< Distinguished speaker series

Corinne Graff, Ph.D.

Senior Advisor, Conflict Prevention and Fragility, United States Institute of Peace

An Aid Program for Countries At The Edge of Chaos

DATE: August 23, 2022 6:00 pm

Event information

The Biden administration recently inaugurated a program that aims to bring stability and economic growth to countries at the edge of disaster and chaos. Aid organizations like Mercy Corps and the Alliance for Peacebuilding lobbied for the plan, and it won wide bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

The hope is to prevent the descent into war, mass killings and vast displacements.

Consider this: 100 million people are now forced displaced, having fled their homes, mostly from conflicts. This is a new UN figure. It was 70 million in 2018.

The intent of the bill is for U.S. Embassies to work with local partners and civil society on a 10-year plan to bring about political reconciliation, encourage democratic development, to prevent mass atrocities, attract investment, and most of all, avoid having to deploy the U.S. military.

The initiative is called the Global Fragility Act. President Trump signed it into law in 2019 and President Biden set it in motion this past April.  The cost is relatively modest — $200 million a year. It could change the world for the better.

The Council has invited Corinne Graff, Ph.D. from the United States Institute of Peace to explain how the initiative will work, using one of the five places the administration has selected as an example — coastal West Africa.  The three landlocked countries in the Sahel — Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — are already convulsed by ISIS-related insurgencies, and the aim now is to prevent that from spreading to Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote D’ivoire and Guinea.

What makes the program unique is that ideas will be encouraged to flow from the field and be judged by what works, not by the earmark in the Congressional budget process.



Dr. Graff is a senior adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington and was on the task force that helped craft the Fragility program. Before that she was deputy assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She also coordinated development priorities on the National Security Council and was a fellow at the Brookings Institution. She co-edited a book titled Confronting Poverty: Weak States and U.S. National Security. She is a graduate of Smith College and received her doctoral degree from the Swiss Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.