The Political Economy of State-building in Situations of Fragility and Conflict: from Analysis to Strategy
Author: Louise Anten, Ivan Briscoe and Marco Mezzera
Size: 66 pages (260kB)
This synthesis paper draws on studies of Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kosovo and Pakistan. It highlights the 'political marketplace' in which power-holders compete and collude. It argues that donors need to be constantly sensitive to the shifting structures of power, interests and incentives that may capture and subvert new formal governance arrangements. Donors need to ensure that a shared strategy aimed at building a common-interest state is created, and provide sufficient resources for this while avoiding contingency-led decisions. They can withstand fierce political competition and rapidly changing alliances by supporting constitution-building processes, political party development and participatory public debates. And donors need to support service delivery and official accountability while understanding that a grassroots-level, bottom-up approach, too small-scale to be attractive for the interference of larger players, may do least harm and be more effective.
The paper identifies three broad types of fragility: the common-interest state, the redistributive state, and the weak or failing state. It finds that movements from one type to another depend largely on the way political leaders steer the bargains and deals made between different groups. If resources are distributed to the leaders of discontented groups, or modest but effective public services are established, then it is possible that a state that represents most if not all interests can be created. But if leaders seek to exploit entrenched inequalities, create special revenues for their own use, and default to traditional or alternative sources of authority rather than generating public goods, then the state may succumb to waves of violent competition for resources and power.
Greater electoral competition, institutional complexity and the entry of new players and sources of ready cash – including foreign donors, natural resource exports and organized crime – are driving new conflicts. International interventions, such as humanitarian efforts, democratic processes and security reforms, can expand the political marketplace, undermining their objectives.
Even where peace processes have begun and major reforms have been initiated, the underlying logic of informal power tends to reappear. Weak states can reproduce traditional patterns of social expectation and political behaviour by assimilating new institutions and political procedures – such as electoral democracy and a reformed security sector – within established patterns of power. Institutional reforms that do not align with the prevailing interests and incentives of power-holders, or do not redirect these incentives so as to support the new formal arrangements, are unlikely to work.
In conflict-affected contexts, the international community needs to:
In general, donor support for state-building needs to be sensitive to the structures of power, interests and incentives in the context, and to the possible capture and subversion of new formal governance arrangements by established groups and actors. International actors need to agree and act upon a shared strategy aimed at building a common-interest state. They also need to:
Anten L., Briscoe I. and Mezzera M., 2012, 'The Political Economy of State-building in Situations of Fragility and Conflict: from Analysis to Strategy', Clingendael - Netherlands Institute of International Relations, The Hague
Organisation: Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael', http://www.clingendael.nl