Managing development programmes in war-torn parts of the world requires innovation and flexibility. We design tailor-made interventions that enable recovering nations to provide the basic services that improve the lives of people in need.
Working in fragile, conflict and post-conflict affected states presents some of the toughest challenges that we are ever likely to face in international development.
In these scenarios we face challenges to the design, planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of projects and programmes as we are confronted with high levels of risk and uncertainties compared to working in more stable parts of the world.
Governance is often ‘absent’, with a lack of will and/or the resources to provide people with even the most basic services – clean water, healthcare, and education, in a secure environment, and where there is transparency and accountability of those who take decisions.
Such states where we are currently working include Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan and Yemen.
Flexibility is key
Working in volatile, governance-light environments requires an approach to programme design and management that allows for maximum flexibility so that interventions can be quickly adapted or redirected, scaled up or down, or, if necessary, even discontinued.
If we are to succeed at supporting large-scale systemic change, we need to know what works, under what conditions, why and how. More importantly, we need to learn from our mistakes, and then adapt and change quickly.
This ‘learning by doing’ approach is more effective than offering a fixed technical solution at the outset. Operational flexibility, along with adaptability and experimentation, enables us to develop innovative, sustainable solutions that provide donors and financial institutions with optimum value for money.
Flexibility, however, can still be combined with predetermined administrative and financial demands, such as mitigating against fiduciary risks through robust systems and procedures.
Our main focus should always be on the achievement of results rather than just the delivery of outputs or ticking boxes. Close and systematic monitoring is necessary to assess whether outputs are contributing to improving people’s lives. Contracts with subcontractors should set down payment mechanisms based on achievement of milestones and adherence to key performance indicators.
Improved governance is intrinsically linked to increased accountability and transparency, which is vital as these states not only have to be seen as being capable but also trustworthy.
Irrespective of their content, projects and programmes in fragile, conflict and post-conflict states are ultimately all aimed at rebuilding a responsive state that is accountable to its citizens.
Limited provision of services and the absence of legal and regulatory frameworks prevent the development of a strong, accountable relationship between a government and the population.
This hampers efforts to build political stability, social cohesion and economic prosperity. Improved governance is intrinsically linked to increased accountability and transparency, which is vital as these states not only have to be seen as being capable but also trustworthy. Better governance will help strengthen the state citizen relationship.
By increasing accountability and transparency, we help governments and institutions to build up levels of trust among their citizens and stakeholders for spending public funds wisely and fairly, and achieving clear and sustained outcomes.
This is essential to attract international aid and bolster domestic revenue generation. We are currently working in Somalia where accountability for spending of public funds and achieving effective outcomes is limited due to the political situation and the legacies of its long lasting conflict.
We are tasked with shaping the definition of accountability, translating ideas into practical results oriented actions that are acceptable, workable and affordable. We’re also responsible for evaluating performance of subcontractors so that good practices can be rapidly replicated and repeat failures avoided.
Reaching out to communities
Funding from international donors and lenders often also hinges on the provision of effective social protection. This encompasses cash transfers, social insurance, school meals, health insurance, micro credit and skills development.
We provide support to governments to take over responsibility for the planning and delivery of these basic services, helping them to reach out to communities most affected by conflict.
We design social protection programmes that will deliver consistent standards of service – by, for example, improving the reliability of benefit payments – which will help to reduce extreme poverty. It’s all part of the nation-building process.