is unable to prevent localized conflict from spilling over borders, inadvertently providing a safe haven for violent actors through lack of territorial control, or increasing the risk of epidemics as a result of inadequate medical response, most of the policy community’s focus on fragile states begins with a security concern. However, if fragility is defined as the absence or breakdown of the social contract between a state and its citizens, then any effort to address fragility must also consider fragility’s economic underpinnings.

In looking for ways to make economic assistance effective in fragile states, the question arises of whether a major innovation of U.S. economic assistance of the past decade—the economic compact model pioneered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)—might usefully be applied. The answer is yes, but not in all fragile states, and only if we learn the full lessons of what MCC’s experiment can teach us about the compact approach to economic development.

Alicia Phillips Mandaville is the vice president for Global Development at InterAction.

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