Tag Archives: political geography
International efforts to help developing countries start with a mental model of how government should be structured. It is based on the most common European model of state building—a model initially developed by France but shared by most countries today. European history did, however, have another model, one that is not well remembered but that may be much more useful for fragile states—the Swiss model. (more…)
There has been a lot of bad news out of West Africa recently. Coup d’états have destabilized Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Nigeria has seen a series of terrorist attacks. Toureg rebels have conquered northern Mali and declared independence. Cote d’Ivoire is still recovering from its civil war. Meanwhile, there are reports about drug trafficking, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and a food crisis in the making.
No region in the world has more fragile states than West Africa. The region, which consists of the fifteen countries stretching from Senegal to Nigeria, exemplifies the problems of state building when surrounded by other fragile states. Pint-sized, expensive markets keep most countries isolated from the dynamic changes globalization is bringing elsewhere. The region’s aggregate GDP is roughly the same as Norway’s—despite having over fifty times more people. Although Ghana and Senegal have made significant political and/or economic gains in recent years, most of the other states have been rocked by war, ethnic or religious clashes, political unrest, famine, or serious economic dislocation at various times over the past two decades. (more…)
Getting rid of dictators is much easier than building a political order to replace them. This is especially true in countries with a limited sense of nationhood, as is the case in much of the Middle East. As a result, the Arab Spring has exposed the fragility of the Arab state.
Libya offers a cautionary tale. Muhammad Gaddafi’s reign has left it with arguably the weakest state institutions in the region, and a very limited sense of nationhood. The country’s tribes remain all-important, and given the armed militias that many now control the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) is going to struggle to exert its authority for an extended period of time. A potentially violent Salafi contingent may complicate matters even more.
As a start, it is important to understand as much as possible the ethnic and tribal divisions that divide the country. (more…)
In the aftermath of the conference in London on Somalia, I offer a wrap-up of the best articles and books to read on the country.
In the past week, there has been a number of excellent pieces on what the international community has done wrong in the past, and how it might do better going forward.
In general, they all suggest that the focus should be on what is working—in places such as Somaliland, Puntland, and Galmudug—rather than on any foreign blueprint for success.
Past initiatives have repeatedly attempted to impose a centralized bureaucratic governing structure on the country, a structure ill-suited to Somali society. Such efforts have never been effective and have only aggravated domestic tensions. (more…)