As glaring inequalities in the global recovery from COVID-19 become clearer, the U.N. has warned of growing risks of political tensions and conflict in many countries. This poses a daunting challenge to U.S. foreign policy and presents a test for the new Global Fragility Strategy (GFS), which aims to reduce state fragility and break cycles of violence in critical regions. What the GFS lacks, however, is a clear “theory of success” that explains why and how proposed actions will lead to desired outcomes in fragile states. A new capacity-based approach is needed to identify fragile states with high potential for effective engagement, particularly security sector reform (SSR).
When the new U.S. administration gets to work, domestic priorities will be front and center on the agenda. Preventing state fragility and violent extremism abroad may seem less urgent. But implementing the Global Fragility Act (GFA)—which aims to fulfill those goals—should remain a top priority. Successfully advancing the GFA would directly benefit U.S. national security and help establish a more values-driven foreign policy. To this end, the United States should work with allies to create a global architecture for security sector assistance built on principles of aid effectiveness adapted from development financing. A U.S.-brokered international consensus on security assistance would help stabilize fragile states, prevent violence, and increase the value of dollars spent on the GFA.
The coronavirus pandemic will have long-lasting repercussions for governance, justice, and security—among many other things. Many governments are working to contain the outbreak by adopting emergency measures and powers. Security sector actors—police, armed forces, border control authorities, penitentiaries, community security groups, and militias—are now playing a key role in limiting the virus’ spread.