Public Group on Fragility and Crisis Situations

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N°2 - Programming flexibly for situations of conflict and fragility

Page created by
Mihaela Haliciu23 March 2015

A D J U S T I N G , L E A R N I N G , A D J U S T I N G

Topic overview


  • Scenario planning can be used in programming and formulation documents to anticipate changes so the Delegation can respond more effectively in fluid conflict and fragile contexts.
  • Programming should keep options open on the use and combination of different instruments — the swift use of the IfS (now the IcSP) can be particularly successful when facilitated by programming that foresees the potential need for combining various instruments.
  • There is rarely enough information to make decisions and choices with full confidence. It is often necessary to engage in a more complex process whereby analysis and assessment is continuous to allow adjustment when circumstances change and/or new information and insight comes to light.
  • Programming should set achievable targets and keep the level of ambition realistic.
  • Programming under the Multiannual Financial Framework can facilitate EU support to established long-term objectives with the ability to change intervention strategies at short notice to best contribute to those objectives.

Situations of conflict and fragility are subject to unstable and rapidly changing circumstances. As a consequence, programming has to allow for a higher degree of flexibility. The information base in fragile states is usually very weak. Programming needs to deal with a high degree of uncertainty. Consequently, it must make use of iterative analysis and assessment and be sufficiently flexible to deal with new information that can radically change the assumptions upon which the original programming was developed.

The mid-term review process provides a formal mechanism for changing a programme’s direction, and this provides sufficient flexibility for most situations. But in other situations, the degree of instability is too great to rely on a mid-term review for adjusting the programming. Adaptation to change must be built in right from the start. The new EU programming guidelines allow for a shorter two-year programming period, which has been used in some countries such as Yemen and Zimbabwe (Box 1).

BOX 1 Short-term programming in Zimbabwe: combining long-term programming objectives with short-term flexibility on intervention strategies

Aid programming for Zimbabwe up to now has been done on the basis of annual short-term strategies. This has allowed some space and flexibility for the Delegation to be able to change the strategy or adapt priorities to maximise the impact of its interventions. However, it was recognised that the short-term strategy concept should go further than simply putting the normal programming process on a shorter cycle — i.e. going through the lengthy programming process every year, including project identification, formulation and approval. It was also recognised that EU activities in Zimbabwe in most areas of engagement pursue long-term objectives that are unlikely to change on a yearly basis, although the modalities of engagement and intervention strategies may need to change, given the volatile political context.

There has been a gradual acknowledgement that a mixed short-term strategy and long-term National Indicative Programme approach is best suited for EU engagement in Zimbabwe in the present situation, i.e.: a longer-term strategy, with the built-in possibility of reviewing priorities, financial allocations and modalities on a yearly basis, if needed, or when circumstances require. The new Multiannual Financial Framework recently adopted by the EU has a number of innovations that could improve flexibility in programming and accelerate decision-making in crisis or post-crisis situations as and when needed.

Source: EC, Enhancing the contribution of EU external assistance to addressing the security-fragility-development nexus, Zimbabwe Mission report, 2013.

This topic note looks at the case of post-tsunami reconstruction assistance to Sri Lanka, which represented one of those situations where it was clear from the onset that a highly flexible approach to programming would be needed. In response, an innovative scenario approach was developed.

To find out more and read the key issues and case study, Download this second note PDF (156,54 KB)

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