Fit for fragility? An examination of the politics of risk management inside Swedish aid

Publicly funded bilateral development agencies are channelling an increasing amount of money and effort to support development in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS). While there are multiple definitions of fragility and different lists of countries classified as FCAS, all of them face systemic political and economic challenges. There is a growing sense that their complex ever-changing realities need to be navigated by donors in more responsive, innovative, flexible and politically astute ways. And yet, a whole range of risks are elevated in fragile states, including fiduciary risks, counter-terrorism risks, the risk of failure and exacerbating conflict, security threats, and real ethical dilemmas.

Three research questions motivate this study: (1) What are the formal risk management systems governing Swedish aid to fragile and conflict-affected states and which actors are implicated in them? (2) Is the practice of risk management struggling to simultaneously meet accountability demands and flexibility desires? Where are the internal fault lines of the accountability/flexibility dilemma drawn within and across Swedish public ministries, agencies and aid implementers? (3) How might these tensions be resolved in order to make the exercise of risk management ‘fitter’ for the contexts of fragility? The main objective of this work is to bring to the surface the tension between flexibility and accountability that is experienced in various quarters of Sweden’s development administration dealing with risks emerging from its operations in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Authors: Nilima Gulrajani and Linnea Mills

Chair, reference group: Johan Schaar

Project manager: Richard Sannerholm

Expected delivery of report: 4th quarter 2018