Development aid to fragile states: greatest need, highest risk

An increasing proportion of Norwegian development aid is going to countries in fragile situations. This is where the need for humanitarian support is greatest, but also the risk is highest. Norad’s Evaluation Department launches an evaluation of Norway’s engagement in Somalia.

In 2019, seven of the ten countries that received the most development aid from Norway are affected by conflict. There are significant risks associated with this type of engagement. Risks are particularly associated with possibilities of harming people and the environment, lack of results, non-compliance, unintended negative consequences of the engagement and duty of care. Norway has stated that Norwegian engagement and humanitarian support must entail a high threshold for risk because of the enormous human and financial costs associated with long-term conflicts.

Norway took risks in Somalia

Somalia has been plagued by civil war and repeated droughts and floods since the 1990s, and has been receiving humanitarian assistance for many years. Since the formation of the federal government in 2012, international support for the country has increased significantly.

The objectives of the Norwegian engagement in Somalia is to a) support statebuilding and stabilisation, b) support peace and reconciliation, and protect civilians, c) respond to humanitarian crises and d) contribute to inclusive growth, job creation and social development.

The evaluation found that Norway took a high risk by, for example, supporting the establishment of the Special Financing Facility. Through this initiative, Norway helped enable the Somali state to perform basic functions such as paying wages to government employees.

This support came at a time when other donors would not cooperate directly with the Somali government. The fact that Norway took the risk of supporting the initiative contributed to stabilisation, which has been an important goal for Norway’s engagement in Somalia, and is in line with its strategy for engagement in fragile states and regions.

Risk management

This is highlighted in the new evaluation of Norwegian support to Somalia in the period 2012–2018. The evaluation is part of a broader effort by Norad’s Evaluation Department to evaluate the Norwegian engagement in fragile states.

The evaluation finds that the Norwegian government was aware that various risks could arise during the work in Somalia. However, there is no indication that Norway has carried out systematic risk assessments of potential dilemmas or documented how risk should be managed.

The evaluation found that Norway faced a number of dilemmas in Somalia, one of which is related to whether it should support the Somali government, which was neither fully inclusive nor representative. Another dilemma was how Norway should deal with Somaliland – which has declared independence – while supporting a “whole of Somalia” state-building process. A third dilemma was how to ensure humanitarian support when there is a high risk of aid divergence and of it not reaching the target group.

Clear risk assessments recommended

Based on the report’s findings, the Evaluation Department recommends clarifying the procedures, practices and implementation related to risk assessments.

Risk assessments should show what constitutes an acceptable risk, how it should be managed, any mitigating measures and at what time these should be implemented.

The Evaluation Department invites to a debate on Thursday 29 October from 11 CET on the Norwegian engagement in fragile states, risk assessments and how these can be improved.

Webinar: Norwegian management of risks in fragile states
An increasing share of Norwegian aid goes to countries in fragile situations. The Evaluation Department in Norad invited to a debate on risk management in fragile and conflict affected countries. The webinar took place digitally 29 October 2020.
Published 27.10.2020
Last updated 27.10.2020