Category Archives: Fragile States
The ability to nurture and manage a wide variety of large-scale organizations is essential to any country’s ability to promote economic development. In fact, in some ways economic development is simply a product of a society’s growing capacity to create strong organizations that serve an ever-enlarging number of purposes.
Only with a sizable number of medium- and large-sized companies can economies generate broad-based, employment-generating growth. Only with well-managed government institutions—which often contain tens of thousands if not more people—can states provide a wide range of public services to millions of people and across large territories. And only big (or, at least, extremely well managed) NGOs are likely to have the breadth of coverage to make a difference in the lives of a significant proportion of a population.
Yet while energizing economies, increasing employment, improving governance, and enhancing civil society are all prioritized by development actors, little thought is put into what would enable societies to better grow and manage organizations despite their obvious importance to all of these objectives. (more…)
Almost whenever you read anything about fragile states, the introduction notes that, ‘no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal’. This is a quote from the overview from the 2011 World Development Report on conflict, security and development. It seems to be an elaboration of a quote from the main body of the report that is subtly but importantly different. ‘No low-income, fragile state has achieved a single MDG, and few are expected to meet targets by 2015.’ (more…)
Fragile states have limited capacity to govern. They have few highly trained policymakers, few managers able to organize departments and ministries, and few officials able to implement decisions. They have very limited financial resources and little prospect (unless they have a lot of natural resources) of becoming self-sustaining anytime soon. Why then do we ask them to do so much?
far from any threshold of “good governance”; at their pace or average pace of progress it would take very (to infinitely) long to reach a threshold; even at very to extremely optimistic accelerations of the pace of progress . . . the time from fragile states to reach solid levels of governance is measured in decades, not years.
Yet, such countries are expected to do more or less everything much more developed countries do. They must deliver adequate public services to all their people, adopt and enforce an enormous number of laws and regulations, and meet international standards in a wide range of areas. If they receive substantial sums of foreign aid, they must deal with each donor on every project and meet all their specific requirements. Is any of this realistic? (more…)
Although we may not always agree on the specifics – or the application of the concept given its political sensitivities – there is a degree of consensus on the general traits of state fragility. These include, for example, weak capacity to provide basic services, public security and rule of law; inability to manage political conflict; and delegitimization of the state. But this year’s Global Monitoring Report, produced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, threw a new trait into the mix. “Fragile states,” it argued, are characterized by, among other things, a “lack of timely and reliable statistics on the basis of which policies can be formulated.” (more…)
Many fragile states suffer from incoherent legal systems. Whereas in developed countries, one single system exists and is effectively enforced, in fragile states multiple systems work side-by-side, each weakly enforced, and often operating in contradiction with each other. Creating a unified and robust system of law is one of the biggest challenges these countries face.
In most cases, this incoherence is a direct product of colonialism. One system, often with the greatest relevancy to local populations, has roots in the precolonial system of governance. It may have evolved a lot since then, but is still based on local circumstances and institutions. The state, itself a product of foreign rule, follows another system, based on Western legal tradition, imported from abroad. Neither is consistently or equitably implemented. Corruption distorts outcomes. Officials (whether those of the state or local leaders) lack training. Favoritism is common.
In some places, religion comes into play with its own system (such as Sharia), creating three legal layers, each with its own logic. Outcomes and incentives can be widely divergent. Local systems may also vary tremendously by location, creating a complex mosaic of different mixes of different systems depending where in a country one is. (more…)
Many fragile states maintain a very limited presence in large parts of their territory and lack the capacity to effectively govern even when present. Is there any way to improve governance in such places without depending on the government?
In other words, are there mechanisms to promote collective goods in areas where political institutions are too weak to adopt and enforce collectively binding rules?
Although governance is usually considered a product of government (the state), empirical evidence suggests that areas of weak or limited statehood do not necessarily have weak governance. “Governance without a state” is a reality in many parts of the world, including Somaliland, parts of the eastern DRC, and places where warlords, multinationals (MNCs), or NGOs provide some public goods.