Policymakers are increasingly attuned to the security implications of state fragility. Whether we worry that the state in question is unable to prevent localized conflict from spilling over borders, inadvertently providing a safe haven for violent actors through lack of territorial control, or increasing the risk of epidemics as a result of inadequate medical response, most of the policy community’s focus on fragile states begins with a security concern. However, if fragility is defined as the absence or breakdown of the social contract between a state and its citizens, then any effort to address fragility must also consider fragility’s economic underpinnings.

In looking for ways to make economic assistance effective in fragile states, the question arises of whether a major innovation of U.S. economic assis-tance of the past decade—the economic compact model pioneered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)—might usefully be applied. The answer is yes, but not in all fragile states, and only if we learn the full lessons of what MCC’s experiment can teach us about the compact approach to eco-nomic development.

Alicia Phillips Mandaville is the vice president for Global Development at InterAction.

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