Briefing on "States of Fragility 2016"


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

New York, 22 September 2016

(As prepared for delivery)



Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to be here in New York to present a preview of this year’s report, States of Fragility 2016. Thank you, Minister de Croo, for your warm welcome and – crucially – for your personal commitment, and that of your government, to this agenda. 


Addressing violence and tackling today’s refugee crisis must go hand-in-hand


Over the course of this week, we have heard time and time again of the human tragedies that are the symptoms of today’s refugee crisis.


Earlier this week, I launched the 40th edition of our International Migration Outlook. It spells out some of these symptoms: humanitarian migration is on the rise, with unprecedented numbers of asylum applications in the OECD countries in 2015. And, of course, we must not forget that some of the largest refugee-receiving countries are the immediate neighbours of those countries affected by conflict. Turkey alone is providing temporary protection to more than 2.7 million Syrian people.


These are the symptoms. The report of which we are providing a preview today gets to heart of some of the root causes. And it is timely: we cannot make progress on the SDGs if we don’t understand the root causes of conflict, of instability, and of insecurity.


As we strengthen our resolve to address the refugee crisis, the focus on providing short-term assistance, and medium-term resettlement options must not distract us from working on the longer-term issues at the heart of what drives these people from their homes in the first place: fear, conflict, and violence.


Violence is increasing in scale, complexity and cost


This year’s States of Fragility report focuses on violence, its impact on people, and its relationship to conflict and fragility. Our work shows that the world is becoming a more violent place:

  • In 2014 and 2015, the world saw a spike in violence, resulting in the highest levels of violent deaths since the end of the Cold War.
  • The number of people internally displaced has tripled between 2004 and 2014.
  • Civilians are the targets in 30-40% of all political violence within states.

In short, we know that violence is increasing in scale, complexity and cost, and that civilians are most at risk.


As part of this work, the OECD has upgraded its intellectual toolkit to help governments better understand fragility. This year’s report introduces a new methodology that takes into account the multidimensionality of fragility. Crucially, it acknowledges that fragility does not respect borders. And it invites us to consider both the accumulation and combination of risks that a society faces, and the capacity of a society to manage and absorb the consequences of these risks.


The report also invites us to question some of our preconceptions and outdated narratives: too often, we simplify things, and label violence as being ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’, for example. In reality, violence is complex and multi-causal.


Getting from better evidence to better policies


Our work on States of Fragility will help politicians and policymakers to sharpen their diagnoses and, in so doing, develop better policies to address the root causes of fragility and violence. In practice, this means:

  • Looking beyond the political causes of fragility and violence to consider other aspects, such as social cohesion;
  • Breaking down our own policy silos and better connecting policy efforts on disarmament, on gender-based violence, on child protection, and on violent extremism, for example.
  • Investing in prevention – for it is so much cheaper, in terms of both human and economic cost – than looking for cures later. Recent estimates suggest that the global economic impact of violence was USD 13.6 trillion in 2015, equivalent to around 14% of global GDP or USD 1 900 for every person in the world.

Shifting gears from ideas to implementation requires leadership. I am therefore delighted that our complete report will be officially launched at the second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, in Nairobi, Kenya later this year.


Nairobi will provide an opportunity for all of us to drill into evidence of what works well, and what works less well. Crucially, it’s an opportunity to take action. To find concrete ways of addressing some of the challenges we are discussing here in New York. And to help accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. I can think of no better place to start than by laying the foundations: sustaining peace; eradicating fear and coercion; and ending violence. Each of us has a role to play. Ultimately, this is about better policies for better lives.


Thank you.


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