Capacity development at the national level in fragile and conflict-affected states


What is the current thinking on best practice in capacity development for national-level government institutions in fragile and conflict-affected states? Identify common forms of support for capacity development provided by donors as well as innovative approaches being trialled, and evaluations of programmes where available. What are the key lessons learned? Afghanistan is of particular interest.


There is a clear international consensus on desirable principles for capacity development in fragile states, which include country ownership, use of country systems, improvements to technical assistance and training, adapting initiatives to local contexts, a focus on adaptive and flexible approaches, a focus on results, improved coordination, and a focus on a clear set of priority sectors. Capacity development has been recognised as central to peacebuilding and statebuilding in important international policy statements including the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.

In practice, capacity development is a difficult problem even in stable situations, and is even more difficult in fragile situations. Power and politics in fragile states are less orderly, the shadow or informal state can take on a more pervasive and powerful role, capacity deficits can be large due to damage to physical infrastructure and the social fabric, and chronic instability and crises can distract from the long-term perspective of capacity development (Baser, 2011, p. 8).

Technical assistance and training remain very common approaches to capacity development in fragile states, despite significant doubts that have been raised in recent years about their effectiveness. Notable innovative approaches that have been successfully deployed in Afghanistan and other fragile contexts include an increased emphasis on adaptive, flexible, and incremental approaches, and on South-South and triangular cooperation.