Does peacebuilding bring peace?

How much do you think it would cost to achieve the Millennium Development Goals? Among other things, that would mean cutting extreme poverty by half in 2015 compared with 1990, achieving universal primary education, and cutting the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters.

In 2002, the World Bank came up with a figure of an extra $40-$60 billion a year in foreign aid. Let’s assume that prices have doubled since then, and it would now cost $120 billion.

That’s a gigantic sum of money, but it’s peanuts compared to a figure in the 2011 Yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): military expenditure in 2010 increased by 1.3% in real terms to reach $1630 billion. The top three arms dealers each had sales of around $33 billion.

SIPRI gives some encouraging figures, noting that two peace operations closed in 2010, making it the second consecutive year in which the total number of operations fell.

However, that still leaves 52 multilateral peace operations and the total number of personnel deployed increased by 20% between 2009 and 2010, to reach 262 842, mainly due to the increase in NATO troops in Afghanistan from 84,146 in 2009 to 131,730 in 2010.

That too is expensive. A report by the US Congressional Research Service states that between 2009 and 2010, average Department of Defense spending for Afghanistan alone grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month (Afghanistan’s GDP in 2010 was $15.6 billion at the official exchange rate).

Is all this multilateral peacekeeping money well spent? SIRPI seems to have some doubts, arguing that operations are “increasingly contested by host countries and challenged in their efficacy by a combination of overstretch and weak political support”.

Next week, the second global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding being held in Monrovia, Liberia will discuss these issues and take a hard look at the role of governments, aid donors and civil society in building sustainable peace and developing capable and accountable states.

We’ll be covering the meeting for Insights blog, and hoping to get answers to three questions:

Have the populations of fragile states and countries affected by conflict benefited from the money, effort and time devoted to peacebuilding and statebuilding these past years?

Are they any nearer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals?

What lessons can these states and the international community as a whole learn from recent experiences, both positive and negative?

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Contracting out in fragile states

Click to see the Handbook

Following on Monday’s presentation of the World Development Report, this post is from Richard Batley emeritus professor and Claire Mcloughlin a research fellow in the International Development Department of the University of Birmingham. They have worked on questions of service delivery, including the preparation of a Handbook on Contracting Out Government Functions and Services in Post-Conflict and Fragile Situations with the OECD’s Partnership for Democratic Governance.

 In its World Development Report released earlier this week, the World Bank says that international aid and development co-operation need to focus more on breaking the cycle between conflict and poverty. The report argues that an emphasis on supporting service delivery and strengthening national institutions in post-conflict states can improve people’s security and help maintain the government’s legitimacy in difficult circumstances.

However, in these post-conflict situations, populations may be displaced, infrastructure absent or impaired, the rule of law minimal, and government’s own capacity weak. Donors, international NGOs and local informal service providers are often the first to intervene to satisfy basic demands, frequently bypassing government.

This presents deep dilemmas. The OECD Partnership for Democratic Governance (PDG) has identified the building of ‘effective, legitimate and resilient states’ as the central objective of international engagement in fragile situations. As far as possible, states would therefore provide their own core functions and essential services to the population. Others argue that getting services to the population is more important than who provides them.

Is there a compromise solution where government contracts private providers and NGOs to manage functions and services on its behalf, or does this further postpone the development of state capacity? Is contracting out more than just a way out of difficult choices, and in fact a positive way of combining state and market roles?

The PDG doesn’t take an ideological stance for or against the contracting of non-state service providers, but rather a pragmatic one: in fragile situations, at least in the short term, there is unlikely to be sufficient capacity within the public sector for delivering the bulk of essential services and functions. Governments have to decide whether, what and how they can contract out to external providers. They may prefer to provide their own services and functions but contracting out accepts the need for external providers while putting government in the driving seat – setting the policy framework and coordinating provision.

Almost everything that is done by government could be contracted out to the private sector or other non-governmental organisations. However, for good reasons, there is greatest reluctance where the function defines a state’s sovereignty (such as diplomacy, security and defence) or affects policies that are at the heart of the political process.

Even here, advice and support may be contracted – for example to train the military or to advise on budget design. Governments may also closely guard aspects of their core internal administration, such as financial management and legal services. However, temporary support for public procurement, customs, tax collection, accounting and auditing has been contracted, for example, in Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia, Mozambique and Southern Sudan.

The sphere that raises fewest doubts is the delivery of functions and services to citizens. This intrudes least into the state’s own internal administration and offers the greatest opportunity for exploiting competition between rival contractors. There are widespread examples of the contracting out of health care and other social services, infrastructure (roads, water and sanitation, telecommunications), agricultural extension, and some aspects of security services (maintenance of police stations, prisons and court houses). The cases of Liberia and Haiti are highlighted in the short documentary film produced by the PDG presented below.

There are no standard blueprints for contracting out government services in situations of fragility. Government policy-makers and field practitioners have to weigh up the pros and cons of contracting out and navigate the processes of procurement and implementation once the decision is taken.

A key prerequisite for successful contracting in fragile states is the development of governments’ capacity to assess the options and to manage them, whether the ultimate intention is to continue contracting out or eventually to provide services directly.

Useful links

The Partnership for Democratic Governance was set up in 2007 to examine how core policy functions could be strengthened in fragile states or those recovering from conflict.

OECD work on conflict and fragility and on governance and development

OECD aid statisticsAidflows visualiser and Query Wizard

Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE), hosted at the OECD in Paris, 30 May-1 June


Mapping paths out of fragility and conflict

Click to see the report

Following on Monday’s presentation of the World Development Report, Stephan Massing of the OECD’s International Network on Conflict and Fragility looks at the role of external support in fragile states.

 Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa – where the legitimacy of the reigning power-holders has been seriously questioned by popular protest – bring home the threats to global stability posed by the world’s 30 to 40 fragile states.

While these threats have stirred deep anxiety in the international community for over a decade, the current political upheavals remind us of the need to head off instability by helping to build legitimate and responsive states.

 State fragility threatens the livelihoods of one in six people on the planet. It poses particular challenges for donors, who have witnessed the hopelessness of trying to graft Western institutional responses onto fragile contexts.

Viable solutions need to take into account the particular distribution and dynamics of local power; they need to recognize the trade-offs between development objectives, the fine grain of social expectations and the evolution of regional dynamics.

To be realistic, the conception of statebuilding must be grounded on how the state – at all levels of authority – connects with the people, and how people in turn view the power that governs them. Failing to do so can make an aid programme moribund before it gets off the ground.

The fact that there is no blueprint, nonetheless, doesn’t mean that you can’t sketch a framework for making strategic decisions in fragile states. In practical terms, donors can operate at multiple levels inside and outside institutions – or across regions – to promote statebuilding, but a certain amount of humility is required. The process is a long one, and is driven first and foremost by dynamics within the country.

The process needs to start with looking at the pacts and agreements that link the country’s main political actors (the political settlement), the capacity of the state and its institutions to deliver key functions and services, and the nature of public expectations. Development policy towards each country must be anchored in a clear understanding of the dynamics of power: who is in charge, how do power holders derive their support, and what levers do they have at their disposal? Most significantly, what opportunities exist to spur improvements in governance, and can sound partnerships be formed?

On this basis, using some of the analytic tools now common in the aid community, fundamental choices must be made. The pursuit of multiple simultaneous objectives, as the international community has done in Afghanistan, threatens the fulfilment of any single goal.

Instead, donors must acknowledge the difficult choices they face, for instance the trade-offs between short-term objectives of ending violence or delivering basic services quickly, and the longer-term objective of building institutional capacity. 

Statebuilding is endogenous and highly political. It involves not only developing the capacity of state institutions, but also negotiating their place in societies. While priorities will differ according to context, the new OECD Policy Guidance on Supporting Statebuilding in Situations of Conflict and Fragility draws particular attention to the following entry points for external support:

  • Supporting local conflict management mechanisms – be they formal, informal or traditional – to help address the causes of conflict and mediate tension and dispute.
  • Identifying opportunities to foster inclusive political settlements; supporting processes that strengthen state-society interaction, including fostering transparency and accountability.
  • Strengthening institutions to perform state functions that are strategically important for statebuilding, such as security and justice, revenue and expenditure management, economic development (particularly job-creation), and basic service delivery.

The international community needs to work in new ways with state, non-state and regional actors and across multiple dimensions of the state-society relationship to help build strong states. Instruments and tools need to be adapted to meet statebuilding objectives. And external actors need to strengthen their own capacity and align their incentives with those of the states they are supporting.

There is no single path out of fragility, but at least we have a map of the terrain.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility and on governance and development

OECD aid statisticsAidflows visualiser and Query Wizard

Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE), hosted at the OECD in Paris, 30 May-1 June

Afghanistan at the crossroads

Click on the image to go to the Kabul Conference website

As the Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan brings together representatives from over 70 partner countries, Sarah Cramer and Asbjorn Wee of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate look at what’s been achieved and what remains to be done 

Nine years after the international community supported the establishment of a new government, Afghanistan now stands at a crossroads.

In the midst of questions about the future of the international military operation to stabilise the country, the first international donors conference to actually take place in Kabul will hopefully result in the acceptance of the first ever Afghan government-led plan for improved development, governance, and stability.

Afghanistan has been the testing ground for donor efforts to increase aid effectiveness and mutual accountability in post-conflict situations. Assessment of post-conflict needs has resulted in the establishment of a joint plan, pooled funding instruments, budget support, etc. Importantly, it has also been the laboratory for improvements in “whole-of-government” approaches to stabilisation and development, such as through the use of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs ). The conference as such is an opportune moment to take stock of these experiences and highlight changes needed.

Afghanistan was one of the six countries that participated in the 2009 monitoring survey of the Fragile States Principles (FSP). This process brought different stakeholders together for a frank discussion about how donors are adhering to the FSPs, and now seems an apt time to review the five key principles identified by participating stakeholders as most pertinent for Afghanistan, as the Afghan Government and donor countries gather for this important stage of the “Kabul Process” of shifting toward full Afghan leadership and responsibility.

Take Context as a Starting Point (FSP 1): While there is a growing consensus that taking context as the starting point is essential for better engagement in Afghanistan, opinions diverge on what that context is, some seeing Afghanistan as a country at war and others seeing the country in post-conflict terms. A unified understanding of context will need to be developed in order to achieve a coherent approach for donors and the Afghan Government.

Do No Harm (FSP 2): This principle has been violated repeatedly in terms of security, loss of life, corruption and the perception of the state. The need to “Do No Harm” has an impact on all aspects of the reconstruction process: security (reform and training of security forces, long lasting impact of foreign military intervention); governance (support – or lack of it – to national systems, parallel implementation units, and corruption); economic (market distortions on salaries and imports, misguided economic strategies); Social (discrimination/exclusion).

Statebuilding as the Central Objective (FSP 3): State-society relations are still regarded as the biggest missing link in the reconstruction process. The international intervention of the past nine years has created both weaknesses and strengths in the legitimacy of the state (e.g. shifting or un-coordinated policies; ambivalent impact of the military intervention). The unpredictability of aid and the limited discretionary funds available to government contribute to uncertainties in funding the development part of the national budget, and affect the consolidation of the government priorities and reach.

Recognise the links between political, security and development objectives (FSP 5): Many stakeholder participants of the monitoring survey felt the overarching political and development agenda is overly influenced by security and stabilisation objectives in the field, resulting in development actors having to adjust their initiatives based on evolving political agendas, rather than a need-based development agenda (as outlined in the “whole-of-government” approach of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy ANDS). In other words, there should be a greater balance of the 3Ds (Defense, Diplomacy and Development).

Align with local priorities in different ways in different contexts (FSP 7): the 2009 monitoring survey of the FSPs identified increasing awareness of the need to support and use the national frameworks – such as the ANDS – more extensively. Concern remains however as to the degree to which PRTs are aligning their civilian activities to local development plans.

From the above, it seems clear that donors will need to improve their efforts to actually implement the FSPs.

Looking forward, the proposal to promote more effective utilisation of international assistance thorough better alignment of international aid with government priorities and the channeling of increased assistance through the Afghan national budget seems particularly interesting. The challenge is to find mechanisms for channeling funding that build rather than undermine government ownership, while at the same time facilitating accountability and adhering to minimum fiduciary standards. “Joint accountability” or mutual accountability mechanisms are promising in this regard (e.g. the case of Liberia).

Secondly, the fact that the new plan highlights critical peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities is promising. Many of these priorities align with those cited in the Dili Declaration, which identifies seven peacebuilding and statebuilding goals as stepping stones to reach the MDGs in conflict-affected and fragile states.

The experiences of Afghanistan and other signatories of the Dilli Declaration will provide important evidence for the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to be held in Busan, Korea from November 29 to December 1st 2011. The issues being discussed at this conference on Afghanistan represent a growing and increasingly central challenge for donors and developing countries alike as they seek to make aid – and all development policies – effective.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Aid statistics

The other g7


Click on the image to see the Dili Declaration

This post is contributed by Rory Clarke, editor of the
OECD Observer

With the G20 ending with a whimper more than a bang last weekend, it seems a good time to turn the focus back to countries at the other end of the spectrum.

“Crisis” is a condition which many of the world’s most fragile states are permanently used to. Already, during the heady boom years, their development prospects looked dim, but now, given global budget pressures, any lingering hope of their reaching the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for cutting poverty and improving welfare by 2015 has all but evaporated. 

Corruption, conflict and institutional under-capacity are often blamed whenever development aid fails to deliver results in these countries, but is this explanation enough?

Not according to the aptly lower-cased g7+, a grouping of fragile states that met with donors in Dili, Timor-Leste, last April 2010. To be sure, much of the blame, the g7+ acknowledges, lies with their own circumstances, but also with how donors engage in their countries.

The g7+ countries cite several problems, including a lack of trust between developing countries and donors, overlapping plans, weak leadership, approaches that favour capitals and some regions, a lack of involvement by women, and a lack of emphasis on growth and job creation, particularly for young people.

The group believes that if international aid is to be effective, g7+ countries must lead their own development agendas and define their own priorities.

A call to action, the Dili Declaration, A New Vision for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, identifies seven peacebuilding and statebuilding goals for fragile states. And it focuses on capacity issues, aid delivery, planning and political dialogue.

Buzzwords indeed, but what’s different this time is that they come from the g7+ recipient countries, and not the donors or other agencies. Though the g7+ is by no means equipped with any of the power of the better known G7 of major industrial countries, the Dili Declaration and the ongoing Dili International Dialogue that involves the OECD  at least reflect the very same urge for cooperation as a source of strength for building a better future. As Timor-Leste’s prime minister, José Ramos-Horta, put it, “walking together, fragile states and their development partners can minimise the suffering that results from conflict and extreme poverty.”

 The g7+ was established in 2008 and includes: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Nepal, the Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Timor-Leste.

 Useful links

Video interviews of Dili Dialogue participants

OECD work on fragile states

OECD Observer on Africa

The best books in the world (of government and international organisations)

Security consultant

You don’t see many Zapolets these days, except outside the Vatican. The Swiss Guards are the last vestige of a mercenary tradition Thomas More satirised in Utopia under this name as “a rude, wild, and fierce nation… made, as it were, only for war”.

The rise of the modern state and the constitution of standing armies largely put an end to the outsourcing of war to the private sector, but equivalents of the “free lance” still exist. However, in much the same way as pesticides companies now refer to themselves as the “plant protection industry”, we now have a “stability operations industry”.

Some of these firms became famous, or infamous, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they’re present in practically every conflict and post-conflict zone and in many post-disaster areas too, providing a range of military and other services. Indeed, the ground in Haiti had hardly stopped trembling before one of their trade organisations was setting up a forum on business opportunities in the earthquake zone. Should governments be hiring them?

The OECD’s Partnership for Democratic Governance debates the question in Contracting Out Government Functions and Services: Emerging Lessons from Post-Conflict and Fragile Situations. Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, uses the analogy of how mobile phone technology enabled many developing countries to bypass analogue technology to argue that fragile states needed to look past the 1950s European model for ministry-based service delivery.

If you don’t agree, you can contribute to the discussion on the PDG website.

Contracting Out was named as one of 2009’s “Notable Government Documents” by the American Library Association and the Government Documents Round Table. The ALA/GODORT Panel singled out another OECD publication too. In Innovation and Growth: Chasing a Moving Frontier, the OECD and World Bank discuss “options for national and global policy initiatives that can foster technological innovation in the pursuit of faster and sustainable growth”.

They argue that the competitiveness and prosperity of high income economies has come to rely increasingly on their innovative capability, but that developing countries’ competitiveness and prosperity remain largely tied to their natural resources.

Countries like Korea that shifted quickly from “developing” to “developed” support this. Today, we all know world leaders like Samsung or LG, but as the Insights book on international trade points out, fifty years ago, Korea was poorer than the Sudan and its main export was wigs made from human hair.