Development Strategies



The cure for fragile states is development. But development is often misunderstood. Although usually equated with economic growth, it is really a process of transforming the system of how the members of a society work together. Although education and healthcare can better prepare individuals to participate in development, a country’s ability to advance is crucially tied to its citizens’ ability to cooperate—both among themselves and in partnership with the state—in increasingly sophisticated ways. A community’s capacity to foster progress is therefore highly dependent on its social cohesion and its set of shared institutions—especially its set of shared informal institutions in the early stages of development when strong, formal governing institutions are typically absent.

These two ingredients shape how a government interacts with its citizens; how officials, politicians, and businesspeople behave; and how effective foreign efforts to upgrade governance will be. In short, they determine to what degree a society is able to nurture a locally driven, productive system of governance—a prerequisite for any attempt to develop. Together with the set of policies adopted by the government, they make up the three major determinants of a country’s capacity to advance (see figure).

Far too many programs designed to help fragile states simply ignore these immeasurable yet all-important drivers of societal and individual action, as if local histories and sociocultural conditions simply did not matter. As the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), a major British research institute, has noted, “for decades the development community has intervened in poor countries with little understanding of the political and institutional landscape, and with scant regard for the impact of their actions on local political relationships and incentives.” The international community, in fact, has generally assumed that any governance models other than those used by Western countries are undesirable. But current state structures in fragile states—almost always imported from abroad and inappropriate to their environments—often have little relevance to local populations.

For more information, see:

Development Trajectories: An Evolutionary Approach to Integrating Governance and Growth 

By Brian Levy, World Bank


Development Strategies: Integrating Governance and Growth

By Brian Levy, World Bank, and Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University


Societies, States and Citizens. A Policymaker’s Guide to the Research

By Sue Unsworth and Mick Moore, Centre for the Future State, the Institute of Development Studies


An Upside-down View of Governance

By Sue Unsworth, Centre for the Future State, the Institute of Development Studies


Institutional Development in Developing Countries in a Historical Perspective: Lessons from Developed Countries in Earlier Times

By Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge


Building Social Cohesion in Fragile States

By Seth Kaplan


Tracking Development in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Primacy of Policy

By Jan Kees van Donge, David Henley, and Peter Lewis


Governance, Economic Growth, and Development since the 1960s  

By  Mushtaq H. Khan


Choosing Countries as Models for Industrial Growth

Why ‘Securing Transformation’ Matters in Development Economics

By Justin Yifu Lin


The Asian ‘Miracle’ After the Global Financial Crisis: Some Lessons for Africa

By John McKay


Good Enough Governance Revisited

By Merilee Grindle