Introduction to state-society relations and citizenship

The impact of violent conflict and fragility on a country’s society, economy and political governance is devastating and encompassing. The effects can be tangible and visible, including killed and injured civilians; destroyed or derelict infrastructure; and poor and inadequate public service facilities. They can also be intangible, such as lack of confidence and distrust in government; weak social cohesion and the destruction of norms and values; pervasive sense of fear, disempowerment and insecurity; and pessimism about the future. Addressing both types of effects is essential in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. Statebuilding and peacebuilding processes have often focused primarily, however, on the tangible aspects – demobilising soldiers; improving and restoring physical infrastructure, buildings and institutions; drafting laws and constitutions; and providing technical assistance and training (Pouligny, 2010).

Until very recently, efforts undertaken by the international community to promote statebuilding have focused on the state, resulting in a top-down approach centred on formal institutions. Those working in peacebuilding, on the other hand, have often advocated a bottom-up civil society approach. Increasingly, however, statebuilding and peacebuilding concepts and strategies have evolved in ways that have brought them closer together. Establishing strong public institutions is now considered essential in the promotion of peace; and developing institutions that are responsive to the demands of citizens and inclusive processes that treat members of society as active agents are considered important to statebuilding. The concept of state-society relations and efforts to foster positive, mutually constructive relations has thus received greater attention. The OECD DAC has emphasised the importance of looking beyond the mere forms of institutions in statebuilding processes to state-society relations, state legitimacy and the political and social fabric of society.

This Topic Guide supplement focuses on these crucial intangible aspects of statebuilding and peacebuilding: promoting positive state-society and intra-society relations; restoring or generating trust in government and public institutions and trust among citizens; and fostering notions of citizenship and socio-political cohesion. Left unaddressed, statebuilding and peacebuilding efforts are unlikely to succeed.

Pouligny, B., 2010, ‘State-Society Relations and the Intangible Dimensions of State Resilience and Statebuilding: A Bottom Up Perspective’, EUI Working Paper, no. 33, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (EUI), Florence
Crucial social and cultural elements underpin state institutions and ensure that they function. This is especially important to understand in ‘fragile’ settings. This paper argues that conventional perspectives need to be broadened beyond tangible dimensions of state resilience, institutions and statebuilding to include intangible dimensions. International actors need to gain an understanding of the relationships, structures and belief systems that underpin institutions, and of the multiplicity and diversity of political institutions, cultures, and logics through which statebuilding processes may be supported.
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Interpeace, 2010, ‘Voices of Civil Society Organisations on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding’, Background Paper, prepared as an input into the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, Interpeace, Geneva
What are the views of civil society organisations (CSOs) on statebuilding and peacebuilding? This report presents the findings of a consultation designed to input into the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (Timor-Leste, April 2010). CSOs argue that the way that peacebuilding and statebuilding processes are undertaken is critically important: there is a need to focus not only on what is done, but how things are done. Inclusive and participatory processes are essential in order to address conflict and to ensure that statebuilding and peacebuilding can be complementary.
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World Bank, 2011, ‘From Violence to Resilience: Restoring Confidence and Transforming Institutions’, in World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development, World Bank, Washington DC, ch.3
How can countries escape the vicious cycle of fragility and move toward a virtuous cycle of confidence-building and institutional transformation, especially in the areas of citizen security, justice, and jobs? This chapter sets out the Report’s framework as an expanding spiral because these processes repeat over time as countries enter and exit multiple transition moments. Even as one set of immediate priorities is resolved, other risks emerge and require a repeated cycle of action to bolster institutional resilience. This process takes at least a generation. Societies undertaking this endeavour face a legacy of pervasive and enduring mistrust, which makes collective action to address challenges or provide public goods difficult. Outsiders cannot restore confidence and transform institutions for countries because these processes are domestic and must be nationally led. But to help countries restore peace and reduce regional and global instability, international actors can provide external support and incentives and help reduce external stresses.
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World Bank, 2011, ‘Restoring Confidence: Moving Away from the Brink’, in World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development, World Bank, Washington DC, ch. 4
This chapter reviews lessons from national experience in restoring confidence by mobilising ‘inclusive-enough’ coalitions of stakeholders and by delivering results. Collaborative coalitions often combine government and nongovernmental leadership to build national support for change and signal an irreversible break with the past. Restoring confidence in situations of low trust also means delivering some fast results, since government announcements of change will not be credible without tangible action.
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World Bank, 2011, ‘Conflict, Security and Development: Practical Country Directions and Options’, in World Development Report 2011, World Bank, Washington DC, ch. 8
How have different countries recovered from episodes of violence? What practical tools exist for confidence-building? This chapter provides basic principles and a toolkit of options emerging from country lessons, showing how these can be adapted to different contexts. Key principles for sustained violence prevention and recovery are: inclusion (although coalitions need not be ‘all inclusive’); early results to help build citizen confidence; establishing the basic institutional functions that provide citizen security, justice, and jobs; and embracing pragmatic, best-fit options to address immediate challenges. Within these general principles, each country should tailor their own strategy based on: the types of violent threats faced; institutional challenges; combinations of international and external stresses; stakeholders who need to be involved to make a difference; and transition opportunities.
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See the contents list of the full World Development Report 2011.