Excerpt from Fixing Fragile States


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From the beginning of Chapter 1

Fragile states are a menace unlike any other, endangering international security, while ruining the lives of hundreds of millions across the globe. Although everyone agrees that they should be dealt with, no one seems able to formulate a strategy to do so. Even worse, few seem even to understand the underlying causes of their dysfunction.

Certainly, fragile states have received a surge of attention in the years since 9/11. Government bodies, think tanks, academics, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and even corporations have convened commissions, conducted inquiries, and launched programs that focus on these dangerous places. Yet, while these studies have produced a number of significant proposals on how to respond to the breakdown of such countries, nobody seems able to explain how to fix them—and why decades spent pumping money, peacekeepers, and advice into fragile states have been unable to reform them. Must we just learn to live with them?

Fixing Fragile States emphatically rejects this gloomy conclusion, but it also rejects both the diagnosis and the treatment that the West has long prescribed for these benighted countries. If we are to transform failed and failing states in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere, we need to adopt innovative policies that challenge conventional wisdom. In particular, we need to embrace a new way of thinking about development.

This book presents a new way of conceptualizing—and solving—the riddle of development. It blends political science, economic, sociological, and business theory together with firsthand experience in the art of helping developing countries prosper to explain why some states succeed and some states break down. And it shows in seven case studies how its new paradigm can be applied to alleviate the problems of fragile states.

By focusing on group identities, state capacities, and business conditions, Fixing Fragile States examines the underlying foundations of institutional potency. This analysis of local sociocultural environments shows the impracticality of many current efforts to reform weak countries, thus unraveling the enigma of why so many efforts have gone awry. Instead of arguing about how to prop up existing governing bodies, which is how the international community typically deals with these places, this book shows that these very bodies often clash with local realities, making it highly unlikely that they will ever work as prescribed.

In essence, this book argues that inappropriate institutions cause fragile states and that only by redesigning those institutions can dysfunctional places craft the commercial environments necessary to attract investment—without which no development can occur or be sustained—and jumpstart a self-sustaining cycle of growth. The new development paradigm proposed in the following chapters would create the positive incentives that drive successful economies, empowering diverse peoples, leveraging limited governance capacities, and catalyzing multinational corporate investment to advance regions that have struggled up to now.

Copyright © 2008 by Praeger Security International.