Discussions about how to fix fragile states usually start and end with national level politics and institutions. But what if the key to improving their condition lies elsewhere – in their major cities? Continue reading
For a fleeting moment during the final decade of the twentieth century, the general trajectory of conflict across the world seemed clear. With the Cold War over, the number of interstate wars was in free-fall and the dominant form of violence was internal, within fragmenting states no longer propped up by their superpower sponsors. The age of ‘total war’ between states had thus been largely superseded by a wave of civil conflicts, often characterised as ‘new wars’, fought for the most part in rural hinterlands and widely considered as limited in scope and scale.
Over a decade into the new millennium, however, the trajectory now looks far from straightforward. Like international wars, civil wars too have been steadily declining in number. Yet from Colombia to Cairo, Brazil to Baghdad and Kenya to Kandahar, each month brings new manifestations of what Arjun Appadurai (in)famously termed the ‘implosion of global and national politics into the urban world’. Although riots, gang crime, and terrorist attacks have afflicted cities for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the increasing ubiquity of such events – even if not ‘wars’ in any conventional sense – suggest that the hallmark of the contemporary period is one of rising ‘urban conflict’ rather than ‘peace’. Continue reading
A number of noteworthy reports on institutional change, development, and foreign aid have been published recently. There is much agreement between them, suggesting that we have reached a tipping point in knowledge in this area. I will briefly summarize the results here and provide links for those who want to explore the subject further.
The Development Leadership Programme lays out a framework for how to work politically:
1) Agency matters. This means that the choices, decisions and actions of individuals, groups and organizations and, in particular, their leaders and elites matter.
2) Leadership matters. But the extent to which he or she will be able to pursue a particular vision depends on his or her ability to mobilize an alliance or coalition of other people, organizations or interests in support of that goal.
3) Coalitions matter. This is essential to reconfiguring political dynamics to overcome constraints and take advantage of opportunities. The possibilities depend on the institutional and political context; the interests, strength and nature of the political opposition; the strategies they adopt; the networks they exploit; and the manner in which their tactics and communications are framed. Continue reading
The g7+ group of 18 fragile and conflict-affected states has joined together to share experiences and promote a new development framework in what are the most difficult of circumstances. Supported by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, the group achieved a major breakthrough at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in November 2011—an agreement on a New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. A major part of this is a new orientation to the relationship with donors.
The New Deal priorities what fragile states themselves think are the most important issues to building peaceful and prosperous societies by identifying five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs):
- Legitimate politics – Foster inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution
- Security – Establish and strengthen people’s security
- Justice – Address injustices and increase people’s access to justice
- Economic foundations – Generate employment and improve livelihoods
- Revenues and services – Manage revenue and build capacity for accountable and fair service delivery
These are meant to frame a country-led, inclusive way of setting national goals and establishing a national development plan. This, in turn, is meant to increase country-donor harmonization and donor co-ordination. Continue reading
The Limited Access Order (LAO) conceptual framework is an excellent way to understand why developing countries work the way they do, analyze their political and economic dynamics, and formulate policy ideas appropriate to their context. Its focus on power, violence, rents, and elite bargains provides far greater explanatory and predictive power than the standard template that uses developed countries as a model for how countries ought to work. As such, everyone in the development field working in a policymaking role should make use of it.
No one, including the state, has a monopoly on violence . . . An LAO reduces violence by forming a dominant coalition containing all individuals and groups with sufficient access to violence . . . The dominant coalition creates cooperation and order by limiting access to valuable resources – land, labor, and capital – or access [to] and control of valuable activities – such as contract enforcement, property right enforcement, trade, worship, and education – to elite groups . . . The creation and distribution of rents therefore secures elite loyalty to the system, which in turn protects rents, limits violence, and prevents disorder most of the time. Continue reading