You are here: Home Knowledge Base Polity Repairing Failed States Proposals Repairing Failed States
Symposium 2009

Proposal - Repairing Failed States

The Challenge

In a number of territories primarily situated in the poorer parts of the world, the state no longer performs its basic security and development functions. Beyond causing hardship for their own citiz ...

In a number of territories primarily situated in the poorer parts of the world, the state no longer performs its basic security and development functions. Beyond causing hardship for their own citizens, failed states provide breeding grounds of organized crime and terrorism.

There is of course no universally applicable formula how to turn disenfranchised populations into stakeholders of a process of state-building. A natural first step is that such a process should start from the identification of the main obstacles to state-building, such as outstanding legal settlements of past conflicts or ethnic and religious tensions. Then, country-specific processes addressing the main obstacles need to be designed and implemented. In general, these processes need to ensure that internal stakeholders acknowledge each other’s claims within a framework of politics and the rule of law rather than violence, for instance in the form of institutional arrangements that are moderated by the United Nations.

Obviously, sequencing of activities is crucial. Even before the above steps can be taken, (some) state authority needs to be established. This is a decisive step and wrong decisions at this stage are very difficult to be corrected later in the process. In these circumstances, donor governments or intervening external military forces typically play a central role. In fragile states, there is no legitimate partner for reconciliation negotiations to begin with. Rather, this partner (partly) is being legitimized by becoming the partner of external stakeholders. The sequencing of (1) establishing an interim authority, (2) holding a general assembly with the participation of al internal groups, (3) the subsequent ratification of a new constitution, and (4) the first democratic elections has been tried in Afghanistan but still has to prove its effectiveness in establishing a sovereign state.

On top of their very influential role in the initial phase of state-building, donors should later prioritize activities targeted at state-building such as the provision of an effective public service, police, and military forces, instead of mainly delivering humanitarian assistance or development projects. While ownership is important in delivering development assistance in general, it is even more so in fragile states, where building up “ownership” in a much wider sense (rather than ownership of a single project) is required.

With regard to the private sector, much more action is needed to encourage private firms to stabilize fragile environments. This holds in particular for activities in the resource sector, where a lack of legitimized government authority can easily sustain corrupt regimes and hence undermine state-building. Possibly, the establishment of a supra-national agency or institution with a special mandate to focus on the role of private companies particularly in fragile environments would give such efforts the needed impetus. Alternatively, the International Court of Justice could be provided with the resources to examine this role. Existing initiatives, such as EITI, the OECD code of conduct for multinational companies or single UN enquiries so far appear to remain too patchy to have a real impact on business activities in fragile state environments.

    Related Proposals

    Proposal
    Symposium 2009

    A Framework for Fixing Fragile States: Leveraging Social Cohesion and Local Institutions

    The Roots of Fragility The illegitimacy and poor governance that debilitate fragile states can be traced to many factors—such as colonialism—that have combined to detach states from their environm ...

    The Roots of Fragility The illegitimacy and poor governance that debilitate fragile states can be traced to many factors—such as colonialism—that have combined to detach states from their environments, governments from their societies, and elites from their citizens. Whereas a robust state uses local identities, local capacities, and local institutions to promote its development, a fragile state’s formal governing structures undermine all of these indigenous assets. As a consequence, a weak state cannot leverage its people’s histories and customs to construct effective formal institutions with wide legitimacy; nor can it draw on the social capital embedded in cohesive groups

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2009

    Liberia: Rebuilding for Growth and Development

    Liberia is a case study both of Africa’s terrible tragedy and for the recent emergence of hope. For the past two decades, the world came to know Liberia as a land of political comedy, widespread cor ...

    Liberia is a case study both of Africa’s terrible tragedy and for the recent emergence of hope. For the past two decades, the world came to know Liberia as a land of political comedy, widespread corruption and unimaginable brutality. Liberia became the strange footage that flickered on television screens with terrible images of savagery. The Liberian people became refugees and fled to all corners of the globe for shelter. It was a period of darkness and insanity. But fortunately, things have finally begun to change.   Conflict and Recovery The origins of the Liberian conflict can be traced back to

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2009

    Financial crisis and fragile states

    The Impact of the Financial Crisis on “Fragile States” James Putzel Professor of Development Studies Director of the Crisis States Research Centre London School of Economics The Global Economic Sy ...

    The Impact of the Financial Crisis on “Fragile States” James Putzel Professor of Development Studies Director of the Crisis States Research Centre London School of Economics The Global Economic Symposium needs to be much more concerned with the set of countries which have become known as “fragile states” than with the problem of “failed states” per se. The outright “failure” of states – that is when they cease to function as states at all – as occurred in Somalia or earlier in the Democratic Republic of Congo during what has come to be known as “Africa’s First World War” (1996-2001),

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society