Remarks by Angel Gurría
17 September 2020 - Paris, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to launch this 2020 edition of the OECD’s States of Fragility report. A focus on fragility is necessary now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global health, economic and social crisis without precedent in living memory. It has also revealed the immense importance of strong states, efficient governments, and solid social security systems, to confront a pandemic, protect the people and design the recovery strategies. And of course, it has exposed as well the high vulnerability of fragile states in these type of crises.
The spread of the coronavirus has aggravated and multiplied issues of fragility across countries and regions. It has contributed to mass unemployment, increased poverty, heightened inequalities, political unrest and rising gender-based violence.
These challenges are exacerbating existing tensions, they push some countries ever closer to conflict, and compromise our ambitions to “build back better”. For countries which are already suffering from violence and conflict, prospects of peace and stability have become more distant.
Moreover, the burden of fragility tends to disproportionately fall on those who are already vulnerable and marginalised. For example, States of fragility identifies 57 countries and territories that currently account for 23% of the world’s population and 76% of those living in extreme poverty worldwide.
What the report also shows is that the factors driving issues of fragility are not static. They are highly complex and ever changing. This is why it is so important to recognise that for many countries and societies experiencing fragility, the root causes often lie beyond their spheres of responsibility and influence. For instance, drivers of conflict frequently emerge from outside the countries most affected; in addition, those most exposed to the impacts of climate change are often the least responsible for it.
States of Fragility 2020 focuses on issues such as inequality, poverty, illness, violence or injustice. It specifically analyses how they relate to each other and how they affect people’s experiences and sense of vulnerability. By analysing fragility, we can help policymakers – and those working in fragile contexts – to better understand the difference between prosperity and coping, coping and surviving, and in the most extreme cases, life and death.
If we are to make good on our commitments to leave no one behind, we must acknowledge the realities of complex, interconnected, and often deep-rooted issues of fragility. From design to implementation, the report demonstrates that our efforts to mitigate fragility and build resilience should be inclusive and accountable. It is crucial to monitor situations closely and prioritise support for conflict prevention and peacebuilding in fragile contexts.
Moreover, the report highlights that putting people at the centre of our efforts to tackle fragility should not only be a priority, it should be the starting point. We know that fragility undermines our sense of well-being and people’s legitimate aspirations for education, health, community, representation, peace and security in clean and sustainable environments. This report emphasises the importance of prioritising support for human capital in fragile states, particularly for education, where out-of-school rates have been severely affected by the global pandemic.
Last but not least, the report underscores that the multiple crises we are facing – the pandemic, climate change, violent conflict, geopolitical instability – are challenging the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. One year into the “Decade of Action”, we have made progress but we are not on track to deliver on several SDGs in fragile contexts, particularly on those related to hunger, health, gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Only through multilateral co-operation, and with all stakeholders around the table, can we hope to tackle these challenges effectively. As the pandemic has shown, it respects no borders and the same can be said for fragility, no country can ever hope to tackle these challenges alone.
Ladies and Gentlemen
A world with fragile states is a fragile world. Remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
We urgently call on governments and their development agencies to continue supporting countries and communities in fragile contexts.
The OECD will continue to support policymakers and all stakeholders in this important effort. Ultimately, this is the only way to a fair, inclusive, peaceful and sustainable future in a post-COVID-19 world. Thank you.