The state of the state: building confidence, trust and political will

1914 2014To mark the centenary of The First World War, we will be publishing a series of articles looking at what has changed over the last century in a number of domains. In his second article, Alan Whaites team leader, Governance for Peace and Development at the OECD discusses statebuilding and the role of the state.

Charles Tilly famously remarked that states make war and war makes states. The events of 100 years ago would suggest that he had a point. WWI swept away an era of empires, establishing new states and fuelling the rise of both democracy and one-party government. At the same time, the conflict increased the role of state institutions: mobilisation of entire workforces, rationing of food, increased taxation. The state began to engage in the lives of ordinary people in ways that were previously unimaginable – and ways that have left long-term legacies in terms of administrative structures and capacity.

But we should not be misled: the WWI example is far from universal – or persistent. The nature of modern warfare usually turns Tilly’s words on their head: societies making war often unmake the state. Combinations of factions, militias and gangs can emerge to provoke conflict; with state systems frequently torn apart in the process – and the effects can be prolonged. While working in Afghanistan at the end of the past decade, I was struck by the way friends and colleagues reached back to the 1960s in search of examples of government delivery systems. But then this was in a context where at the start of that decade (in 2002) a UN/World Bank preliminary needs assessment suggested that “even at the central level in Kabul, ministries or departments are war-damaged shells, without even the most basic materials or equipment, and with few experienced staff.”

Afghanistan has not been alone. For numerous communities torn apart by conflict, the state of the state can be a significant obstacle to rebuilding. Evidence shows us how the loss of the developmental scale and reach normally attributed to states can have a heavy impact on services and economic growth, even where civil society organisations are working hard to fill the gap. The African Development Bank has tried to calculate the developmental cost of conflict. Their analysis of three African countries suggests that it will take between 19 and 34 years to recover the levels of GDP lost to war and instability. The 2011 World Development Report found that the in countries most affected by violence, the poverty rate was 21% higher than in those not affected. These statistics mask very real human suffering: death, rape, malnutrition and displacement.

States, of course, are at best imperfect and may themselves be sources of predation, abuse and inequity. They may also become vehicles for political discord and exclusion, which in turn foster conflict.  Yet achieving a sustainable end to violence has long been linked to statebuilding – an endogenous process of state-society relations (as defined broadly by the OECD in 2008). This definition points to the importance of responsive country systems that have the potential to encourage trust and confidence, and the capacity to support inclusive politics.

The important role of states in enabling political settlements to develop puts a premium on the capacity of government systems. When participants met at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in 2011, they committed to using developing countries’ own systems by default when working on public sector issues. This implied a need to think differently about supporting state-society relations – a need that was in keeping with experience. A 2010 OECD report on how to avoid doing harm when supporting statebuilding found that the tendency to work through parallel (non-state) systems can have damaging effects.

The debate, however, remains contentious and is often couched in terms of risks – such as risks to providers of development assistance, although the risks run both ways. Fragile states have much to lose when resources flow through parallel or off-budget, mechanisms. In 2011, aid represented 104% of the GDP of Afghanistan, yet only 12% of it was delivered on-budget. A World Bank report indicated that much of the aid was delivered through parallel delivery systems (such as Provincial Reconstruction Teams), leaving legacy problems for the government in terms of co-ordination, maintenance and sustainability. Additionally, by keeping a tight hold on the use of development resources, external actors may actually inhibit the growth of responsive state society relations.

Recent research has challenged the assumption that certain types of service delivery – favoured by aid organisations – automatically build legitimacy and confidence in post-conflict states. One implication is that rather than delivering traditional development formulas, what matters for peacebuilding and statebuilding is responding to public fears, wishes and aspirations. To meet public demands, however, a state needs the freedom – and political will – to prioritise areas that will build confidence and trust, which are not necessarily those areas selected by consultants, advisers and funders. Yes, supporting states in determining their own priorities – in consultation with citizens – and then resourcing them to deliver does involve considerable risk for the funder, sometimes both financial and reputational. Yet one lesson from WWI is that conflict can either build or debilitate the responsiveness of states – and without confidence, political will and trust, it can become part of a prolonged and destructive cycle.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security

Can the New Deal for Fragile States Live Up To its Promise to Significantly Shift Agency to the Local?

Click for Fragile States 2014 report
Click for Fragile States 2014 report

Today’s post is by Cedric de Coning, head of the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Research Group at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and Special Advisor to the Head of the Peace Support Operations Division of the African Union Commission. Tomorrow, Yannick Hingorani of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate will reply.

On a recent visit to Mogadishu I was reminded again of the overwhelmingly complex set of challenges facing the government and people of Somalia, and their regional and international partners. The legitimacy of the government is challenged and its capacity to deliver is weak. At the same time, this government represents the best chance the people of Somalia have had in decades to benefit from some level of stability, rule of law and provision of basic services.

If it is to succeed, the government will have to go beyond liberating territory with the help of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It will need to deliver order, justice and livelihood opportunities that out-perform those offered by Al-Shabaab. In a country that is clan-based, governance needs to be hyper-local. Physical security may be imposed, but sustainable order has to emerge and be maintained by local communities. Consequently, a strong federal-local partnership has to be forged.

At the same time, the international community has to face its own demons. Despite efforts at fostering coherence and aligning international support behind government owned plans, dozens of international partners and organizations are still by and large each pursuing their own national or organizational interests. The result is predictably self-destructive: an international community that, despite its stated principles, is unwilling to give its local partners the space they need to take full ownership of their own project, as Peter Fabricius argues. In the process, the international community ends up contributing to the very fragility it was meant to address. These challenges are not new and the consequences are not unknown, but they have proven to be more structural, inherent and resilient than our theories of change assumed.

A new initiative has been underway since 2011, and it now focuses on the specific development challenges and opportunities faced by countries affected by conflict and fragility. It seeks to transform the way international assistance to these countries is managed by placing the countries themselves in the driving seat when it comes to determining what causes their fragility, setting their own priorities, planning their own paths to resilience and managing the relationship with their international partners. The New Deal was agreed in 2011 in Busan, Korea at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness by donors and self-identified fragile countries that have organized themselves into a grouping called the g7+. The donors and g7+ countries come together in the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding.

The New Deal is a mutual pact. The g7+ countries take the lead in doing their own Fragility Assessments and based on these, develop their own Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) and indicators. In turn, donors align their support behind the agreed PSGs and offer improved predictability and transparency in the assistance they provide. Together, they enter into a Compact that serves as a strategic framework for the government and its international partners.

The New Deal is more than an important step forward – it is a potential game changer. It has the potential to address most of the local ownership and aid coordination challenges I have highlighted above. It acknowledges that local agency is a pre-condition for sustainable peace. It has identified specific mechanisms that serve as vehicles for realizing local ownership, as well as for aligning international support behind these locally-led peacebuilding processes.

Nonetheless, implementing the New Deal has proved challenging. As the Somalia case so clearly demonstrates, early in the recovery process these societies typically lack the individual expertise and institutional capacity to fully engage in the Fragility Assessment and the other New Deal processes they are meant to lead. Yet these governments and donors are under pressure to complete these processes as soon as possible because they serve as precursors for the Compact. Significant aid can only flow once these assessments, goal setting and planning have been done. Because of this time pressure, consultants and other external actors are often brought in to overcome the capacity gap; and while they they do their best, the result is just not as homegrown and locally owned as the New Deal intended.

The fact that the New Deal Compact has to be in place before significant assistance can be disbursed has unintended consequences: most importantly, it reduces the Compact to a resource mobilization tool, when it should be the vehicle for a genuine, locally owned vision and plan for peacebuilding and statebuilding. If the emphasis is on resources, it makes sense for the ministry of planning to bring in external experts to help it get the Fragility Assessment, PSGs and Compact in place as soon as possible. However, if the ambition is truly to shift agency to the local, then, as Helder da Costa argues, the programming needs to reflect the upfront investment needed to build local capacity and the time and patience needed for meaningful political engagement at all levels.

In order for the New Deal to live up to its full promise, solutions have to be found for the dilemma caused by this time-capacity deficit: the New Deal Compact should not be a once-off exercise. It should be regularly revisited, and each time there should be a target for significantly increasing input from local expertise. Likewise, Fragility Assessments should be an iterative process, closely linked perhaps to the monitoring of the PSG indicators. The PSGs, their indicators and the Compact need to be regularly reviewed and adapted. The goal should be to progressively build capacity to manage these New Deal processes with local expertise. Similarly, if initially the process has to be rapid and small, it should be expanded over time so that within a few years it can be much moreparticipatory, representative, and inclusive. The New Deal should thus include a clear programme for building-up and phasing-in local expertise, so that it can result in a real shift in agency from the international to the local, underpinned by a significant increase in local capacity to manage and staff the processes needed to operationalize the New Deal.

In doing so, we will have to be sensitive to the inherent tension in the act of building local capacity from the outside. Too much external intervention undermines the ability of a society to self-organise because it inhibits the feedback local institutions need to learn and adapt, and it builds dependence. There is a threshold beyond which influence becomes interference and where it starts to add to fragility. This threshold is much lower than widely acknowledged. Consequently, many external actors make the mistake of interfering too much and endup undermining the ability of local systems to self-organise.We need a code of conduct that will help international actors to self-regulate their tendency to overreach.

The most distinguishing feature of the New Deal is that it recognizes that peacebuilding has to be essentially local. However, for the New Deal to move from an aspiration to a reality there would have to be a significant shift in agency from the international to the local. Achieving this will require nothing less than a paradigm-shift in the way fragile states, international organizations and international development partners understand their respective roles and responsibilities in peacebuilding.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security

Against the Odds : Talking Your Way Out of Conflict and Fragility?

Today’s post from Erwin van Veen of the OECD-DAC International Network on Conflict and Fragility is the first of several we’ll publishing in connection with the Fourth High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan on 29 November- 1 December

Violent conflict wastes lives and sets development into reverse. Past investment is reduced to rubble and institutions are destroyed that took decades to build. Violence also casts a long shadow over the future. Helping countries to consolidate peace and build effective and legitimate states is essential to reduce these devastating effects and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sadly, current ways of working in situations of conflict and fragility are ineffective and, despite significant investment, the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action, results are limited.  Why is that?

Three main problems prevent progress. First, in their engagement, neither international nor national actors focus rigorously on key peace- and statebuilding goals. Second, national actors are often not given a full role and responsibility to lead their own transitions out of fragility. Finally, domestic and foreign resources are frequently mobilized in ways that do not effectively strengthen trust and increase capacities, which are critical to building peaceful states.

The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (ID) is a high-level conversation between the major donors, international development organizations (like the United Nations and World Bank) and around 15 states in situations of conflict and fragility (dubbed the “g7+”). Its aim is to identify, agree on and deliver three changes that respond to these problems:

  • Agree and use five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) to guide work in fragile states. These goals represent the key enablers for managing conflict and transiting out of fragility. They are, first of all, to foster inclusive political settlements. Second, to establish security for people. Third, to address injustices as possible and to increase people’s access to justice. Fourth, to generate employment and improve livelihoods. Fifth, to manage revenue and build capacity for accountable and fair service delivery.
  • Ensure that transitions out of fragility are led by national authorities through country compacts, country-led fragility assessments, national plans and inclusive political dialogue.
  • Provide aid and use domestic resources more effectively by increasing transparency, predictability of funding, tolerance to risks and use of country systems.

Effectively delivering these three changes requires overcoming major challenges. To start with, the PSGs will have to be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly if they are to guide political focus, action and resources globally. Yet, the 2010 MDG review summit demonstrated that resistance in the UN against recognizing violence and insecurity as critical barriers to development is alive and well. Apart from almost dismissing the daily needs and struggles of millions of people for basic safety and justice, this also means that a strong political effort is required to realize the prize of UN engagement.

Country-led transitions out of fragility will work well where national authorities are legitimate, effective and functional. Unfortunately, they often aren’t. So, it will matter how these transitions are led and how priorities are established. The challenge for the g7+ is to convince their people and, through the International Dialogue international partners, that they can lead in a reasonably inclusive and increasingly legitimate manner. Trust can be built by establishing clear processes for setting priorities, agreeing early on confidence-building measures that are hard to reverse, enabling engagement and monitoring by civil society and peer review by fellow g7+ countries.

Providing aid and using domestic resources more effectively faces a double challenge. Donors and international organizations need to start by meeting their unfulfilled commitments to reduce aid volatility and improve the quality of their engagement. Failure to deliver this risks a serious loss of credibility. National authorities need to focus domestic resources more in line with PSG priorities and be willing to take innovative, exceptional and temporary measures to quickly raise the quality of their administration and their fiduciary capabilities to manage money.

The International Dialogue will agree an agenda for change at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. Its true test will lie in continuing the dialogue to deliver its “new deal”.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security

Goodbye conflict, welcome development?

Today’s post is contributed by Donata Garrasi of the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate and Co-ordinator of the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

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

The most reassuring finding from the 2010 Human Security Report is that high-intensity wars, those that kill at least 1000 people a year, have declined by 78% since 1988, while long-term trends indicate reductions in the risks of both international and civil wars (although Libya, Yemen and Syria show that these risks are still significant).

The World Bank’s latest World Development Report agrees that although war is less of a problem now than in the 20th century, insecurity has become a primary development challenge. One-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organised criminal violence and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal.

New threats—organised crime and trafficking, civil unrest due to global economic shocks, terrorism—have supplemented wars.

So what can be done to say “goodbye conflict, welcome development” as the slogan of the g7+ group of fragile countries hopes?

The second global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding being held in Monrovia, Liberia on 15-16 June gives conflict-affected states a common voice in their discussions with international partners, and for the first time, these states themselves will make commitments on the concrete steps they’ll take to change things.

Two outcomes are targeted. First, a new agreement on peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities is required. Second, a commitment on how to realise these is needed.

Security, justice, and jobs are priorities for conflict-affected communities. Without security and the assurance that people can go about their daily lives in safety, the rest is meaningless.

People on the ground can all tell stories about money being spent on a bridge they cannot even cross for fear of being attacked.

For many young men, joining an armed group may be the most attractive job available, or the only one, if they want to feed their family. A Somali pirate for instance can earn from $12,000 to $150,000 from a successful hijack according to a report in the Financial Times, compared with $500 a year for the average citizen.

It’s not that these countries are inherently poor, but too often wealth from natural resources or other activities benefits only a few people, and there are also problems with how international assistance is provided.

The OECD reports that 30% of Official Development Assistance goes to fragile and conflict-affected countries, but what does this mean in practice?

Bella Bird, co-chair of the International Dialogue, points out that “International partners tend to expect too much too soon from still very weak national institutions; take a short-term perspective; avoid risk; and apply complex systems. At the same time, national governments in fragile countries have often tended to promise too much to their constituents or exclude large parts of society, which can fuel dissatisfaction and lead to further unrest”.

The result can be that trust in national institutions is so low that donors set up parallel systems to deliver programmes, but although “high risk leads to high return” as Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance from Timor Leste reminds international partners in her country, donors find it hard to justify to their taxpayers investing in high-risk environments.

In Monrovia, participants will be looking for innovation, for changing the rules of the game of “how business is done in fragile countries”.

Conflict affected states themselves know what works best and the best way of analysing and tackling problems. Even though historical, economic, cultural and political situations vary widely, they can learn from each other.

The most fruitful dialogue will be among them, and leadership has to come from within affected countries and communities.

With leadership comes responsibility. Participants will be urged to make binding, verifiable commitments on practical steps to achieving common goals.

The first of these has to be to accept dialogue. Dialogue among national actors to identify priorities to build peace and develop a vision on how to move “from fragility to stability”.

Dialogue between national and international partners to reach a consensus on what needs to be done in fragile and conflict affected contexts to help end the cycle of violence.

To begin making peace, you don’t need to forgive and you almost certainly won’t forget the injustices that led to conflict, but you do need to make a commitment, and be realistic about the time the whole process will take.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

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

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