The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a founding member of the G7+ group, a country-owned and -led global mechanism to monitor, report, and draw attention to the challenges that face fragile states. The G7+ shepherded a landmark policy, the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States (New Deal), that provides guiding principles to countries transitioning from fragility to sustainable development. Members of the G7+ have entered into an agreement to take these issues seriously and make steps toward positive change. While not binding, the agreement will be carefully monitored by donor countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Despite its vast economic potential, the DRC is fragile because of its repeated conflicts and civil wars. It currently ranks 178th—last in the world—in human development as measured by the United Nations Development Programme. Because of the country’s desire to transform itself into a more stable, democratic, and prosperous nation, its leaders have hoped to successfully implement the New Deal primarily by defining a roadmap toward peace that focuses on what is needed to reach the next stage in its development. However, on August 21, 2012, less than a week after the minister of planning announced the principles of the New Deal, the Department of the Budget laid out the main outlines of its public finance bill for 2013. While the department’s earlier directives established ways the DRC could commit itself to reaching the New Deal’s economic goals for infrastructural development, revenues, and services, the department did not indicate how it would meet the enormous challenges in building legitimacy or providing security and justice.
Regarding legitimacy, the DRC has just ended an election campaign that raised serious doubts about the selection of the president and National Assembly deputies. The country is scheduled to complete legislative elections in 2013. As for security, parts of the eastern provinces are controlled by M23, a rebel group composed of former members of the National Congress for the Defense of the People, and other rebels that have Rwandan and Ugandan support and are themselves threatened by separate rebel organizations. In the cities, unemployed youths demonstrate their dissatisfaction with street violence, which the police are powerless to stop. Corruption throughout the judiciary and the legal profession is carried out with an impunity that undermines the state’s authority.
The New Deal is a move in the right direction for fragile states. However, the issues surrounding sustainable development, such as political legitimacy, security, justice, economic fundamentals, and employment, are complex. The need for indicators marking positive change will force the top levels of government to be transparent and will require that the public trust its leaders to make the changes that the New Deal’s goals require. The pathway to forming sustainable states is a long one, but a necessary road for the G7+ countries.