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Remarks at the Busan Global Partnership Forum

Robert J. Faucher, Acting Assistant SecretaryBureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations

Good morning; good afternoon; good evening to all of you joining this forum in-person in Busan or from around the world. My name is Rob Faucher; I’m the acting assistant secretary, as Mr. Mahmood said, and I would like to express my gratitude to the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the opportunity to participate in this important and timely discussion. And I also want to thank the Busan Global Partnership Forum for organizing this event. Now, I think it’s well known that the United States and the Republic of Korea share an enduring friendship and a long history of cooperation based on mutual trust, common strategic interests, and shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In recent years, this friendship has expanded into a deep, comprehensive global partnership, and the Republic of Korea’s role as a regional and global leader continues to grow, as evidenced by this forum and the important discussions that have been and will be had here.

So thank you very much again, and thank you, Doctor Youssef Mahmood, for your excellent introduction, and also to our august presenter Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye. I’m really honored to be among this tremendous panel of experts, and pleased to be able share with you some of our thoughts on this topic of how to have developmental effectiveness in fragile contexts.

We believe in the United States that the long-term success of any country’s development projects is obstructed if you don’t achieve a certain level of stability and safety prior to the projects moving forward. That is where my Bureau has been most active in terms of its development work. Now, it doesn’t mean that we have to have a perfectly safe and stable environment to begin development projects, but you must work and build safety, stability, and development at the same time, together over time. Wherever possible, it must be the individual country’s own capacity to keep itself conflict-free and stable in order to determine its long-term success in terms of development projects.

Now, the United States has had a development organization for over 60 years: the U.S. Agency for International Development. As a matter of fact, this is its birthday month for 60 years ago it was established. The United States has pursued many different paths through that agency, to help countries work within their fragile contexts. And there have been clear successes, but there have also been numerous attempts at development that should have gone better. We have taken, in the United States, an effort to review the situation and try to see if we can come up with a new approach. We are now embarked on a major new initiative to improve the success record of working on development in fragile contexts. And I’d like to spend the rest of my time discussing this new approach and exploring how we believe this benefits the development actors that we work with.

Now, as the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, I help guide the policy of the State Department where we interact with the international community to create a more stable and secure world. The work of my Bureau lies at the intersection of development, security, and stabilization, and we partner specifically with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense of the United States to pursue stabilization policy outcomes that will enable development projects to succeed and to thrive. We do this especially in fragile contexts. We call this a “3D” effort, and these 3D efforts do have a proven track record of approach. We have joined up the efforts of diplomacy, development, and defense as a foundation for working in fragile contexts, and we support these efforts using advanced data technology coupled with innovative policies and seasoned experts.

Now, in 2019, the U.S. Congress passed – and the President signed into law – the Global Fragility Act. This law was, frankly, a response to frustration at failed attempts at stabilization and development in fragile contexts. This law has required the establishment of a new strategy to be applied in at least five countries around the world that experience aspects of fragility. Now, this is not meant to produce for the United States a list of the most fragile countries in the world. Indeed, every country experiences aspects of fragility at various times and in various ways. I think you would all agree that even the United States – as recent events have demonstrated – has experienced aspects of fragility. But the Global Fragility Act demands of us that we experiment with new approaches to fragile contexts, and that we draw the lessons from those experiments so that we can learn to improve our future development and stabilization projects.

Pursuant to the Global Fragility Act, my Bureau led the development of a new U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, which is available on our website for any who would like to look at it. This strategy conceives of an integrated, evidence-based, prevention-focused, field-driven approach to address the complex drivers of fragility in order to set the stage for successful development. Under this strategy, the United States will work within a focused set of at least five priority “resilience countries or regions” who will be our partners in the process at a fundamental level. We will work together to develop ten-year plans to implement the Strategy in each of these countries, and our Congress has authorized $200 million per year for these efforts. “The Strategy” requires the United States and its partner countries to pursue partnership at all levels, recognizing that ultimately, no U.S. or international engagement will be successful without the buy-in and mutual ownership of trusted regional, national, and local partners. In fact, the local actors will be our primary partners in-country and in the regional planning and implementation process. The implementation of the Strategy will seek to reinforce, and not replace, national and local systems, which is a key aspect. The Strategy will also reform the United States Government’s foreign policy structures and processes to better align them with these efforts. It will transform the way United States Government agencies do business by better integrating their learning and planning, allowing for greater flexibility and adaptability based on local context, and improving interagency links and coordination to multiply the force of each other’s work. By these methods, we hope to transcend the typical bureaucratic division by working toward collective outcomes, based on comparative advantage and over multiyear timelines. Finally, the Strategy will better anticipate crises by implementing integrated policy responses in a cohesive manner, across multiple priority areas, that more rapidly respond to emerging trends and challenges. Let me explain a bit more in depth about each of these aspects of the Strategy.

The Strategy, as I said before, will pursue partnerships at all levels by reinforcing but not replacing local systems. It will shift the narrative, with a renewed focus on an affirmative agenda founded on compact-based partnerships that offer clear benefits to partner countries. Partnerships for peace and resilience will be grounded in local knowledge and will emphasize mutual ownership and accountability, so that our focus countries are not merely the recipients or the beneficiaries of assistance but are the active agents of change. We will embrace a spirit of humility, collaboration, and creativity, and recommit to multilateralism, as well. Our strength and impact are multiplied, we believe. when we combine these efforts with like-minded countries, especially for longer-term stability. Many of our partners have advanced individual peace and fragility agendas already, and we will seek to partner with them to reinforce a common vision for preventing and addressing local drivers of fragility. In addition, we will engage in active consultation throughout the process, with local partners as the primary actors. This will ensure knowledge and local ownership, support capacity building, create greater mutual accountability and transparency, and thereby establish a foundation for long-term success. We will engage not only with national level ministries and other government institutions in partner countries but also with subnational and local authorities, with civil-society organizations, with businesses and communities. This engagement will take place with particular emphasis on traditionally marginalized and under-represented populations – including youth and women – to identify local priorities, establish regular dialogue, and create an enabling environment that galvanizes the process.

We believe that learning from the past and “playing the long game” will be a central aspect of the implementation of the Strategy, and we plan to anchor our interventions in communities, informed by the insights of expert practitioners and academics. We will build feedback loops into our policymaking and planning processes and make strategic adjustments based on analysis, research, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of their effectiveness. We will not sacrifice long-term gain for a short-term win. The plans’ 10-year horizons that will allow us to look beyond the urgent crises and near-term needs and focus instead on success on the horizon. We will seek to leverage internal comparative advantages. and foster maximum effectiveness when implementing the Strategy. We plan to adapt, evolve, and overcome structural impediments to innovation and collaboration. This will require a whole-of-government alignment, among U.S. institutions as well as our partner countries’ institutions.

There are numerous, related initiatives and legislative mandates already underway in many of these countries that will leverage our diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance, with the defense activities that we plan to pursue, to guide U.S. operations in conflict-affected and fragile states. These include the 2018 Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR); the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2019; the 2019 Women Peace and Security Act; and the 2021 National Counterterrorism Review. Each Department and Agency also endeavors to implement its own slate of policy guidance for its activities.

And finally, we will seek to anticipate conflict, rather than simply respond to it. We are excited by the possibilities of the Strategy, and we hope to complete the country selection process in the next few weeks. Once that’s completed, we will launch the development of ten-year plans, so that by mid-2022, we will be able to actually start to work. Throughout this entire process, my Bureau will remain at the forefront of this effort.

The mission of my Bureau is to anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflict, and we seek to do this by deploying stabilization advisors, harnessing analytics, and leading, informing, and implementing policy and programs on conflict prevention and stabilization for the United States Government. I want to highlight one area of work that is especially exciting and innovative right now, and that’s our work in data analytics. This will underpin all of our efforts under the Global Fragility Act and the Strategy of which I’m speaking. My Bureau informs our policy through evidence-based analysis and a team of experts applying innovative methods including statistics, geospatial analysis, machine learning, game theory, and network analysis to inform our policy on conflict and crisis issues.   We have an innovative data analytics hub that hosts our analytic products and makes global, regional, national and subnational evidence-based analysis accessible to over 75,000 U.S. Government employees as well as throughout the defense, diplomatic, and development space. Our products include violent conflict and atrocity forecasting, geospatial conflict analysis, armed actor mapping, negotiations modeling, and conflict impact assessments.

We recognize that we are better if we work together, and we are working to address gaps in conflict data availability and accessibility by increasing the publicly available datasets. We have been working with partners in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Nations to support this, including through the launch of the Complex Risk Analytics Fund (CRAF’d), a data initiative which we launched just a few weeks ago.

I started by stating that I came here today to demonstrate to you how my bureau’s conflict and stabilization efforts have embraced a new approach to fragility by utilizing advanced data technologies coupled with innovative policies and seasoned experts. The U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability is a major initiative, but by no means the only path we are pursuing. As correctly stated in the background note for this session, the “risk of fragility, crises and violent conflict continues to undermine the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” “Crises are increasingly complex, protracted or recurrent,” and are increasing across the world. This calls for new levels of creativity, collaboration, and innovation to address these issues at their roots before they take hold. The State Department is dedicated to fulfilling its part of the 3D approach and pursuing a new way of working across the U.S. government and with our partners around the world. As I mentioned, to be successful, it will take all of us, and I look forward to building on that partnership with all of you for the sake of peace and stability. Thank you for your time today, and I look forward to any questions you may have.


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