Interview with Fragile States Facility Unit Head, Sunita Pitamber

07/04/2011
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Sunita Pitamber 01

“President Kaberuka’s belief in supporting the fragile and post conflict African nations is truly visionary”  

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Fragile States Unit Head, Sunita Pitamber, has commended the Bank’s commitment to Fragile States through the Fragile State Facility, noting that President Kaberuka’s support to fragile states was “truly visionary”. In an interview, Mrs. Pitamber explained why she shared President Kaberuka’s optimism about the Bank’s role in Fragile and post conflict countries. She revealed that “the timely and positive support provided by the Fragile States Facility has enhanced the Bank’s “preferred partner” status and the “first point of business” for many of the countries.” She outlined some of the success stories her Unit has recorded and noted that the Annual Board of Governors’ Meetings in Lisbon this year will provide an excellent opportunity for her  Unit to show-case results achieved by the Facility on the ground. Below are excerpts of the interview.  

Question: Addressing the Annual Board of Governors Meetings in Dakar on 13 May 2009, the AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, said: “we are encouraged by the progress on the Fragile State Facility; whether in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Comoros, Central African Republic, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, all the three windows of the facility are continuing to support the recovery of those countries, helping them to clear arrears, kick-start their economies and rebuild capacity”
Given the situation in some of the fragile states today, do you still share the President’s optimism and why?  

Answer: I believe that President Kaberuka’s belief in supporting the fragile and post conflict African nations is truly visionary. The Fragile States Facility is an innovative and effective mechanism which has demonstrated its relevance since 2008. This was the year when multiple crises hit the world and in Africa, stagnated progress in some countries, particularly in fragile states where priority development and economic stabilization programs slowed down. The Fragile Sates Facility continued to assist member countries during the crises and provided the financial and technical support which helped them to mitigate the impact of the crises and better manage global and regional risks. For example, the statement made by the Liberian Minister, Augustine Ngafuan, (during the Annual Meetings in Abidjan) clearly commended the Bank’s support and recognized the important role played by the Bank in ensuring that the country’s public revenue shortfalls (during the crises) were met and that the country’s progress towards meeting its poverty reduction and social services indicators continued on a steady path. Burundi is another positive example, where the Fragile States Facility support is geared toward greater transparency and accountability in public financial management. This is complemented by capacity building support which will provide greater donor confidence as well as improve private sector investment climate.

The timely and positive support provided by the Fragile States Facility has resulted in the Bank being the “preferred partner” and the “first point of business” in many countries. For example, the opening of the country office in Harare was crucial to donor coordination on the ground and resulted in the Bank establishing the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund (Zim-Fund). The Zim-Fund is now a key player in supporting infrastructure development in the country.

The Fragile States Facility has also benefitted greatly from internal knowledge and lessons learnt. The wealth of experience generated by the Bank’s Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Division has provided the Facility with a focused approach to job creation and employment generation in fragile states operations. The close coordination between the Fragile States Facility, the Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Division, and the Private Sector Development Department will further establish better principles of engagement for sustainable economic growth.

One of the main challenges in post-conflict reconstruction and development programs in fragile states is the risk of relapse into crises. One of the proven methods of addressing such a risk is to ensure that there is a steady path to social and economic progress. The Facility continues to work with key partners to ensure that the economic stabilization programs are on track and that poverty reduction measures such as job creation and monitoring improvements in social services delivery remain a priority.

Segment of Liberia Road before and after Rehabilitation

Question: What programs and key messages will the Fragile State Unit be taking to this year’s Annual Board of Governors Meetings in Lisbon to show-case the relevance of the Fragile State Facility and to uphold the vision of the ADF Deputies in establishing the initiative?  

Answer: The Annual meeting this year is going to be an excellent opportunity for the Fragile States Unit to show-case the results achieved by the Facility on the ground. Firstly, we will be working with the Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Division, the Private Sector Department and the Office of the Chief Economist to present, at the High Level Seminar on Employment, issues related to youth employment in fragile states. We believe that youth employment can be effectively addressed in all Bank operations and would provide added value to the countries’ economic stabilization programs. It will also provide us with an opportunity to discuss gender equitable economic growth in fragile states. This is a critical element because our experience on the ground shows that in countries affected by long-term conflict, women had been key in managing public sector institutions and delivering basic services during the conflict. In this regard, the social and economic stabilization programs in the post conflict era must pay special attention to gender equity.

We will also be speaking to the critical role played by the capacity building and targeted support programs delivered by Pillar 3 of the Facility. For example, in Liberia, the Facility has contributed to the national revenue management processes and enhanced domestic revenue generation by making operational a one-stop service facility in customs. In Comoros, the Facility contributed to the adoption of a modernized legal framework for public budgeting, including treasury management and government accounting. In Somalia, the Facility supported the development of a national budget framework for cabinet approval; the first of its kind in the last twenty years. In Togo, the Facility was instrumental in modernizing the public procurement systems, resulting in a sharp reduction of direct agreement contracts to below 12% of all contracts.

Last but not least, the Unit is working closely with the Regional Department to support the “Friends of Guinea” meeting. This forum will provide an opportunity for the newly elected government to present its national development priorities and enable a focused discussion on key areas of improved private sector investment, public sector reforms program, and job creation for rural poor and youth.

Question: Who are your key partners in your operations in Fragile States?

Answer: Currently, the Unit is working closely with the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF). This cooperation includes networking on a broader level as well as specifically on the International Dialogue on Peace building and State building. This dialogue provides a new opportunity for policy discussions aimed at improving national and international efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations. The Unit is working closely with INCAF in leading the Africa Regional Consultations on Peacebuiding and State building leading up to the Fourth High Level Forum which will take place in Busan, Korea, from 29 November to 1 December 2011.

The Africa Regional Consultations will bring together fragile and conflict-affected countries and regions, development partners and international organizations. In this forum, ministers and specialists will not only take stock of what has been advanced since 2008 (since the Third High Level Forum), but also set out a new framework for increasing the quality of aid in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In particular, some of the key areas of discussion during the forum will be: predictable aid; use of country systems; an end to policy conditionality; country-driven capacity development; mutual accountability and reduced transaction costs. The participants at the Africa Regional Consultations will conclude on an Africa Action Plan for Peace building and State building to be taken forward to Busan.

The Unit will also work with the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation as well as the INCAF secretariat to roll-out an extensive training program for Bank staff, namely in the following areas:

  • Conflict Sensitive Programme Management (Do no Harm Concept);
  • Aid Financing and Risk Analysis Instrument in fragile States;
  • Introduction of Security System Reform (Rule of Law); and
  • Results Monitoring and Evaluation in Fragile States.

Last but not least, the Unit is also working with the World Bank, ILO and OECD to generate focused knowledge work on youth employment in fragile states. This analytical work will provide close guidance in addressing youth employment issues in program designs for fragile states.

Question: How do you disseminate information on the immense work you are doing in Fragile States?

Answer: The Unit is working closely with the Bank’s communication department to develop a communication and information campaign. The aim of this campaign will be to better inform Bank colleagues, external partners, civil society and above all, member countries on the work of the unit and opportunities for collaboration. It will also be a forum to better interact with the external audience while ensuring that the Unit’s outreach is effective.


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