Resilience and Fragility

Resilience and Fragility


Today, about 2 billion people live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and high levels of violence, and around half of the world's poor live in fragile or conflict-affected states (FCAS). 

Fragility is not an absolute concept and the identification and systematisation of different areas of fragility is an on-going process.

Definition of fragile states (OECD, 2012): “A fragile region or state has weak capacity to carry out basic governance functions, and lacks the ability to develop mutually constructive relations with society. Fragile states are also more vulnerable to internal or external shocks such as economic crises or natural disasters. More resilient states exhibit the capacity and legitimacy of governing a population and its territory. They can manage and adapt to changing social needs and expectations, shifts in elite and other political agreements, and growing institutional complexity. Fragility and resilience should be seen as shifting points along a spectrum”.

OECD in its 2016 report on "States of Fragility" is using five dimensions of fragility:

  • Economic,
  • Environmental,
  • Political,
  • Security,
  • Societal

Why is it fundamental to identify and address fragilities?
Poverty is increasingly concentrated in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS).



Taking into account that it is estimated that by 2030 the majority of the world's poor will be concentrated in fragile and conflict-affected countries, the New European Consensus on Development, signed by the European Union and its Member States on 7 June 2017, stressed that "countries in situations of fragility or affected by conflict require special attention and sustained international engagement in order to achieve sustainable development" and that "the development cooperation of the EU and its Member States will be targeted where the need is greatest and where it can have most impact, especially in Least Developed Countries and in situations of fragility and conflict.

Resilience is seen as a major part of our answer to fragility: helping build the capacity of states and societies to deal with increased risk and maintain or re-establish quickly their core functions after a shock. This reflects a change in perspective from how fragility was approached before: concentrating on the strengths that can be identified in states and societies and building on those rather than, as before, focusing on their weaknesses and seeking to identify and deliver a solution (which, if imposed from outside, usually does not work). 


Goal – SDG 16 - on peaceful, just and equitable societies is included in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development which means that putting the focus on conflict prevention is essential for building resilience. Most post-conflict countries are also pre-conflict countries. This implies that post conflict stabilisation becomes conflict prevention.

Investing in regions in a situation of fragility and conflict has been one of the key priorities of EU development policy over the last decades. Overall EU commitments to fragile countries are set out through National and Regional Indicative Programmes for 2014 – 2020. Multi-year programming means that annual commitments and disbursements (payments) may vary from one year to the other. In 2016, DG DEVCO has disbursed 3.208 billion euro of its funds towards fragile countries[1], which represents 53.2% of total DG DEVCO disbursement for 2016. Disbursements to these countries have increased by 41% compared to 2015. In 2016 the EU's development cooperation with countries in situations of conflict and fragility represented EUR 4.970 billion in commitments, or 52.8% of total commitments of DG DEVCO for 2016. This indicates that in terms of commitments, the yearly engagement in 2016 was 76 % higher compared to 2015 and 249% higher than in 2014. These figures illustrate a clear upward trend and that greater attention is being directed towards fragile countries in this Multiannual Financial Framework.


[1] As defined in the OECD Fragility Framework 2016. Please note that it includes 6 countries more than the OECD list of fragile states and economies for 2015 (15 countries added, 9 countries deleted )