Fragile states are characterised by a great potential for crisis that endangers human security and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is increasingly being recognized that external actors should stay involved, either directly or indirectly; at the same time, though, new entry points and approaches are needed (the stay engaged, but differently principle). Donor behavior in cases of fragile statehood can be based on two key parameters: (a) the effectiveness of state institutions, (b) the legitimacy of the respective government. In order not to create parallel and hybrid structures, donors are well-advised, in general, to focus on existing structures and coordinate their political priorities with the governments (systems and policy alignment). However, lack of development orientation, widespread corruption, or markedly repressive rule may make such a cooperation a highly problematic proposition. Thus, it will in a substantial number of cases also be necessary to engage with partners beyond the state, i.e. with nonstate groups, the private sector, and local governmental units. A major task for development cooperation is the (re-)creation of capabilities in six governance arenas: security, political, judicial, administrative, social, and economic governance. This must be approached on a country-by-country basis, based on empirical assessments of the current situation, and preferably drawing on the knowledge of local experts. Despite this qualification some cross-cutting priorities are identified within the study: (re)establishment of the state monopoly on the legitimate use of forces and efforts to combat ordinary crime; a functioning separation of powers (horizontal checks and balances); respect for the rule of law, and legal empowerment of citizens; efforts to combat corruption and to eliminate criminal economies. Donors' ability to have a positive impact on fragile states remains limited, unless they pursue coherent policies on the national level and coordinate more effectively on the international level. The development of common country strategies, the clarification of responsibilities as well as harmonised analysis and decision-making mechanisms in the case of 'states at risk' are steps in the right direction.