Inconvenient Realities

Evaluation of Dutch contributions to stability, security and rule of law in fragile and conflict-affected contexts

To report
Gewapende mannen in jeep in Abyei
Image: ©UN Photo/Stuart Price

Results – Dutch contributions to stability, security and rule of law in fragile contexts

IOB performed an evaluation of the combined Dutch efforts to promote stability in fragile contexts and break the vicious cycle between (ethnic) tensions, armed conflict, instability and weak governance. It focuses on the period 2015-2022, and includes all Dutch foreign instruments, including diplomatic efforts, development cooperation and military interventions.


The central problem analysis underlying Dutch foreign policy and development cooperation is that fragile and conflict-affected contexts are both a burden for the people living in these contexts and a possible security threat for Europe and the Netherlands. Fragile and conflict affected countries in particular are having the greatest difficulty achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, in 2022, a quarter of the world’s population, and three quarters of all people living in extreme poverty globally, lived in fragile contexts.

Promoting stability, security and rule of law in fragile and conflict-affected contexts is therefore one of the priorities of Dutch foreign policy. Over the years, development cooperation has increasingly targeted fragile contexts, with expenditures on stability, security and rule of law totalling EUR 2.7 billion for the period 2015-2021. Through its interventions, the Netherlands aims to contribute to ‘legitimate stability’ and an improved ‘social contract’ in fragile contexts, thereby addressing the root causes of violent conflict, terrorism, irregular migration and poverty.

IOB performed three case studies for this evaluation:: Afghanistan, Mali and South Sudan. In addition to primary data-collection in these three countries, interviews and literature research, the evaluation furthermore draws on a meta-review of all evaluative literature on development and stabilization interventions in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Mali.

Central question

To what extent has the Netherlands contributed to stability, security and rule of law in fragile contexts, and what lessons can be learned for future policy formulation and implementation?

v.l.n.r.: Zonsondergang Soedan, politiepatrouille van de UN in Mali, en MINUSMA patrouille bij landingsbaan in Kidal
Image: ©UN Photo/Fred Noy/Gema Cortes/Marco Dormino


The most important findings are briefly listed below. They are described in full in the evaluation report

Conclusion 1:

The Netherlands has contributed to some positive results at the local level and in technical sectors, but the evidence is mixed, and these results did not break the vicious cycles of violence and instability in Afghanistan, Mali and South Sudan.

Conclusion 2:

There are limitations to the malleability of society in fragile and conflict-affected settings, and there is a gap between the policy ambitions and the sphere of influence of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Conclusion 3:

Internal political and institutional barriers have hindered the ministry from working in an integrated fashion and effectively adapting its programmes and policies to changing contexts.

Conclusion 4:

There is insufficient attention for conflict sensitivity and the risk of doing harm in fragile and conflict-affected settings

v.l.n.r.: Lerares voor de klas in een meisjesschool in Afghanistan, ondergelopen huizen na overstroming in Zuid-Soedan, en pantservoertuig in Timboektoe
Image: ©IOB/Rens Willems; AFP/Sanaullah Seiam; UNPhoto/Blagoje Grujic


Below, the main recommendation is formulated. In addition to this main recommendation, six recommendations are added aimed to provide concrete strategies. The recommendations are described in full in the research report.


Regarding this evaluation, IOB is organising two events:

  • 5 September 2023, Public presentation in The Hague (in Dutch). There are currently no spots left, but you can register to be put on the waiting list.
  • 5 October 2023, Online presentation (in English, French translation available). If you would like to participate, you can register here.