A new policy brief from Mercy Corps, Implementing the Global Fragility Act, outlines a plan and vision for the new law, which passed in December 2019 with strong bipartisan support.

The Global Fragility Act (Act) is intended to change the way U.S. foreign policy treats fragile and conflict-affected states and increases investment in preventing global violence. It charges the U.S. government with creating a Global Fragility Strategy (Strategy) by September 2020. As the brief notes, the Strategy “represents an unprecedented opportunity to change how the U.S. government operates in fragile and conflict-affected states.”

At the core of the Act’s interventions is the notion of inclusion. The brief explains, “To create inclusive institutions, the Global Fragility Act argues that U.S. government agencies and departments should implement interventions that foster rule of law, representative political institutions, security sector institutions that protect human rights, and economic development for all, in addition to supporting shorter-term reconciliation and dialogue efforts.” The Act also identifies three cross-cutting themes that should be integrated across interventions supported by the Global Fragility Strategy: strengthening state-society relations, curbing extremist ideology, and making society less vulnerable to the spread of extremism and violence.

The Act directs the government on how to implement these policies, but “the incentive structure surrounding foreign aid makes it difficult to coordinate effectively, be conflict sensitive, and create true local ownership,” the brief states. Creating metrics and goals for the Strategy could be problematic if they are not detailed enough or if they are too prescriptive. With this in mind, the brief offers guidance for the Strategy drafters:

  • Invest in generating shared knowledge on what works, what doesn’t work, and why
  • Combine top-down accountability with bottom-up innovation, learning, and accountability
  • Enable bottom-up coherence via top-down coordination
  • Prevention aims to alter the status quo; give operational staff the political support to do so
  • Strategize for the long term but adapt in the short term
  • Choose priority countries and regions where success is possible but so is failure

Read the full policy brief.