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senate Bill S. 727

Should the U.S. Develop a 10-Year Plan to Address Fragility in at Least Five Priority Countries?

Argument in favor

Addressing the human and economic costs of global violence requires an interagency approach by U.S. federal agencies and cooperation with international partners. This bill would improve that coordination by developing an integrated strategy to reduce global violence.

Argument opposed

USAID, the State Department, and DOD engage on very different issues in each country they’re present in, so interagency coordination of violence reduction efforts may not be fruitful. In areas where coordination is beneficial, agencies should already be cooperating.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    IntroducedMarch 7th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 727?

This bill — the Global Fragility Act of 2019 — would require the President, Secretary of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator and the Secretary of Defense to collaborate on a 10-year initiative to reduce fragility in at least five priority countries. 

This initiative, which would be called the “Global Fragility Strategy,” would focus on addressing the long-term causes of fragility and violence and would: 

  • Consider the causes of fragility and violence at both the local and national levels, the external actors that reinforce and exploit such conditions and outline successful prevention strategies and their key features.
  • Include specific objectives and multisector approaches to reduce fragility and the causes of violence, including those that strengthen state-society relations, curb extremist ideology and make society less vulnerable to the spread of extremism and violence.
  • Encourage and empower local and national actors to address their citizens’ concerns, including in vulnerable communities and build community resilience against violence and extremism.
  • Address the long-term underlying causes of fragility and violence through participatory, locally-led programs, empowering marginalized groups such as youth and women, inclusive dialogue and conflict resolution processes, justice reform, good governance across all sectors, community policing and civilian security.
  • Describe approaches that ensure national leadership (where appropriate) and participatory engagement by civil society and local partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of programs.
  • Assign roles for relevant federal agencies to avoid duplication of efforts while ensuring that 1) the State Dept. is responsible for leading the strategy, establishing U.S. foreign policy, advancing diplomatic and political efforts and guiding security assistance and related civilian security efforts; 2) USAID is responsible for overseeing prevention programs and is the lead implementing agency for development, humanitarian and related non-security program policy; 3) activities undertaken or supported by the DOD in relation to the Global Fragility Strategy are established through joint formulation and with the concurrence of the Secretary of State; and 4) other federal agencies support the Dept. of State’s and USAID’s activities as appropriate, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the USAID Administrator.
  • Describe programs that agencies will undertake to achieve the stated objectives, including descriptions of existing programs and funding by fiscal year and account; 
  • Identify mechanisms to improve coordination between the U.S., foreign governments, and international organizations (such as the World Bank, UN, regional organizations and private sector organizations).
  • Address efforts to expand public-private partnerships and leverage private sector resources.
  • Describe the criteria, metrics and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of programs and objectives in the strategy.
  • Describe how the strategy will ensure that programs are country-led and context-specific.
  • Identify mechanisms or activities to reduce the risk that the programs, policies or resources that are deployed will facilitate corruption, empower or abet repressive local actors or be exploited by extremists to gain support for their cause.

Within 270 days of this bill’s enactment, the president would submit a report to the appropriate Congressional committees detailing the Global Fragility Strategy. The report would include information about objectives, goals, and specifics; list the relevant federal agencies and compact-based partnerships that’d be involved in its implementation and execution; identify the authorities, staffing and other requirements needed to effectively implement the Strategy; describe the ways U.S. leadership would be used to enhance overall international global fragility prevention efforts, including through increasing the engagement of the member states of the Group of Eight and Group of Twenty; identify which USAID, State Dept., and DOD officials would be responsible for overseeing and leading the strategy; and list the priority countries selected for the initial pilot program.

At least five priority countries would be selected by the president, in coordination with the Secretary of State, USAID Administrator and Secretary of Defense. They’d be selected on the basis of: 1) the United States’ national security interest, 2) clearly defined indicators of the levels of violence in fragility in the country, and 3) an assessment of national and sub-national government entities’ commitment and capacities to work with federal departments and agencies on the Global Fragility Strategy. 

Within one year of this bill’s enactment, the president, in coordination with the Secretary of State, USAID Administrator, Secretary of Defense, and the heads of other relevant federal departments and agencies, would submit ten-year plans to the appropriate congressional committees aligning and integrating the Global Fragility Strategy to all diplomatic, development, security assistance and cooperation and other relevant U.S. government activities. 

Each country plan would include specific multi-year interagency plans; up-to-date baseline analyses, including analyses of power dynamics, impacts of violence and the conditions that contribute to violence and fragility; prioritized descriptions of the goals and objectives for stabilizing conflict areas; and assessment, monitoring and evaluation frameworks for diplomatic, development and security activities, among other elements.

The president, in coordination with the Secretary of State, USAID Administrator, Secretary of Defense, heads of other relevant federal agencies, relevant U.S. ambassadors, USAID mission directors, geographic combatant commanders and other relevant individuals, would ensure that 1) the Global Fragility Strategy is implemented, updated and coordinated on a regular and iterative basis and 2) that the strategy is used to guide U.S. government policy and incorporated into relevant strategies and plans across the U.S. government and that all federal agencies’ activities are consistent with the strategy.

Within two years of this bill’s implementation, and every two years thereafter, the appropriate congressional committees would receive an unclassified report (which may include a classified annex) on progress made and lessons learned with respect to the implementation of the Global Fragility Strategy. The report would include: 1) descriptions of steps taken to incorporate the strategy into any relevant existing country and regional plans or strategies; 2) accountings of all funding received and obligated to each country and regional plan over the past two years and for the next two years; 3) descriptions of progress made towards specific targets, metrics and indicators in each priority country; and 4) descriptions of any changes made to programs based on the results of assessment, monitoring and evaluation for each priority country. 

No more than two years after this bill’s enactment, the Comptroller General of the United States would consult with the appropriate congressional committees regarding opportunities for independent review of the activities implemented under the Global Fragility Strategy. 

This bill would establish and fund three funds: 

  • Prevention and Stabilization Fund: to support stabilization of conflict-affected areas and mitigate fragility, including through the Global Fragility Strategy (replacing the Relief and Recovery Fund); 
  • Complex Crises Fund: to support programs and activities to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen events overseas; and
  • Partnership Development Fund: to be established by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the USAID Administrator and the heads of other relevant federal agencies, with key bilateral and multilateral donors (i.e., the World Bank) and developing countries were fragility threatens to exacerbate violent extremism and undermine development, in order to 1) assist in addressing the sources of fragility and 2) strengthen national and local good governance and conflict resolution capacity over the long term.

The U.S. representative to the Partnership Development Fund would be responsible for providing the appropriate congressional committees with a report on the Fund no later than a year after this bill’s enactment. The report would detail: 1) the Fund’s goals, 2) the Fund’s programs, projects, and activities, including approaches to scaling programs; 3) private and governmental contributions to the Fund; 4) the criteria for determining what the Fund should support; and 5) the country-level processes established to support compact-based agreements and promote international coordination. The GAO would also be responsible for submitting a report to Congress evaluating the Fund’s effectiveness no more than three years after this bill’s enactment.

Impact

Conflict-prone areas; international violence; State Dept.; USAID; State Department; DOD; GAO; international affairs; U.S. funding to address state fragility; and Congress.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 727

$1.10 Billion
The CBO estimates that this bill would cost $558 million over the 2020-2024 period and a total of $1.104 billion over the 2019-2029 period.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Chris Coons reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to enhance the U.S. government’s efforts to support and stabilize fragile states by requiring the Secretary of State, USAID Administrator and Secretary of Defense to collaborate on a 10-year initiative to reduce fragility in at least five priority countries:

“The U.S. is a leader in responding to global humanitarian crises, yet lacks a long-term, cohesive strategy for addressing the root causes of extremism and instability that turn fragile states into failed states. The U.S. has spent nearly $5.9 trillion in the 18 years since 9/11 in combating extremism and terrorism around the world. This legislation is a genuinely bipartisan approach to prevent terrorism from taking hold in the first place. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees, I am pleased to be working with this bipartisan group of my colleagues to enact a framework that will promote the stabilization of fragile environments where terrorists thrive, build peace and maximize the impact of U.S. foreign assistance.”

Mercy Corps supports this bill. Its Chief Executive Officer, Neal Keny-Guyer, says

“If enacted into law, the Global Fragility Act would enhance the capacity of the U.S. government to address causes of violence and would establish a government-wide strategy to provide support to communities at risk of violence in at least six countries over ten years… This landmark legislation would support the recommendations of the United States Institute of Peace Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States, which released its final report on February 26 and highlighted injustice and exclusionary governance as central conditions in places where extremism thrives. This is consistent with findings from our own research that legitimate frustrations over experiences of injustice through discrimination, corruption and abuse drive people to take up arms, including in Mali, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The Global Fragility Act would enable the U.S. government to better support communities and fragile states at greatest risk to address the core grievances fueling radicalization.”

The Friends Committee on National Legislation supports this bill as a way to build on the passage of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act in the 115th Congress: 

“Th[is] bill requires the administration to develop a strategy for preventing conflict in fragile states, or countries with weak government capacity and populations vulnerable to violence. It also provides critical funds to reduce and prevent violence in priority countries. By establishing a new process to identify the causes of conflict and reallocating resources to address them, this act will help prevent violence more effectively and reduce its enormous cost on families and communities.”

This bill has 15 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including nine Democrats and six Republicans and has yet to receive a committee vote. A similar House bill, sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), passed the House by a voice vote with the support of 20 bipartisan cosponsors, including 14 Democrats and six Republicans. 

In the 115th Congress, this bill had four bipartisan Senate cosponsors (three Republicans and one Democrat) and didn’t receive a committee vote. A similar House bill, sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), passed the House by a 376-16 vote with the support of 15 bipartisan cosponsors (eight Democrats and seven Republicans).

This bill has the support of Mercy Corps, the ONE Campaign, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.


Of NoteThe ONE Campaign notes that a fragile state is defined by “an inability to cope with political, security, economic or environmental stresses.” In such places, natural disasters or economic downturns may lead to an increased risk of conflict or violence or even state institutions’ failures. With this in mind, the ONE Campaign’s North America executive director, Tom Hart, says

“There is often a clear link between extreme poverty and fragility. Experts predict that by 2030, nearly 80 percent of people living in extreme poverty will be in fragile states and regions. Reducing instability in fragile states can save innocent lives and is an efficient and cost-effective way of advancing our nation’s foreign policy and national security interests. That’s why it’s so important for the United States government to have the right tools and strategies for reducing poverty in difficult environments, and reaching some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Violence and violent conflict have become the leading causes of displacement worldwide, resulting in an unprecedented 66 million forcibly displaced people. Annually, preventable violence kills at least 1.4 million people. Containing violence costs the global economy $14.3 trillion a year (equivalent to 13.4%of global GDP), including $89.6 billion in losses due to terrorism.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / guvendemir)

AKA

Global Fragility Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to combat international extremism by addressing global fragility and violence and stabilizing conflict-affected areas, and for other purposes.