Published on Voices

Fragile to fragile: How the g7+ is bringing optimism to the Central African Republic

School children in the Central African Republic
Credit: © Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

At a meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states recently held in Nairobi, Bienvenu Hervé Kovoungbo looked back on his time in the same city, two years ago.

Back then, the citizens of his country, the Central African Republic (CAR), were caught in a fight between different militia groups. Bienvenu, who is the Director of Multilateral Cooperation and former Head of the Investment Budget Division in the Economy, Planning and International Cooperation Ministry, flew to Nairobi to attend a steering meeting of International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. There, he appealed to g7+ colleagues and to donors to come to their assistance.  After the meeting, he could not get back to the capital Bangui for two weeks, held up in Douala, Cameroon while his family had to flee their home and live with thousands of others in makeshift camps on the outskirts of the city.

This time, Bienvenu was back in Nairobi with optimism. When his g7+ colleagues asked him how he now sees the conflict, he responded, “The people are tired, and we now know that this is not about religion.” 

There is good reason for his optimism. When Pope Francis visited Bangui, he held prayers in a mosque in the Muslim part of Bangui to unite citizens across the so-called religious divide – reminding them that they are one nation.

A constitutional referendum, which took place in CAR on December 13th, saw registration at an unprecedented high of nearly two million voters or 95 per cent of the estimated electorate, demonstrating a strong desire for change. The first round of presidential and legislative elections on December 30th was the next step of the transition, aiming to end more than two years of fighting between the mainly Muslim Séléka and mainly non-Muslim Christian or animist anti-Balaka groups.

Will the international community be supportive of CAR in the long term?  Only time will tell, because in the g7+ group of countries, CAR is one of the “aid orphans” where there are geographical gaps in the distribution of assistance.

Bienvenu Hervé Kovoungbo and
the author at the meeting.

Bienvenu sees strong value in the support that his country is getting from g7+ colleagues. For example, in preparation for the Bangui National Forum on national reconciliation in 2015, the former Prime Minister of Timor Leste and eminent person of the g7+, Xanana Gusmão spoke to the Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups about reconciliation, emphasizing that "there cannot be development without peace, nor peace without development" . His message at the opening of the parliamentary session called on all partners and the international community to focus more on reconciliation, forgiveness and living together.

The g7+ also wrote letters to the international donor community reminding them that CAR needed long term assistance, noting that although there are humanitarian needs in the short term, it is long term peace and statebuilding support that can really help CAR get through the political transition .

The g7+ calls its peer to peer initiative“Fragile2Fragile”. Helder Da Costa, Secretary General of the g7+ says: “We may not have a lot of money, but what we have is solidarity and experiences to share, so we are there for each other when needed. This is another strong feature of the g7+ group”.

This is why in spite of all the woes at home, Bienvenu is engaging with other fragile countries as the focal point for the g7+ and New Deal. He sees the New Deal for engagement in fragile states and the Sustainable Development Goals as frameworks that provide answers to their development trajectory.

The focus of the recent meeting in Nairobi was the SDGs and how to prioritize and integrate them into development plans . 17 of 20 g7+ members including CAR attended to decide on 20 indicators that they would use to draw attention to their fragile situation, to ensure that “nobody is left behind.” The World Bank is supporting the g7+ in their effort to overcome fragility, discussing ways to improve statistical capacity in member countries among others.

The question is how the SDGs can add value to countries going through cycles of crisis -situations like the one faced by CAR for years .

Tackling fragility, conflict and violence at the World Bank Group
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Anne-Lise Klausen

Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group (FCV)

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