From Fragility to Resilience in rural settings: the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC)


Background, Objectives and Thematic Focus

Fragility plays a crucial role in determining global development outcomes. Its centrality and importance in the global development agenda and the need to reduce the risk of disasters have been echoed by several international initiatives, such as the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the Stockholm Declaration on Addressing Fragility and Building Peace in a Changing World. During the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the importance of aligning humanitarian and development actions was emphasized, especially to reduce the needs of poor people in fragile situations. The quest for peace is also central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Declaration and SDG 16).

From the development perspective, a common factor undermining food security is conflict, and more conflicts cause greater hunger. The number of undernourished people on the planet increased to 821 million in 2017,[1] up from 777 million in 2015.[2] While it is difficult to develop long-term development plans in fragile or deeply impoverished contexts, building resilience to prevent shocks and stress can relieve human suffering. Resilience is crucial to address the humanitarian-development nexus for reaching food security.

Cooperation among fragile and conflict-affected countries of the Global South is intensifying. “Fragile-to-fragile (F2F)” cooperation is the support that countries in conflict or emerging from crisis provide to each other, including through peer learning, capacity-building, mobilization of third-party support, financial assistance or knowledge generation.[3]

The g7+ group of fragile states has been particularly active in F2F cooperation, with the aim of helping countries to make progress towards peace, resilience and development through the provision of mutual support, as well as promoting a shared vision among its member countries.

F2F cooperation is inspired and closely aligned with South-South Cooperation (SSC), and F2F can learn from the experience of SSC, but can also take its place in the driving seat by sharing lessons, especially around the importance of country-owned and country-led approaches to peacebuilding and state-building. F2F is also strongly supported by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding,[4] which is widely recognized as a particularly successful example of triangular cooperation.

The session entitled “From fragility to resilience in rural settings: the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation” will look at how UN agencies can support and scale up the exchange of experiences between g7+ countries, further and support the work of the g7+ group, and share practices of the countries who are champions in building resilience.

The following are examples of how UN agencies broker SSTC among countries in this specific context of work.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FAO is working towards increasing the resilience of people and their livelihoods to agricultural threats and crises. This includes protecting, restoring and improving livelihoods systems in the face of threats that impact agriculture, nutrition, food security and food safety in fragile states, including through SSTC.

FAO seeks to develop the capacities of families, communities and institutions to protect people and their livelihoods, through measures to avoid (prevention) or limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse effects of hazards and to provide timely and reliable hazard forecasts.

FAO’s resilience strategy is based on four pillars: (1) Enable the environment – Institutional strengthening and governance of risk and crisis in agricultural sectors; (2) Watch to safeguard – Information and early warning systems on food and nutrition security and transboundary threats; (3) Apply risk and vulnerability reduction measures – Protection, prevention, mitigation and building livelihoods with technologies, approaches and practices across all agricultural sectors; and (4) Prepare and respond – Preparedness for and response to crises in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry.

International Fund for Agricultural Development

In 2016, IFAD released a new strategy for engagement in countries with fragile situations[5] which outlines some guiding principles for the Fund’s engagement in these countries, and specifically: (a) risk management and resilience; (b) focus on root causes (within IFAD’s mandate and comparative advantage); (c) gender mainstreaming and targeting; (d) institution-building to promote trust and social cohesion; (e) flexible and responsive resources, instruments and approaches; (f) strategic and complementary partnerships; and (g) results measurement and learning.

Since then, the theme of fragility has gained more and more traction within IFAD. It is in fact a commitment of the Fund in its Strategic Framework 2016-2025[6] to work in fragile situations, and resilience is adopted as a key theme. Moreover, fragility was a core thematic area of the February 2018 IFAD Governing Council, during which a commitment was made to allocate 25-30 per cent of IFAD resources to fragile states.

In addition, IFAD has established the Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS) to ensure that poor rural people affected by crisis and displacement overcome poverty through remunerative, sustainable and resilient livelihoods. By creating opportunities for host communities, refugees and internally displaced persons, FARMS addresses fragility and tensions that arise due to displacement. It bridges the gap between humanitarian and development financing by ensuring that, in addition to relief and emergency services, communities in crisis benefit from long-term development strategies that address underlying problems. In 2017, IFAD mobilized US$33 million of funding for FARMS.

Following the 2030 Agenda commitment to “leave no one behind”, IFAD works to mobilize investments in the most remote rural areas to link farmers to markets, build small-scale infrastructure and introduce the appropriate technologies for smallholders to produce more and better, thus contributing to achieving global food security. The 2030 Agenda is a global commitment to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. Nowhere is this challenge more pertinent than in rural areas.

United Nations World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian organization saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. WFP operates in the most difficult settings in the world and is present in 83 countries. WFP’s approach to SSC has a strong focus on engagement with countries in conflict, fragility and transition, and empowering them to bridge the development-humanitarian-peace nexus. The focus is on building resilience for food security and nutrition.

WFP brokers SSTC to empower governments in areas such as early-warning and preparedness systems that allow the governments to prevent crises or respond quickly when they happen, developing national capacities to manage disaster risk through finance and risk-transfer tools, such as weather risk insurance, and to provide access to expertise in vulnerability analysis and mapping, as well as support to social protection systems. Integrated resilience strategies, climate adaptation and Food for Assets (FFA) programmes play a key role in strengthening resilience and food security.


Concrete Outcomes

The session will be an occasion for governments and UN agencies to discuss opportunities for SSTC engagement with countries that are facing situations of conflict and fragility. It will focus on sharing experiences of “fragile-to-fragile” cooperation that can help to bridge the development-humanitarian-peace nexus, with an emphasis on the areas of rural development, rural transformation, food security and nutrition. Specific outcomes identified for this session are:

  • Share country experiences that can promote resilience-building for strengthening rural livelihoods in g7+ countries, bridge the development-humanitarian-peace nexus and support countries to advance progress towards food and nutrition security in the context of conflict and fragility
  • Provide an overview of UN approaches and opportunities in complementing the efforts of governments in creating resilience-building for g7+ countries with a focus on advancing progress towards SDG 2
  • Share results, impact and lessons learned with concrete examples (i.e. case studies) from the portfolios of the speakers’ organizations
  • Participants from Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Sudan and other countries, or from a g7+ member country,[7] can be invited to speak on resilience initiatives
  • Identification of forward-looking opportunities for concerted interagency action to broker SSTC in fragile states or situations
  • Include interventions from the audience (UNICEF and other UN and non-UN agencies) to learn from other institutions about their approaches in SSTC in the context of fragile states or situations in the rural context.







Helder da Costa

General Secretary, g7+

Helder da Costa is the General Secretary of the g7+, an association of 20 countries affected by fragility and conflict situations whose Secretariat is based in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Helder earned his PhD in Trade Policy at the University of Adelaide, South Australia in 2001; Masters in Agricultural Economics at Massey University, New Zealand (1995) and Bachelor of Agricultural Economics at Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga, Indonesia (1990). He has over 15 years of management experience and 12 years of work in the academic and development fields. Helder’s professional career includes 6 years of senior posts with both the Asia New Zealand Foundation and Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) based in Wellington, New Zealand as Tertiary Education Manager and the Asia Programme Manager overseeing 5 countries in Asia (Bhutan, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Timor-Leste).  Helder has consulted for various international development agencies over the past 10 years including UNDP, UN, ADB, World Bank, AusAID and ACIAR Australia.

Helder contributed a book chapter on East Timor in “Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities” Heijmans (Ed) et al (2004) Lynne Rinner Publisher, New York; and was co-editor with Prof. James Fox of ANU of “Agriculture: New Directions for a New Nation, East Timor” published by ACIAR Canberra in 2003. Helder has also published refereed articles on Timor-Leste’s economy in a number of international journals.




Dongxin Feng

Deputy Director, Partnerships and South-South Cooperation Division (DPS), FAO

Dongxin Feng is Deputy Director of the Partnerships and South-South Cooperation Division (DPS) at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and she is in charge of South-South Cooperation.

Before joining FAO in May 2017, she was working at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), as a plant pathologist for 19 years and then at the Department of International Cooperation when she served as Deputy Director General and Director General of the Department for 8 years. As a plant pathologist, she published 8 books and more than 50 papers in world-class academic journals.

She received her B.S. (1986) in agronomy from Hebei Agricultural University, China, M.S. (1998) in Plant Pathology from the Graduate School of CAAS, China, and Ph.D. (2003) with greatest distinction in Molecular Plant Pathology from the Université Toulouse III (Paul Sabatier), France.

She previously served as Lead Shepherd of APEC’s Agricultural Technology Cooperation Working Group (ATCWG) (2015-2017), and member of the Standing Adversary Group for Nuclear Application (SAGNA) of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (2015-2017).


Khalida Bouzar

Director, Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia Division, IFAD

From business development to international corporate leadership, Dr. Khalida Bouzar has a rich and unique experience from international development work, driven by passion and innovation. Her expertise covers not only sustainable and rural development in fragile contexts, but also extends to environmental and natural resource management.

Since 2012, she is the Director of the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia Division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). She manages a portfolio of US$ 2.4 billion covering 21 countries and oversees three sub-regional hubs and two country offices.

Over a period of thirty years, of which 20 years in the UN, she has built up considerable experience in planning, change management, partnership building and results delivery of policy and lending operations in complex and challenging environments. Her optimal approach in conflict management is a key factor of success in leading the development efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Near East and North Africa regions.

Under her leadership, IFAD established a Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS), bridging the gap between humanitarian and development work in fragile contexts, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Somalia and Sudan. Dr Bouzar also spearheaded the development of an IFAD strategy for engagement in countries with fragile situations, and has played a catalytic role in bringing about the first ever IFAD country programme engagement with Iraq.

Between 2008 and 2012, she served as the Deputy Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Paris-based Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. In that capacity, she led the Division’s strategy, policy and portfolio development. Her strategic planning has been pivotal in establishing key partnerships with a wide range of official stakeholders and partners, including high level negotiations at UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

Prior to that, between 2004 and 2008, Dr. Bouzar played a significant role in managing the launch of IFAD’s Global Environment and Climate Change business operations. She was responsible for advancing IFAD’s engagement in responding to the issues of environmental degradation – instrumental in positioning IFAD as an Executing Agency of GEF as well as upholding its reputation for excellence.

Earlier, she served as a Regional Sustainable Development Advisor at UNDP for North Africa, and as an International Technical Expert in Drylands Development, NY. She began her career as a researcher and in the private sector as a Business Development Manager, working in the biggest joint venture in oil and gas industry BRC. Dr Khalida Bouzar, a life-long learner, holds a PhD in Sciences from the Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University in Paris.


Jean-Pierre de Margerie

Deputy Director, Policy and Programme Division, WFP

Mr. de Margerie is an experienced humanitarian and development assistance professional with 25 years of experience in developing, implementing and managing complex food assistance programmes. He is a graduate in international political economy and international management.

Prior to his current position, Mr de Margerie spent almost 15 years as Representative/Country Director for the World Food Programme in multiple countries across Africa and Asia. Furthermore, he also has experience as Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


Edonias Niyongabo

Planning Director, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Burundi (TBC)

From secondary school teacher to University, Mr Niyongabo is a Specialist-Expert in International Economic Relations with sound experience in various fields.

Prior to his current position, Mr Niyongabo has always been a dynamic civil servant for the Republic of Burundi as Director General for development programmes (2009-2012); Assistant to the Minister for Regional Integration and Est African Community Affairs (2007-2009); UNDP National Project Coordinator for Democratic Governance in Burundi (2003-2005); Ambassador to Canada (1999-2002), to France (1993-1994); Member of the Parliament of Burundi (1997-1999); Private business development consultant and investment promotion leader.



Focal Point Contact Details


Overall coordinators:

Athifa Ali, Programme Office SSTC, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),

Elena Bertusi, SSTC Specialist, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),

Carola Kenngott, SSTC Global Coordinator, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP),

Neal Pronesti, RBA Coordination Specialist, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP),


Communications focal points:

Athifa Ali, Programme Office SSTC, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

Gabriela Dutra, SSTC Consultant, United Nations World Food Programme,

David Paqui, Regional Communications Officer, International Fund for Agricultural Development,




[1] FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2018. The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2018.

Building climate resilience for food security and nutrition. Rome, FAO