An International Policy Primer
Lessons from Recent Research and Practice
By Michael Lund
Project on Leadership & Building State Capacity
Engaging Fragile States
An International Policy Primer
Design by Dayna Elefant
This report would not have been possible without the contributions
of many and I would like to acknowledge some of the key ones.
First and foremost, thank you to all of the participating panelists
during the Colloquium, whose expertise and diverse experiences
led enriched discussions and invaluable insights throughout the
two day event; Sarah Cussen and Gregor Young for their assiduous
project management; Aly Lyons, who aided me in my research,
in addition to being a contributing writer and lead editor for this
report; and Steve McDonald of the Wilson Center for his insights
and support through the duration of this project.
Acknowledgements | iii
The Project on Leadership and
Building State Capacity
Steve McDonald, Consulting Director
On June 5, 2009, the Wilson Center’s Project on Leadership and
Building State Capacity hosted a major day-long conference
entitled “Preventing and Rebuilding Failed States amid Global
Economic Crisis: What are Realistic Options for US Policy?” The
goal of the conference was to provide a starting point for fostering
more coherence among all actors involved in fragile and failing
states. Positioned on the cutting edge of research on conflict and
state fragility, with the goal of tapping into a rich and relevant body
of recent research that the policy community has not applied,
the conference brought together members of the Wilson Center
community, leading scholars, NGO practitioners, and US, UN, and
other policymakers from the donor community to present and
participate in a series of panels and roundtable discussions. The
focus was a review of recent research on what types of programs are
most suited to differing stages of conflict and state fragility, what
are the strengths and limits of economic reform in such contexts,
what is the appropriate sequencing of state-building objectives
such as security, political power-sharing, and job creation, and how
to rethink democracy promotion.
The compelling rationale behind the conference, which was funded by the Ford
Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Center, was that, in meeting the challenges
posed by fragile and failing states, it is now widely acknowledged that the typical
stove-piping of programs in any given country or region needs to give way
to cross-sectoral “integrated” strategies through greater interagency cooperation.
Such strategies should be composed of all relevant instruments of diplomacy, development,
and military assistance and promote greater cooperation between government
and NGOs. This conference was formulated to respond to this need for
a comprehensive analysis of the research in the field to date in order to inform the
current repositioning of policy regarding fragile and failed states. It was organized
by Michael Lund, and supported by the Leadership Project staff, Sarah Cussen and
Gregor Young. The following report carries its deliberations and findings.
The Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, which sponsored the
conference, was established in 2005 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars. It emerged out of the collective experiences of the former Project
Director, Howard Wolpe, and me. As diplomats, practitioners in peace-building
and conflict resolution, and, in the case of Dr. Wolpe, as a former policymaker in
Congress, we often came across hurdles to peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction
that undercut the very objectives of those activities.
The Leadership Project manifested from an experience with a post-conflict recovery
and reconstruction program in Burundi that Dr. Wolpe and I started in
2002 that was based on the strategy described above to engage leaders. The idea
was developed as Dr. Wolpe was serving as a consulting partner with the World
Bank’s initiative on rethinking applicable strategies for post-conflict reconstruction
in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The World Bank agreed to fund a project
that brought Dr. Wolpe and I to the Wilson Center where, as stewards of its Africa
Program, the project would be housed. The Bank-funded project was to develop
a new kind of model in Burundi, then one of the world’s most polarized societies,
to identify key leaders strategically from a wide spectrum of sectors—political,
military, and civilian all included. The fundamental objective was to take these
leaders through a long-term training program designed to alter the deeply-seated
“zero sum, winner take all” mindset, to help build recognition of interdependence
amongst them and forge an understanding that they will emerge stronger through
collaboration rather than competition. The rest of the objectives are inter-related:
to help rebuild the trust and relationships that had been fractured by their conflict,
to help reestablish a consensus on the rules of the game and how power is
organized and shared, and, finally, to help strengthen skills of communications
and negotiations among key leaders to let them “put themselves in the shoes of
the others” and to begin to really focus on interest-based negotiations in order to
identify means of solutions that benefit all.
Foreword | v
vi | Foreword
The methodology of the training to achieve these goals was developed by the
Wilson Center team, but drew heavily on the past conflict resolution theories
of Roger Fisher of Harvard University, which are centered on “Interest-Based
Negotiations,” as well as a simulation exercise developed by William Gamson,
the former President of the American Sociological Association and a professor in
Boston College’s Sociology Department. The two original facilitators who led our
effort in Burundi were both adherents of Fisher’s work and colleagues in his global
outreach with the Conflict Management Group. Using these theories as the base,
the Wilson Center facilitation team has tailored the basic methodology, common
to standard conflict resolution training, to reflect the cultural, political and economic
contexts of the countries in which we are working. From the beginning of
our trainings in Burundi in 2003, we have continued to fine-tune and restructure
the workshop modules in response to participant feedback and evaluated impact.
With the considerable, recognized success of the training program in Burundi,
the Africa Program was invited to set up other parallel collaborative capacity
building projects with key leadership elements in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC) and Liberia, both of which launched in 2006, to develop a program
in East Timor which got underway in 2007, and explore similar efforts in
other divided societies like Kenya and Togo. With this geographic expansion of
the conflict transformation work in which we were engaged, it became evident
that there was a strong need to develop a conceptual framework, backed by empirical
research and academic study, to assess the process that we had developed,
help understand what made it work in certain cases and draw lessons learned for
application to other fragile and conflicted states. Although we were confident in
the methodology we developed, it was apparent that there was no “one size fits all”
solution in post-conflict societies and we needed to analyze and understand where
the appropriate points of entry were in any given country situation, how different
cultural and political contexts impacted peace-building and how to integrate
those elements into the training process, and, finally, how to obtain a “buy-in” or
sense of ownership of the process from national leaders.
It was this realization that led to the creation of the new Project on Leadership
and Building State Capacity. The Carnegie Corporation of New York and the
Ford Foundation agreed to support the Leadership Project in its first two years
and underwrote an inaugural effort that looked at half a dozen case studies of
recent peace processes. It convened a select working group to manage this study,
consisting of both practitioners and policymakers in the conflict resolution field—
trainers, diplomatic and government officials, international organization representatives,
and academic analysts and country experts. For two years, this working
group met on a periodic basis to review case studies of peace processes, all of
which had some forms of interactive component or “second-track process” joining
with the more formal, conventional diplomacy. Michael Lund was engaged
as the Principal Investigator and designed the project, oversaw the organization
of the working groups and case-study chapters, and did the analysis in the final
Beyond this, the Leadership Project has accomplished a number of different
things, not the least of which being this colloquium, focusing on better ways of
coordination and collaboration to engender more coherence in the way the international
community approaches peace-building, conflict prevention, preventing
state failure, and post-conflict reconstruction. We hope you will find this report of
value and the lessons learned applicable as the international community increasingly
engages issues concerning failing and fragile states.
Foreword | vii
Engaging Fragile States
An International Policy Primer
Threats Amid Overload 2
I. Understanding State Failure and Resilience:
A Global Scan 13
Determinants of Failed and Fragile States 13
Sources of Failure and Resiliency 16
II. Responding to Fragile States: 29
Lessons from Recent Experience 29
Country Level Strategies for Conflict Prevention
and Post-Conflict Reconstruction 31
Sector Level Policies - Building Key State Functions 50
III. Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies 97
Strategic Coherence in the EU, UN and
Other International Actors 98
US Government Capabilities for
Dealing with Fragile States 111
IV. Implications and Applications
Retooling Current Policies 119
Connecting the Dots 129
Contents | 1
Why are failed
to US and
Failed states—and their
precursor fragile states—
present threats to US goals
and interests, including global
terrorism; civil wars; genocide;
illicit trafficking in drugs,
weapons, and persons; and
Threats Amid Overload
Failed states are countries where the government is unable to
provide security, basic services, or decision-making capacity
in substantial parts of the territory over which it is legally sovereign.
They are further characterized by largely ungoverned
areas, warlordism, poorly functioning economies, rampant corruption,
violence, population dislocations such as refugees and
internally displaced persons, and lack of loyalty from portions of
their populations. They are especially vulnerable to lawlessness,
criminality, dissolution, and violent upheaval. Current examples
of failed states include, but are not limited to, Afghanistan, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. Global trends such
as the economic crisis, climate change, population growth, environmental
degradation, globalization, resource competition, extremism,
and wide availability of arms are likely to produce more
failed and fragile states in the near future. One might wonder
why these states are relevant to US and international policy. As
has been evident by the consequences of Afghanistan and Iraq,
failed states—and their precursor fragile states—present threats
to US goals and interests, including global terrorism; civil wars;
genocide; illicit trafficking in drugs, weapons, and persons; and
Introduction: Threats Amid Overload | 3
In 2009-2010, Pakistan, Yemen, and Haiti each illustrated how fragile, but not
failed, states can suddenly become headline news and require major US attention.
Unfortunately at this time, the US government (USG) is not in an ideal position
to address the threats from failed and fragile states beyond its deep involvement
in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burdened by fighting two wars, in addition to
recovering from an economic recession that has led to incurring huge costs and
budget deficits from domestic programs piling up the national debt, the US is unlikely
to be able to take on further major international commitments. The foreign
policy agenda is already crowded with geopolitical issues—the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, Iran, North Korea, and US-China relations—and therefore faces the dilemma,
on the one hand, of increasing the risk of new threats from various failing
states, while on the other, increasing the strain on its stretched capabilities by
expending more to address those threats.
Facing these concerns and yet strapped for resources to deal with them, can the
US still take meaningful steps to mitigate the threats arising in the most unstable
areas of the world? Are US policies able to obtain better results within its current
capabilities rather than embarking on ambitious new programs abroad? What
would such a US strategy toward fragile and failed states look like? This report
examines realistic and practical options for the US in reducing state fragility and
failure, while staying largely within existing resource constraints.
4 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
The Policy Context
This inquiry comes at a moment when US and international policy circles are
undertaking a great deal of rethinking and discussion about how to address global
terrorism, armed conflict, and other problems which often arise in the poorest and
most unstable areas of the world. These problems have been increasing steadily
on the US agenda, as well as that of the UN and other international bodies, since
the early 1990s. But the attacks on September 11, 2001, compounded with the
troubled and costly US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, have brought
home even more vividly the realization that more than just US military power
is needed to protect American security. It is widely accepted that the complex
problems posed by unstable societies require treating both the underlying and immediate
causes of instability and state weakness. US and multilateral strategies are
being envisioned that use all relevant policy instruments to meet the challenges of
fragile and failed states.
As a result, the current discourse in foreign and international policy is taken
up with a host of interrelated themes—soft power, smart power, the 3 Ds (diplomacy,
defense and development), the security-development nexus, civil-military
cooperation, holistic whole-of-government or even whole-of-community strategies,
the 3 Cs (complementarity, coordination, and coherence), development aid
harmonization, and multilateral cooperation. These notions have spurred various
policy reviews looking to reformulate US policies and relations with other
international actors. The upcoming US Quadrennial Defense and Development
Review (QDDR) and the current rewriting of the US Foreign Assistance Act are
both grappling with the respective places of diplomacy and development policies
in overall strategic US approaches. In some defense circles, the traumas of
Iraq and Afghanistan have motivated planners to look for ways that wars can be
prevented in the first place, thus avoiding the need for dangerous and costly US
So far, however, the actual content of the desired cross-government and multinational
strategies has not been spelled out, except perhaps with regard to counter-insurgency
doctrine. Clearly, in the current milieu requiring austerity, more
effective integrated strategies for addressing fragile or failed states cannot mean
simply lumping together a wider spectrum of programs by more and more actors,
heedless of context and cost. Gearing up the US to get better results cannot abide
more and more US departments, NGO organizations, and advocacy groups lining
up to get their piece of the action in particular countries. An aversion to taking
on all the tasks of “nation-building” will limit how much US foreign engagements
can expand; nor is the current challenge only a matter of increasing the funding
Introduction: Threats Amid Overload | 5
What is needed is
equivalents of the
“clear, hold and build”
formula that emerged
out of experience in
but with regard to the
stages and types of
6 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
for the budget line-items under the current development, democracy, and other
civilian programs to go into those countries, notwithstanding the recognition that
some of the gargantuan defense budget needs to shift to civilian purposes. The
task involves more than redressing the balance between defense spending and civilian
Discussions to date often view the task as mainly one of redrawing the lines
on a US government organizational chart, reallocating funds, and encouraging
the differing agencies’ professional cultures to simply get along when working together
in the field. But even were all this done, it could perpetuate the problem
of incrementally expanding programs within a myriad of program silos. The resulting
efforts could increase costs. Even if needed programs were more actively
deployed and a well-oiled USG mechanism was operating, the actions carried out
might not be the most appropriate for fragile and failed states.
Instead, the fundamental challenge that remains has to do with carrying out
the most effective multi-tooled and multi-actor strategies in national and regional
contexts at differing stages of fragility or conflict. The call to be more strategic is
a search for more cost-effective ways to use combinations of the available policy
instruments and resources. A strategy is not merely adding various policies and
programs together, nor is it getting each of them to perform better. The point is to
select and use the most appropriate means that will be most cost-effective in given
situations. President Obama is displaying primary interest in getting beyond ideologies
to finding what actually works. His administration has shown new efforts
in evaluating the outcomes of development programs more rigorously, at least at
the program level. Yet, how to apply the multiple tools and resources individually
and together for greater effect has not been examined.
If the imperative is obtaining better results with about the same levels of effort
and resources, painful choices and tradeoffs have to be made. Serious value
conflicts remain unresolved among many goals that US and international agencies
stand for. Regarding democracy, for example, the disillusioning experiences
of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Gaza, have deflated the US goal of promoting
democracy around the world. Global finances and interstate security interests have
trimmed the sails of human rights advocacy. Yet, what approaches to these goals
should take their place is unclear. Meanwhile, the “Global War on Terrorism”
(GWOT) has raised deep concerns about the militarization of aid or the securitization
of development on the ground. At the same time, it is commonplace to
hear that more than military means are needed to deal with extremism, and that
a struggle for the hearts and minds of local populations is needed—that is, development
efforts. Yet, the policy formula for combined development and military
engagement that will work has not been laid out. In short, these policy puzzles will
not be solved merely by calls for more coordination.
Introduction: Threats Amid Overload | 7
All in all, between the undesirable alternatives of military intervention, on the
one hand, and laissez-faire, on the other, it is unclear what US options are effective.
What is needed is government-wide, largely non-military equivalents of the “clear,
hold and build” formula that emerged out of experience in counter-insurgency,
but with regard to the stages and types of fragile states. Using such guidance,
interagency decision procedures could then deploy the appropriate mixes of diplomatic,
development, military, trade and other instruments in differing situations.
One promising way to address these tradeoffs is to consult what is known from
research about when and where differing instruments actually have worked best.
For addressing such issues, years of US and international experience, analysis, and
research in dealing with post-conflict countries and transitioning societies have
accumulated and can be drawn upon. The US and other nations have expended
major efforts on the ground in countries that reflect fragility or failure, and much
has been learned from this experience. This is not a new subject, although the
rubrics under which it is currently discussed give that impression. Unfortunately,
as seen in the poorly thought out sequel to the US toppling of the Saddam Hussein
regime, what lessons exist are often not used or are not aware of them.
Clearly, obstacles stand in the way of consolidating, synthesizing, and applying
the mushrooming analyses that can be useful. As already mentioned, the researchers
and professionals in the peacebuilding, security, diplomatic, development, humanitarian,
and human rights communities who pay close attention to fragile state
settings often differ as to whether the principal problem in a given fragile state is
poverty, extremism, violence, human rights abuse, democracy, women’s rights, independent
media, religious freedom, or weapons proliferation. Another obstacle is
translating the differing technical terms and typologies these professional communities
use. A plethora of diverse new terms—human security, COIN, Phase Zero,
anocracy, transformational diplomacy, PRTs, and the Paris Declaration—has led
to a terminological Tower of Babel. And despite the ubiquity of internet-based
communication, separate program interests, agency clienteles, and channels of information
tend to compartmentalize the feedback being gained from experience.
8 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Unlike forums that
aim to stimulate yet
more debate, the
charged with seeking
some closure about
the best analyses of
state failure and most
Contents | 9
Report Aims and Structure
To help bridge these gaps, this report seeks to advance US government and non-governmental
collaboration by consolidating what has been learned about how to identify
and approach the threats and potential opportunities in fragile and failed states.
The following sections are based on presentations at a day-long Colloquium on Failed
and Fragile States, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
which asked leading specialists to present findings from recent research and practice
about ways to achieve more effective US policies. Unlike forums that aim to stimulate
more debate rather than action, the presenters were charged with seeking some
closure about the best analyses of state failure and most plausible policy options.
While no answers are infallible, the resulting presentations move beyond the clichés
and advocacy of programs that often substitute for evidence-based analysis in order
to offer a mosaic of linked findings from recent experience. To that end, the sessions
of the Colloquium were organized around critical strategic questions that policymakers
face at the global, country, and sector levels. These questions run through
the current discourse and scattered forums on facets of fragile or failed states and are
key to more coherent US thinking and action.
The report is divided into four sections that are organized around the main
discussion topics from the Colloquium. See the graphic to the right for a detailed
explanation. Parts I and II descend from the global level to the policy sector level.
Part I discusses the global incidence of state failure; its elements and sources; and
the societal dynamics that lead to state failure, or avoid it. By scanning the globe
for countries at risk of failure and identifying the aspects of a state and society that
may be weak, Part I provides a crucial first step in developing appropriate country
strategies. Part II looks more closely at the national level to review lessons from
recent experience regarding the best sequencing of major state-building tasks in
two types of country situations: post-conflict and potential conflict. Then it zeroes
in on the sectoral level by identifying particular instruments that have worked
well in achieving three vital functions in fragile states: political leadership, service
delivery, and economic growth.
Part III moves back to a global level by surveying the abilities of major governments
and multilateral organizations, such as the UN, for undertaking the kinds
of coherent ground-level state-building strategies that have been laid out. This is
followed by a consideration of the US government efforts to establish structures
and procedures for addressing fragile states. Concluding the report, Part IV extracts
the most compelling answers from the previous sections to the central question
above: how the US can tackle the problems of fragile states by taking realistic
steps without new and expensive programs.
10 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Engaging Fragile States:
An International Policy Primer
The Four Sections of this Report
Organized around the main discussion topics from the Colloquium
Parts I and II
descend from the global level to the policy sector level.
Part I Understanding State Failure and Resilience
discusses the global incidence of state failure; its elements and sources;
and the societal dynamics that lead to state failure, or avoid it. By
scanning the globe for countries at risk of failure and identifying the
aspects of a state and society that may be weak, Part I provides a crucial
first step in developing appropriate country strategies.
Part II Responding to Fragile States
looks more closely at the national level to review lessons from recent
experience regarding the best sequencing of major state-building tasks
in two types of country situations: post-conflict and potential conflict. Then
it zeroes in on the sectoral level by identifying particular instruments that
have worked well in achieving three vital functions in fragile states: political
leadership, service delivery, and economic growth.
Part III Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies
moves back to a global level by surveying the abilities of major
governments and multilateral organizations, such as the UN, for
undertaking the kinds of coherent ground-level state-building strategies
that have been laid out. This is followed by a consideration of the US
government efforts to establish structures and procedures for addressing
Part IV Implications and Applications
extracts the most compelling answers from the previous sections to the
central question above: how the US can tackle the problems of fragile
states by taking realistic steps without new and expensive programs.
Introduction: Threats Amid Overload | 11
What can be done
to keep a state
failure and fragility?
Assessment of legitimacy, authority
and capacity —by way of a tracking
procedure that anticipates earlier
turning points in advance of the onset
of violent conflict or total collapse,
looks for points of leverage, and
considers sequencing and timing for
engagement—will help judge state
fragility in order to develop plans to
cope by preventing further decay.
12 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Failure & Resilience:
A Global Scan
Determinants of Failed
and Fragile States
Periodically, analysts rank the countries of the world according
to their degree of state failure or fragility. Though these ranking
systems emphasize differing conflict, development, or governance
factors, there is wide agreement on which states are the
most failed or at risk of failure. The two databases described at
the colloquium both list the following twenty-one countries in
their respective thirty most-failed group: Afghanistan, Angola,
Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cote
D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra
Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen. 1 These same countries
fall into the most-failed group in three other leading indexes.
Seventeen additional countries are found on at least two
of the five indexes: 2 Bangladesh, Burma, Cameroon, Equatorial
Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal,
Niger, North Korea, Rwanda, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It
is not surprising that a strong statistical correlation has been
found among the rankings of these databases. 3
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 13
It is to be expected that countries appear high on these lists that are still in various
stages of ongoing conflict, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. Postconflict
countries also appear, such as Angola, Liberia, Nepal, and Sierra Leone.
However, many countries that are indicated as fragile have not had recent conflicts,
such as Bangladesh, Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Malawi,
Mauritania, and Zambia.
How many failed states are there in total? Because states vary along a continuum
from fragile to failing to failed, no definitive number is possible. However, using
the criterion of being in the most failed group on at least two indexes, thirty-nine
countries in the world are failed or at risk of failure, or about twenty percent of the
world’s recognized states. Africa has the highest concentration by far with twentyeight,
followed by Asia with six, Middle East with three, and Latin America and the
Caribbean with one.
Is State Failure Increasing?
The datasets utilized at the colloquium differed on whether state failure is increasing or
decreasing in the world. The George Mason University dataset reveals a significant decline
in fragility towards stability since 1995. As Jack Goldstone explained, “This good news
reflects a sixty percent reduction in armed conflict in the global system and an enormous
increase in the use of democracy to govern states… In West Africa, Burundi, Rwanda, the
Balkans, South Asia, where ethnic and regional conflicts occurred in the '90s, new agreements
have been reached that, although not completely stable, constitute breakthroughs
in developing institutions that work toward conflict management.” On the other hand,
the Carleton University dataset sees an upward trend in state fragility, increasing the likelihood
of failure, since the end of the Cold War. It puts greater emphasis on socio-economic
indicators relative to political indicators. David Carment commented that “The growing
inequities between the richer and poorer states and within the latter cause fragility problems
for those in the 'Bottom Billion.'”
The George Mason research also finds that the number of illiberal democracies or
“anocracies”—semi-authoritarian states that exist at some midpoint between autocracy
and full democracy—has stayed more or less the same around the world recently (see
graph). 4 This is significant because these mixed regimes are especially prone to conflict.
Carment’s data also shows the connection between democratization and state fragility.
When states are arranged along a spectrum from democratic to authoritarian, the fragile
states are clustered in the middle, meaning that instability is more likely when a state lies
somewhere between democratic and authoritarian structures.
14 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Global Trends in Governance
Number of Countries
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
Democracies Anocracies Autocracies
Sources of Failure and Resiliency
The chances of failure for a particular state can change considerably
over the years. How do states that are fragile begin to fail
and ultimately collapse? State deterioration needs to be examined
on three levels: a) ongoing basic conditions that constitute
a state’s strength or weakness, b) shorter-term political dynamics
that bring about either failure or resilience, and c) immediate
precursors of collapse.
What Are the Underlying Sources of
Global rankings assign a single score to each state. These rankings are useful, as
some states are more failed than others and thus pose greater problems for their
citizens and other countries. However, a state’s overall status depends on several
factors. Fragility is multi-faceted and needs to be examined case by case.
The George Mason framework assesses a state’s performance in terms of
four dimensions: security, governance, economic development, and social
development. Each aspect is scored in terms of its legitimacy and effectiveness.
Legitimacy has to do with whether a government’s personnel and policies
are able to win the allegiance of a substantial enough portion of the
population that they are generally inclined to obey and support the government.
Effectiveness concerns whether the government has the resources and
the administrative capacity to carry out the tasks expected of a government.
Similarly, the Carleton framework divides fragility into legitimacy, or effectively
representing citizens at home and abroad; authority, or the ability
to provide basic security within the borders; and capacity, or providing basic
needs for the population, such as education.
Looking at these components of fragility yields a different global picture than
the country rankings based on aggregate scores. When the Carleton framework
classifies countries according to low capacity, for example, the bulk of the weakest
states are found in sub-Saharan Africa. However, when countries are grouped
according to their legitimacy, countries that are considerably lower in the over-
16 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
The basic components
of fragility are like a set
of essential pillars on
which the state rests.
A state will not collapse
if only a few pillars are
weak to some degree.
However, if several of
the pillars are crumbling,
the state could
Understanding State Failure and Resiliance:
A Global Scan
all rankings come to the top, such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, North Korea, Yemen,
United Arab Emirates, and Turkmenistan.
Clearly, a particular country may be strong in some of these respects but weak
in others. “Fragile states are not all fragile in the same way,” explained Goldstone.
A state may have legitimacy, for example, but still be weak because it lacks resources
or its administrative structure is faulty. “The core challenge in this case,"
he continued, "is to help a legitimate state become effective…Conversely, an effective
state with strong central authority may lack legitimacy because its policies
mainly serve a particular group or the leaders and do not provide adequate services
generally.” Though strong, that state needs reform in the selection of leaders or in
the policies they carry out. Alternatively, a state may be both fairly legitimate and
effective, but only in certain ways. Pakistan has a fairly strong military and a legitimate,
elected government, yet it faces substantial rebellion in part of its territory
and performs less satisfactorily in economic growth and social services. Finally,
“if a government is both illegitimate and weak or absent, such as in Afghanistan,
major state-building efforts are required,” Goldstone added.
In sum, the basic components of fragility are like a set of essential pillars on
which the state rests. A state will not collapse if only a few pillars are weak to some
degree. However, if several of the pillars are crumbling, the state could completely
collapse. This leads to the question of how the basic elements of a state can deteriorate
over time, ultimately leading to complete failure.
How Do States Deteriorate?
To respond effectively to a state that is weakening, an understanding is also needed
of the political processes through which deterioration occurs. These provide
possible leverage points for arresting the trend. Monty Marshall traced the shorterterm
dynamics through which states begin to fail and may totally collapse, or,
alternatively, avoid failure and become stronger. “The ultimate problem we want
to avoid is the complete breakdown of a state,” he said. To avoid such an extreme, a
“macro-systemic” perspective needs to focus on both the activities of the state and
the state’s societal environment, as well as the interplay between the two. A state in
relation to its society is like an eco-system. Much of the time, a state experiences
gradual changes in its societal environment to which it responds if it is resilient.
These gradual changes can be monitored, as well as modified. Unfortunately, the
changes in a society are often neglected by a perspective driven by the policy concerns
of external actors. In that light, we should be focusing on fragile societies,
rather than simply fragile states.
18 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Societies function most efficiently when their populations are cohesive, which
arises from well-functioning, vibrant social networks, based in myriad associational
ties and dense interactions across the societal stratum. The ties have to be
cross-cutting, creating links between dominant and minority groups. Instead of
reinforcing the main cleavages in a society, they should dilute the exclusiveness of
a dominant group. Certain risk factors often make it difficult to create or maintain
cross-cutting networks, such as the extent of the state’s territory, a country’s poor
physical endowments, its population size and diversity, lack of technology, or deficient
skills in utilizing technologies.
The other factor in the equation that determines whether the system avoids
state breakdown is whether the state is resilient in addressing risk factors it faces.
In order to be resilient, the state needs to manage the society in a generally inclusive,
responsive, and accountable way. When stakes are provided to groups,
they are more likely to feel less marginalized and will operate within the system,
thus being less inclined to change it through coercive means. Unfortunately, however,
the state’s performance is often distorted by one group capturing it for their
own purposes and creating unequal distributions of resources, thus marginalizing
Such exclusionary practices invite what Marshall called “polar factionalism”.
Factionalism emerges when groups differ on what they think needs to be done
and what the best course of action may be, but factionalism can rise to different
levels, depending on how it is handled. One level comes into play when normally
contentious politics escalate to issue factionalism, where the population is simply
divided over certain issues. If these issue disagreements widen and accumulate, the
divisions can morph into ideological divisions. Thus, polar factionalism can result,
in which intergroup differences intensify and the groups become less and less cooperative.
The polity then separates into rigid, contending factions that become
increasingly militant and may engage in open warfare. A good example of how a
society can escalate to polar factionalism is the US Civil War, when the disputes
between the North and the South led the system to break apart.
Because factionalism is often associated with the use of violence to settle political
disputes, the chief challenge for the state is effective management. The state
can approach factionalism in two ways, both of which are in play to some degree:
a) accommodative behavior that encourages cooperation and keeps politics
within accepted parameters, or b) instrumental actions based largely on coercion,
which drives all sides toward greater militancy. Both methods can work
to maintain political control, but the overall balance should lean toward more
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 19
Quite frequently, democratic
governments are themselves the
source of state fragility when they
are ineffective because of paralysis,
deadlock or corruption among the
democratic parties or leaders.”
The balance between these methods of handling factionalism depends on the
nature of political regimes. Research by Marshall and his colleagues has found
that, as more and more regimes around the world have become democratic in recent
decades, factionalism is more highly associated with democracy than with autocracy.
To transition to democracy, governments have to find a way to deal with
internal factions that divide society, while at the same time governing the society
effectively. In especially young democracies, when issues accumulate, what is often
done is to crack down on the opposition, which drives the political dynamics back
into an autocratic pattern. However, mature democracies can handle a number of
issue disagreements by using deliberative and cooperative processes to keep the
issues within the bounds of conventional politics. They do not go beyond issue
factionalism. Factionalism in a mature democracy is highly unlikely to escalate
all the way to open warfare. For example, the antiwar movement in the US in the
1960s and 70s almost reached the point of polar factionalism, but, the use of
coercion against demonstrators at Kent State University caused a backlash that
moved the US back toward conventional politics.
The other method of handling factionalism is typically seen at the early stages
of state formation and is maintained under autocracies. Regimes that are predominantly
autocratic tend to manage their politics by seeking to control or manipulate
factions through coercion. They preserve factions but do not allow militancy that
can confront the state and contest its political control. In the process, however,
autocratic states reinforce and reproduce the factionalism. Even though factionalism
is more visible in democracies than autocracies, factionalism under autocracy
is never fully reduced. The sources of potential polarization are simply repressed
by a political or military leader who exercises personal rule. Still, in many of these
cases, a coercive response to factionalism escalates into open warfare.
A third situation can occur where the state maintains factional politics but
20 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
cannot either institute a strong autocracy or consolidate democracy. It thus gets
locked into a basically dysfunctional situation. As Goldstone observed, “Quite
frequently, democratic governments are themselves the source of state fragility
when they are ineffective because of paralysis, deadlock or corruption among the
democratic parties or leaders. States from Weimar Germany to Nepal have seen
democracy lead to worse things because the democratic government is unable to
carry out its required functions.”
If a state does not learn how to respond to changes in its environment, its lack
of resiliency paves the way for a sudden and drastic negative turn of events. As
Marshall described, “A cycle of deterioration can result, whereby a state’s conflicts
feed back into further fragility, and they in turn are fed by fragility, in an interlocking
spiral. Fragile states often remain fragile—they cannot manage change
properly. Mismanagement of the situation causes further deterioration…So state
fragility, political instability, and state failure can lead to one another and feed
back into one another.” Carment corroborated the notion of a cumulative, cascading
process. “Tracked over time, many countries’ scores on authority, legitimacy,
and capacity decline more or less in tandem. Except for a handful cases like Sri
Lanka, when one element of fragility weakens, others do, too.”
Total collapse most often occurs with the outbreak of violent conflict, for "that
tends to tear everything else down,” Marshall remarked. Similarly, Carment finds
that total failure occurs most frequently where there are challenges to authority and
capacity structures, such as in Sudan and Iraq. Interestingly, the scenarios leading
to ultimate collapse can emerge in varied contexts. According to Goldstone, five
main pathways lead to ultimate failure:
1 Ethnic conflicts reach the extreme point of genocide, where specific groups
are targeted, such as in Rwanda;
2 Crony or predatory states witness their leaders becoming solely interested
in obtaining economic wealth and security for themselves, such as in the
3 Ongoing guerrilla rebellions or acts of terrorism disrupt overall order, such as
4 Democracies become ineffective due to paralysis, deadlock or corruption
among political parties, such as occurred in Nepal; and
5 Succession crises arise, where struggles for power among contending leaders
produce social instability, such as in Guinea.
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 21
When such a crisis is imminent, fast-moving and random events can trigger
a state’s actions that are very hard to predict and control. The situation becomes
increasingly driven by emotion, rather than rationality, and even the best-intentioned
efforts by outside actors to remedy the situation can be counterproductive.
Nevertheless, a failure trajectory is not inevitable; states can draw back from
the brink. As Marshall explained, when facing a challenge, a resilient state might
act to manage the situation short of an extreme outcome. The divergent outcomes
depend on whether corrective action is taken and what options are chosen. Ideally,
a threatening episode can actually become a learning experience in which the state
recognizes that if it does not manage its conflicts properly, instability follows. On
the other hand, if another actor comes in and fixes the situation, the state may
have no incentive to learn how to manage itself and may become locked into a
pattern of constantly failing.
Regrettably, such learning often does not occur. Or a state’s resiliency may be
insufficient to manage its own affairs, so neighboring states have to augment its
efforts by providing assistance. If the state is still unable to resolve its problems by
primary reliance on its own efforts, regional support will be required, or in the
most extreme cases, major involvement from the strongest global actors.
Looked at from this perspective, to speak of state failure can be misleading
because it presumes that one has in place a fairly functioning state in the first
place. In reality, many states we are dealing with have not been able yet to extend
their influence fully throughout their territory. Often, it is not a situation in
which complete states in a Western sense have been functioning well, but at some
point in time fail to maintain legitimacy. Instead, in many cases, we are dealing
with societies that reflect varying degrees of often limited central authority
over their legally defined territory and the provision of basic governing functions,
such as security and social services. This partial control is often forced by severe
geographic constraints that make consistent state administration throughout poor
economies difficult. Pakistan is an example where many years after independence
the Frontier Tribal Areas are governed only nominally by central authorities. Areas
of the Philippines, as well, are still run more or less as local fiefdoms by local and
regional warlords and dominant families. Hence, the challenge of state failure is
more aptly thought of as a process of states-in-formation or quasi-states. What
is new about such processes is that the established ways of ruling are being challenged
more vigorously by new external and internal forces, including everything
from extremist ideologies to international norms for governance.
22 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
A key element in
whether a fragile state
can head off greater
deterioration, even in
settings, hinges on
leaders can achieve
some kind of agreements
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 23
How Can Decision-Makers
Use Global Data?
How can these findings about state fragility or resilience inform concrete decisions?
The discussion points to the need to carry out regular inspections of
the pillars on which states rest. The speakers concurred that the phenomenon
of state failure needs to be framed as a gradually unfolding process over time
rather than as a final end state at a particular moment in time. Decision-makers
need not wait until all the indicators dramatically worsen and alarm bells go off
that warn of total collapse. Once a state has reached large-scale violent conflict,
their options are fairly limited and highly costly. Action requires a huge effort
on the part of an intervening state and is likely to generate political ill will both
at home and abroad.
Much can be done in order to keep a state from reaching such extremes. By
the same token, it is artificial to look at the processes of fragility in isolation from
normal international forces and policies toward states at non-crisis times. Research
provides guidance for addressing states that face the possibility of failure but have
not reached total collapse. Carment suggested an ongoing tracking procedure is
needed that anticipates earlier turning points in advance of the onset of violent
conflict or total collapse, looks for points of leverage, and considers sequencing
and timing for engagement. Such a system would monitor indicators of the dimensions
that define a state’s strength or fragility, such as legitimacy, authority,
and capacity. All these dimensions need to be assessed to judge state fragility and
to develop plans to cope with fragility by preventing further decay. Relevant early
warning systems already operate in many international organizations and governments.
Detailed diagnostic tools for assessing the fragility and conflict of a particular
country are also available. 5
Measuring such components would generate early warnings that can trigger
efforts to keep imbalances in a state’s condition from worsening. The measures
also can be used for rebuilding states in a situation where conflict has already occurred
and government has broken down. Although it takes time to collect such
data for many countries, ongoing monitoring of the factors in real time is needed
to identify changes in a state’s risk and resiliency factors and the balance between
A particular state’s profile in terms of those factors provides clues about the
main soft spots that warrant the most attention, and thus the most cost-effective
entry points for domestic or international efforts. Because states become fragile or
fail in different ways, those entry points will differ. As Goldstone suggested, varied
24 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
My number one recommendation
or major international actors is to
incrementally increase resilience, and
thus foster strategies for managing
potentially polarizing situations...”
state situations make it crucial to establish what each state’s core problems are, for
that pinpoints what issues need to be prioritized, with what level of effort and finance,
and over what timeframe. The governance score for Pakistan, for example,
shows red almost across the board and high risk factors for security and human
development, although the economy is relatively better than in many other fragile
states. Country profiles provide a starting pointing for engaging in countries with
packages of policies that can be effective.
This broad-gauged analysis suggests certain kinds of domestic and international
policies that warrant more attention as promising ways to try to stem state failures.
In Marshall’s view, a crucial difference can be made by influencing the political
dynamics that affect resiliency, and in particular, avoiding the emergence of polar
factionalism. “My number one recommendation for major international actors is
to incrementally increase resilience, and thus foster strategies for managing potentially
polarizing situations. Even if a state’s politics unfold within conventional
processes, you still need to keep them from intensifying beyond issue factionalism.
Always find solutions in time to drive the contentious issues back down into
Of course, the major political actors in the society may not be interested in
resolving issue conflicts because they have a zero-sum view of those conflicts, and
their goal is to dominate the society and exclude their competitors. As a result,
the existing institutions will be abused or destroyed as those groups seek to take
over. One has to look at how the major actors in the country approach emerging
conflicts, whether in a polarized, zero-sum fashion or by seriously moving toward
compromise. Goldstone stressed, “A key element in whether a fragile state can
head off greater deterioration, even in difficult institutional settings, hinges on
whether opposition leaders can achieve some kind of agreement or compromise.”
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 25
For example, the United States started with strong institutions at the beginning
of the 19th century but saw those institutions break down as the polarization over
slaveholding grew more acute.
This presents the delicate issue of whether to intercede externally in a country’s
dynamics in order to ensure stability, or instead, to allow the country to learn
on its own how to manage its conflicts. Might it be better to let it fail in some
way to increase the incentive to learn how to manage issue factionalism properly?
Goldstone suggested that this dilemma might be eased if external efforts provide
local leaders with the proper skill set to work through their own resolutions of
emerging conflicts, such as along the lines of the leadership training done by the
Wilson Center (discussed under Part III).
Any agreements that are reached then need to be carried out. Because fragile
states cannot hold themselves accountable in most cases, Marshall urged outside
parties to work to arrange accountability guarantees. In addition to effective
mediation, in the new democracy-dominant world system, another way parties
can be held to their commitments is election assistance and monitors. The overall
point is to build effective institutions that serve as tools for addressing conflicts,
whether they are issues of democracy, social service, or economic policy. Aid to
build capable institutions can be especially effective, as increased state capacity is
largely associated with decreasing fragility.
One key institution is the military. Reducing the tendency to rely on coercive
policies can be done by professionalizing the military, commonly known as security
sector reform (SSR). Rather than looking to provide security guarantees in
situations that are out of control, international actors should regard them as a last
resort. What is more effective is preventing the state from cracking down on oppositions
by keeping the military in the barracks until the emotional moments of
a crisis have passed. “Riled up masses will calm down eventually if not confronted
by a show of extreme coercion, whereas harsh repression can escalate into open
warfare,” Marshall asserted.
While there has been some progress in recent years in addressing the peculiar
characteristics of fragile and failed states, most US and international policies are
not oriented to their special features. For example, the distribution of foreign aid is
largely random. Ideally, the states that are lowest in capacity and the most fragile
would be getting the bulk of the aid, but the reality is quite different. Many states
ranking high in fragility receive far less than they should be receiving in view of
their poor performance. While Afghanistan is an aid darling, countries like Togo
are off the radar screen. Also, due to lack of a supportive policy environment to
begin with, a fragile state cannot be relied on to use aid investments wisely or
properly. Yet other countries receive aid far in excess of what they should, despite
their lack of adequate capacity to absorb or use it properly. An effective amount of
26 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
aid is normally 15 percent of the Gross National Income (GNI), but in Burundi,
for example, close to 50 percent of its GNI is from the donor community. If that
support were to be taken away, one can imagine how serious the deeper problems
would become. The volatility of aid is also a problem, for fragile states are more
likely to be subject to the changing whims of the donor community. Aid is not delivered
on a regular and continuous basis in proportion to the specific deficiencies
of the most fragile states.
Rather than tackle fragility in the countries at times when it is most amenable
to improvement, US foreign policy, has focused on situations, such as Iraq after
removing the central government and initially in Afghanistan, that pose the
greatest obstacles to success and require the largest commitments. The US and
other international actors tend to leave themselves the extreme cases that overly
tax their ability to respond. Instead, they should be productively assisting easier
challenges to avoid a serious breakdown. For instance, the government in
Georgia has had moderate legitimacy but needs reforms to ensure that its legitimacy
endures. Its state has some capacity but needs reinforcement to strengthen
its ability to provide services.
All in all, the discussion helped to fill the policy space that lies between the
normal conventional development policies that are routinely carried out in most
developing countries on the one hand, and on the other, the reactive diplomatic
and military activities that are forced by state failure crises. However, knowing
the relative status of these conditions in a given state does not reveal the particular
policies for addressing that state. “Broad agreement on the core problem areas is
a good starting point, but the task remains of how to shift from these abstract
concepts to specific actions to put into practice in a given country,” Goldstone cautioned.
To fill a state’s fragility gaps in some mechanical way would not be an
effective strategy, and in fact, may worsen the situation. Simply boosting the general
level of democratic participation or increasing economic growth in response
to low indicators on governance and economic indicators, for example, may actually
lead to conflict. The next section will address this issue in more detail, building on
lessons learned from previous policy implementation in failed and fragile states.
Understanding State Failure and Resilience: A Global Scan | 27
Why would the
US and other
benefit from a
First, it is more humane to act early
to keep peaceful disputes from
erupting into violent conflicts,
than to deal with wars and their
aftermath. Second, not only does
preventing wars save lives, but it is
hugely less expensive...
28 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Responding to Fragile States:
Lessons from Recent
Since the end of the Cold War, the international community has
become involved in a large number of what now would be described
as fragile states, and has accumulated a great deal of
experience. Analysts have studied the outcomes of these efforts
and distilled guidelines on what actions and policies tend to work
well in what settings. Current policymakers can draw on those
guidelines to make informed judgments on what policy tools
and mixes are likely to be workable and effective in the fragile
states they are addressing. The problems the US has encountered
in Iraq and Afghanistan have arisen, in part, by ignoring
lessons that were readily available. It is one thing to identify the
sources of state failure, quite another to know what responses
will actually work. Monitoring government legitimacy and effectiveness
can help identify sources of state failure, but this practice
does not specify concrete solutions that would effectively address
them. Additionally, applying general prescriptions, such as
security sector reform, can be counteractive if conflict-specific
circumstances present themselves.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 29
It would be a mistake, for example, to infer from a conflict assessment that an
election would restore a government lacking in legitimacy, or that implementing
economic reform policies geared towards boosting a fragile state's Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) would increase economic stability. Even promising ideas for policies
often face obstacles that keep them from solving underlying causes of state
failure. They may be politically unpalatable, not receive adequate resources, or be
poorly implemented. They may meet local resistance that undermines their implementation,
or even provoke backlash that causes conflicts or worsens fragility,
rather than reducing it. Furthermore, effective policies cannot simply be deduced
from the opposite of the causes of the problem that they are aimed at addressing.
For example, policy aimed solely at rebuilding social infrastructure in a decimated
post-conflict state is not an all-encompassing solution to the myriad of causes of
failure and therefore, risks being unsuccessful.
A crucial next step is to craft specific responses that are likely to work in specific
contexts. One way to avoid the pitfalls that face even plausible ideas is to
consult the record when those options were applied in similar fragile contexts.
Part II reviews some of the leading lessons from both successes and failures in
fragile states. Effective responses are presented first at the whole-country level
and then at the level of establishing three key state functions.
30 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Country-Level Strategies for
Conflict Prevention and
Manuals are available about how to implement programs within
particular sectors, such as security sector reform, but little guidance
has been made available to decision-makers on the strategic
question of how the various sectors should be sequenced.
One issue the 3D discourse leaves unanswered is which of the
basic policy areas—diplomacy, defense, or development—are
most appropriately implemented at which stages of fragility or
conflict. Should these actions be tried simultaneously, or are
some needed before others will work? Stated in terms of the dimensions
of fragility, the question is when governance, security,
or socio-economic well-being should be the highest priority. A
related, unresolved debate is whether top-down or bottom-up
approaches should take priority.
The following discussion addresses this question of sequencing
in two major stages in which fragile states are typically found: a)
post-conflict periods in which peace is being consolidated, and
b) potential conflict situations in transitioning societies, where
no recent conflicts have occurred but tensions are rising and
warning signs of conflict are evident. 7
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 31
Life Cycle of Conflicts
These arrows indicate when international engagement to prevent the
emergence and re-emergence of violent conflict can occur.
This graph of the
conflict cycle depicts
the essential levels of
violence and phases
through which conflicts
evolve. The large arrows
indicate when international
prevent the emergence
and re-emergence of
violent conflict can occur.
What Actions Have Prevented Potential
New Conflicts? 8
In the global rankings of fragile and failed states, many are either currently in the
midst of active conflicts (Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan) or they
are post-conflict states that are recovering from recent wars (Angola, Burundi,
and Nepal). However, many states in the most fragile group have not experienced
major internal wars in recent years (although sectoral violence and/or coups have
taken place)—Burma, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti,
Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria,
Pakistan, and Togo. US and international decision-makers cannot ignore the
possibility of new conflicts in these settings coming onto the radar screen,
as they may quickly pose serious problems for US interests and international
security. Pakistan is not a post-conflict state and yet is now a top US foreign
There are several reasons why the interests of the US and other international
actors would be well served by adopting a strategy of primary prevention rather
than focus almost all their attention and resources on countries that are already
in conflict or recovering from it. First, it is more humane to act early to keep
peaceful disputes from erupting into violent conflicts, than to deal with wars
and their aftermath. Second, not only does preventing wars save lives, but it is
hugely less expensive. Research on the differences between investing in prevention
compared to war and post-conflict reconstruction costs, such as peacekeeping,
shows that on average, prevention is 60 times less costly. Third, it is widely
agreed that post-conflict states are among the most likely to fall into conflict.
However, those estimates of the percentage of post-conflict countries that relapse
into conflict has been lowered over the years from around 40 percent to about
25 percent. Meanwhile, new conflicts in previously peaceful countries have continued
to erupt at a more frequent rate. 9 Fourth, global trends like the economic
crisis, globalization, youth bulges, population growth, climate change, extremist
movements, and ready access to arms are increasing the potential for conflicts in
many fragile states around the world that have neither experienced conflict nor
state failure. Finally, the threats to stability are especially challenging in the large
numbers of new or quasi-democracies that have been transitioning from former
authoritarian or autocratic systems to a more democratically-structured regime.
Such semi-authoritarian states, illiberal democracies, or anocracies are especially
vulnerable to conflict and state failure.
Typically, the circumstances in focus here involve fragile countries where no
war has occurred, but external or internal changes are causing disputes to arise and
34 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
tensions to increase. Let us use a hypothetical scenario that illustrates this process.
In country X, ethnic, religious, regional, or political groups reflecting a country’s
fractionalized demography are beginning to realize their distinct and competing
interests and mobilize to press for demands. Decision-making and relations among
the members of the political elite are becoming more contentious. The groups have
some access to arms, so violent incidents such as non-peaceful protests or political
assassinations may occur. A gap begins to grow between a country’s risk factors
and the state’s ability to address them. Issue factionalism can potentially evolve
into polar factionalism. The existing regulative system that normally reconciles
interests between different group begins to weaken; as a result, the state is losing
authority. The transition in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s is an example where
the leaders of the republics found it continuously difficult to cooperate on major
national questions. Many countries may be facing challenges to such a quasi-autocratic
type of regime, but it is uncertain what alternative governing arrangements
will take its place. Such situations characterized several post-Cold War conflicts,
such as in Burundi, Rwanda, Tajikistan, and others.
Fortunately, preventive approaches are being more actively discussed within the
US Government. For planning purposes, the US Department of Defense (DOD)
has devised a graph similar to the conflict curve on page 32. As seen on the following
page, potential violent stages of conflict are depicted as Phase Zero and Phase
One. Though the actions envisioned are labeled here as “shaping” and “deterring”
activities, the basic idea is taking proactive steps before armed activity occurs.
Prevention is not a new hypothetical idea that has never been tried before. In
the post-Cold War era, many preventive efforts were undertaken. Some failed to
stem conflicts, resulting in wars such as in Croatia, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda,
DRC Congo, Kosovo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, and Georgia-Russia. However, it is frequently
taken for granted that many such preventive efforts succeeded. Such cases
include South Africa, Macedonia, the Baltic States, Slovakia-Hungary, Crimea
in Ukraine, the South China Seas dispute, Kenya in 2007-8, and most recently,
Honduras. In these cases, international actors took specific actions to head off
conflict and disintegration. From these post-Cold War experiences, the international
community has learned a great deal about how to engage potential newconflict
countries. Researchers have culled through the successes, as well as the
failures to understand what kinds of actions in what sequences were most likely to
avert threatening new violent conflicts. 10
One lesson that has emerged is the importance of developing a regional framework
of agreed-on norms before particular disputes actually arise that prescribes
acceptable and proscribes unacceptable behaviors by governments and their leaders.
Several regional bodies such as the Organization of Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE), the African Union (AU), and the Organization of American
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 35
Notional Operation Plan Phrases
Taking proactive steps before armed activity occures.
Level of Military Effort
For planning purposes, the US Department of Defense (DOD) has devised a graph
similar to the conflict curve on page 32.
In this graph, potential
violent stages of conflict
are depicted as Phase
Zero and Phase One.
Though the actions
envisioned are labeled
here as “shaping” and
the basic idea is taking
proactive steps before
armed activity occurs.
States (OAS) have agreed on normative frameworks that include non-aggression
pacts, human rights standards, and prohibitions against military or executive coups
that overturn democratically-elected regimes. In many cases, steps are spelled out
for the organization to take in the event the rules are broken by a signatory state.
Because they are agreed-upon before any particular violations of the standards
have occurred, these standards are not targeted at specific governments and often
can obtain willing and widespread consent. While these rules are not always adhered
to, the regional agreements provide criteria for conduct that have broad legitimacy
by which countries can be judged by their neighbors. Their multi-state
endorsement enmeshes the signatories in predictable contingency procedures to
follow if and when the agreed codes are violated. This sets the stage for future situations
when particular disputes or deviant actions may be activated with regard to
ensuring compliance to the standards. Where violations occur, the rules provide
the warrant for regional or wider engagement in the affairs of the country.
As discussed in Part I, a prudent time to seek engagement with particular fragile
states is signaled when normal contentious politics is beginning to resemble
issue factionalism or worse, polar factionalism. For these circumstances, the first
set of actions that needs to be taken in a particular country is referred to as direct
prevention, or operational prevention (sometimes called preventive diplomacy).
These actions focus on specific tensions, behavior, or events in the short term that
reflect divisive issues in a conflicted society, such as political disputes, hostile rhetoric,
and confrontations, that threaten its stability. Therefore, the following steps
1 Take vigorous actions before tensions escalate and bloodshed occurs.
When the sides in a dispute begin to feel they must prepare to defend
themselves against possible violence from other groups or the state, their
steps to defend themselves are often perceived by the other groups as offensive
actions, not merely defensive. This prompts them to take up arms
as well, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If bloodshed actually occurs,
it can polarize the sides even further because they each feel they have
more justification to attack the other side. These interactions can lead to a
spiral of violence.
2 Consequently, it is critical to assure mutual physical security for the sides in
a dispute. Before political negotiations are likely to be feasible or to make
progress, the contending sides need to feel they are not immediately threatened
with harm or extinction. Ideally, this is done through supporting neutral
38 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
domestic security forces, such as police who can maintain security for all.
Programs for security force professionalization can be crucial for preventive
purposes. Failing that, the inter-positioning of an agreed-upon international
preventive deployment peacekeeping force should be considered. A less desirable
approach is to issue a threat of intervention by a rapid response force in
the event that violence erupts. However, such threats have to be credible or
they may only prompt violence to preempt one’s opponents.
This finding goes against the conventional wisdom that diplomacy should be the
first option and military action a last resort. The case of Macedonia is a classic
case where risk indicators were present, but preventive efforts helped to stabilize
the country. As Bosnia was falling apart in 1992, Macedonia was faced with the
same kind of tension. However, the UN established a preventive peacekeeping
force before there was any outbreak of violence, thus making the country safer for
3 Once security is assured, encourage both the incumbent and moderate opposition
leaders to engage in nonthreatening dialogue that addresses the major
political or policy issues that are in dispute, and are facilitated by respected
international diplomats under multilateral auspices, such as by negotiating
new compacts or arrangements for power-sharing that will maintain stability.
In Macedonia, the UN and multilateral presence created a platform in
which the major parties were encouraged to engage in dialogue. In South
Africa, informal cross-racial contacts helped to reinforce the domestic initiatives
that were being taken to achieve rapprochement. Using regional
bodies to sponsor such talks confers legitimacy on the process and may be
more likely to be accepted by a state’s leaders, especially if prior norms and
procedures have been utilized.
This point highlights a difference between post-conflict situations and potential
conflict situations. In the latter societies, the vestiges of some kind of political
equilibrium or social compact may still exist under which the relationships and
communication among a country’s elite are still functioning. Of course, as mentioned
earlier, a common obstacle to such dialogue is that until the society goes
through a cycle of conflict, its leaders do not tend to accept that the state is fragile
and that they need preventively. Consequently, international involvement may not
be easily accepted, if at all.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 39
4 While all such situations may not be amenable to engagement, the chances
are increased by offering possible benefits—carrots like conditional aid—as
incentives for resolving the issues. These benefits would be conferred if agreements
are reached or upon reaching certain milestones. In Eastern Europe,
for example, the prospect of being able to join the European Union and receive
development aid was a very powerful inducement for restraining serious
interstate and intrastate disputes, such as between Slovakia and Hungary over
a dam project and the interests of the ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia.
5 Where violence is highly likely from one or more parties, credible sticks also
need to be presented as a deterrent, such as threatening to withhold visas
from key leaders. Third parties need to be consistently firm and not vacillating
about the need for reaching a peaceful solution. The positive or
negative incentives need to exert enough leverage to persuade key leaders
that they will benefit more from mutual accommodation than from intransigent
6 Third party offers may include possible graceful exits for incumbent leaders
who are under pressure to give up their positions, such as amnesty or “golden
parachutes” in exchange for peaceful regime change, while also being sensitive
to their anxieties. They should not be perceived as simply championing
the grievances of a minority group or political opposition. Because even the
most authoritarian regimes may be anxious about their status, one should
not increase their insecurities by acting as if the international community is
bent on eliminating or sidelining them. Pushing too hard on the human rights
violations, for example, may cause backlash or resistance on the part of those
who actually hold the upper hand. These incumbents may choose to preempt
the situation by reacting through repression or violence at the cost of many lives
that are beyond the effective ability of the international community to save.
7 To the extent that access can be gained, seek to avert the escalation of provocative
incidents such as egregious human rights violations, or of suspicious
developments such as covert arming of militias, by conducting in-country
monitoring on an ongoing basis and responding immediately so that the particular
events do not escalate into wider tensions and conflicts.
40 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
A widespread, mistaken
assumption is that
anti-poverty and other
efforts ipso facto will
reduce conflict. Improving
those conditions alone will
not cause the political
issues to dissipate.’’
8 Train a responsible opposition group to take advantage of all political openings
and to adhere to a non-violent strategy that can sway international
legitimacy for peaceful change. To cultivate moderate leaders, for example,
the US invested in training the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
opposition party in Zimbabwe in non-violent tactics. Arguably, if they had
done as Kosovar Albanians did in Kosovo and started a KLA-type armed
movement, Zimbabwe may have broken out into civil war and suffered even
more than it has.
9 Keep neighboring states and other external actors from partisan meddling
in domestic disputes, and solicit their support for peaceful negotiations. It is
crucial to neutralize or gain the help of neighboring countries so they do not
interfere with the political process by tilting to one side or the other in such a
way as to escalate the conflict.
10 In the short to medium term, steps are also needed in structural prevention in
order to reduce underlying sources of conflicts, such as institutional weakness,
economic deprivation, discriminatory policies, and gross societal disparities.
Once the immediate political and policy issues are beginning to be addressed
through specific incentives, these broader programs that attempt to alleviate
the pressures on the contending groups and leaders from their socio-economic
and institutional environment can also shape leaders’ behavior.
11 Alleviate the most salient grievances, such as through visible, targeted social
services, the provision of jobs in administration to aggrieved groups, and support
for job-creating enterprises. Such actions can reduce the impetus and
recruits for violent opposition groups. Although deep-seated problems cannot
be eliminated right away, visible initiatives can illustrate to aggrieved parties
that changes are indeed happening. Often, the major grievances that fuel
opposition have to do with longstanding discriminatory policies and practices
toward minority groups or politically marginal regions. These need to
be addressed promptly, through fairer administration and providing effective
justice. Reduce existing elite expropriation of valuable natural resources and
spread more of their benefits to local populations.
42 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Placing socio-economic development measures at this point in the sequence contradicts
the common idea that addressing root causes will somehow dissolve the
other manifestations of a conflict, such as the political competition and rivalry
among factions. A widespread, mistaken assumption is that anti-poverty and
other economic development efforts ipso facto will reduce conflict. Improving
those conditions alone will not cause the political issues to dissipate. The evidence
suggests that the immediate threats and political processes have to be engaged before
real chances to get at deeper causes arrive. Only in conjunction with progress in political
resolution will such efforts begin to build a durable peace.
12 These actions should be taken wherever possible through the channels of existing
state institutions that have some authority, in order to strengthen their
legitimacy. Usually, there remains some remnants of state bureaucracies and
civil services that function in some degree. Some autonomy in institutional
authority may exist, through which some governmental entities retain prerogatives
to serve civil society. Even the ruling party in a one-party state may
have rules or procedures for internal representation of competing interests.
Through these channels, peaceful negotiations may be possible and their
use may encourage greater reciprocity and accommodation among competing
societal interests. The challenge is to work with those organizations and
processes in order to gradually move governance away from arbitrary forms
of personal rule and patronage politics, towards a more rule-governed form
of politics and administration in which a government of laws prevails rather
than a government of persons, and in which public officials operate within
certain agreed-on procedures and divisions of authority.
13 Support of the implementation of negotiated policies through monitoring
civilian capacities and promoting an increasingly independent civil society.
Creating such a force is crucial in the longer-run in order to keep politicians
accountable to adhere to the rules that they agreed upon through any new
negotiated pacts. In the short-run, civil society and NGOs are characteristically
weak, fragmented, and themselves highly politicized. Initially, they are
not able to act as an antidote to the machinations of upper-level politicians.
Nevertheless, efforts are needed over the medium-term to strengthen fragmented
civil society actors so they reinforce peaceful change at the top.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 43
14 Over time, support the creation of regular channels for meaningful political
expression, such as decentralized government and elections, as long as they are
implemented within a relatively stable rule-governed institutional framework.
Contrary to many current assumptions, setting up democratic institutions
should follow, rather than precede, the fostering of political consensus.
The previous actions are not to be rigidly sequenced in a strict chronological order.
They identify critical priorities that need to be focused earlier on rather than later
when attempting to prevent conflict from occurring. Some tasks, such as security,
do need to be largely accomplished before action is taken on other tasks. Overall,
what is advised is a certain staggering of actions and resource allocations, although
simultaneous implementation is possible in many cases.
These guidelines emerge from general patterns of preventive measures taken in
the recent past. Decision-makers who consider these findings while crafting prevention
strategies will have better chances of succeeding than by using conjecture
or stock approaches. However, as with all guidelines for contemplated courses of
action, even if they are based on empirical evidence in many cases, they should not
be applied systematically to any and all situations. They are useful as a checklist
of grounded lessons when planning a strategy in order to consider the extent to
which they are needed and feasible in that each specific case. They will also be
more difficult to carry out depending on contextual factors, such as the extent
to which of past conflicts in the country, the absence of institutional precedents,
the degree of inter-group polarization, the balance of power between them, the
weakness of existing institutions, and the direction of influences from neighboring
countries. In short, the lessons need to be treated as hypotheses that may or may
not apply, thus stimulating deeper inquiry into each context.
Generally, until the international community has seen the horror of conflict on
CNN, it is not inclined to spend the money and deploy the resources necessary
to avert a conflict. That tendency may be changing, in part because the evidence
is showing that proactive initiatives can make a definite difference and guidelines
exist for how to proceed.
44 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
The priorities are as follows:
security, humanitarian assistance,
basic public services, economic
stabilization, political reform and
long term development.”
Ambassador James Dobbins
What Sequencing Has Worked in
Post-Conflict Rebuilding? 11
By far, the bulk of US and international attention is devoted to post-conflict situations.
The number of UN peacekeeping missions is at an all-time high. Ambassador
James Dobbins and his colleagues at the RAND Corporation studied twenty-two
past cases of post-conflict reconstruction in order to identify lessons learned, and
they have published their findings in a series of volumes, with one focusing on the
American experience. A certain prioritization of tasks in post-conflict environments
was found to achieve the most effective allocation of resources. The priorities
are as follows:
2 Humanitarian assistance
3 Basic public services
4 Economic stabilization
5 Political reform
6 Long term development
This sequencing should not be understood as a strict ordering of tasks to do one
after another. Rather, it is a way to decide on the emphases that will achieve US
policy goals most cost-effectively, in view of the fact that resources are limited. 12
First is the issue of security. Without an assurance of basic security, the other
efforts on the list are likely to fail. Afghanistan illustrates why security must be established
before other things can happen. The United States is in the current situation
there partly due to the failure to recognize that having toppled the Taliban,
it was incumbent to provide for public security. Peacekeeping is essential. The
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 45
decision not to allow armed peacekeepers to go outside Kabul for two years after
the Taliban fell, and the refusal to allow US forces to engage in security or peacekeeping
operations, provided space for the re-emergence of an organized, violent
resistance movement. This decision also missed the opportunity to gain the loyalty
of large segments of the population who live in the contested areas.
To redress this situation, many new elements are being added to the Obama
Administration’s complex strategy for Afghanistan. After General Petraeus’s assignment
to Iraq in 2007, the US embarked on a counter-insurgency campaign
in which public security was the primary metric for determining whether it was
succeeding or failing. After invading Iraq, for the first four years the US regarded
the number of Iraqis that were killed irrelevant as an indicator of success or failure.
However, when Petraeus came back and reported to Congress, he used the
fact that fewer Iraqis were getting killed as a metric. General McChrystal, the US
General in charge in Afghanistan at the time, has testified that his main metric
was also reducing Afghan civilian casualties.
For assuring the population of security, it makes little difference whether
civilians are killed by the Taliban or US troops. Either effect will aggravate the
feeling of insecurity among Afghan civilians and can result in their refusing
to cooperate in marginalizing extremists. The problems of corruption, lack
of adequate government services, and inability to deliver services at any distance
from Kabul cannot be ignored, but simply putting a lot of money into
a chaotic situation will not yield effective results. Only when a more secure
environment is guaranteed will investments and socio-economic change start
to make a difference. Economic development can help to support security, but
the dominant causation is for security to lead to economic development. Once
security is established, positive growth will take place even if nothing is done
particularly to promote it.
The next priority is humanitarian assistance. This is essential for providing
basic material needs such as food, medicine, shelter, and refugee assistance.
Following this is the issue of governance, meaning the provision of basic public
services, such as reopening of schools and hospitals, providing fresh running
water, and sanitation services. Following that is the priority of economic stabilization.
This refers to stabilizing the currency, reopening the borders and markets,
and taking other immediate measures necessary to allow commerce and trade to
operate effectively. This is virtually a cost-free undertaking, but it does require a
sophisticated knowledge of how to rebuild the central banking system to be operational.
These activities are also politically delicate, for they challenge and unavoidably
alter existing power structures.
The policy community has frequently debated the relationship between po-
46 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
In a post conflict
main objective is not
social justice or economic
but rather peace.…”
litical reform and economic development. An easy assumption to make is that
because it is called post-war reconstruction, rebuilding the economy should be
the first priority. The underlying presumption is that enhancing people’s prosperity
will encourage democracy. However, historically this was not the case in either
Germany or Japan. Germany did not get any assistance until 1948; in Japan,
economic growth did not occur until the onset of the Korean War in the1950s
when the United States substantially increased spending on Japanese products.
Economic development certainly consolidated democracy in these two instances,
but in the eyes of the local population there is a tendency to equate the two processes,
even though the resumed economic growth came at a later stage.
The fifth priority is political reform. Some kind of legitimate authority needs to
be constituted, which is usually missing in the early stages of a post-conflict situation.
Deciding whom to empower in this phase is also a sensitive matter because
segments of the population are going to be given jobs in performing and managing
the public services. Simply by allocating resources, external stakeholders empower
certain elements of society who subsequently are able to compete for bigger political
stakes. Important decisions are made that tend to color subsequent decisions.
Political reform eventually involves democratization. This is not to say, as some
people argue, that a Western political system is being imposed. There is no practical
alternative to constituting an authority based on some form of popular sovereignty
and representative elections. In most cases of post-conflict environments,
whatever pre-existing source of authority existed has been destroyed, eliminated,
or so thoroughly discredited that it cannot simply be resurrected. There is hardly
any alternative to some kind of new form of representative authority that is based
on popular sovereignty. 13
Occasionally, there have been extreme cases where the US has intervened with
overwhelming force and one necessary task was to fundamentally change the social
dynamics of that society by barring certain elements from competing even
peacefully. That happened in Germany where the Nazis had to be excluded indefinitely
because their co-optation would not have been acceptable. To facilitate
that permanent change, the US deployed 1.7 million American soldiers in the
American sector of Germany whereas the citizens numbered around 17 million
in post-war Germany as a whole. Other kinds of coercive power were also used,
as well as international legitimacy and support from four or five million Russians,
French, and British soldiers who shared the same objectives.
In Japan, however, the policy was essentially to co-opt the forces within the
former regime. Not only was the emperor retained, but so were the prime minister,
courts, parliament, ministries, and bureaucrats. The equivalent of de-Nazification
was much milder and much less extensive, for this was a strategy of co-option
rather than deconstruction. The less far reaching and thorough policy in Japan
48 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
compared to Germany was a much more cost-efficient way of proceeding and had
In any case, in a post conflict environment, the main objective is not social
justice or economic development, but rather peace. This requires practical ways
to redirect the competition for wealth and power that exists in every society from
violent to peaceful means. Economic and political reforms should not be driven
by theoretical or abstract notions of political representation and economic justice,
but implemented through pragmatic measures that have the effect of redirecting
the competition among the power centers in a society into peaceful channels.
Generally, the method is to co-opt the various competing factions and forces in
the society and persuade them to continue their competition through non-violent
methods. To realize that goal, political and economic incentives need to be offered
that show the contending leaders that they can achieve some, if not all, of their
objectives without resorting to violence.
The last step is long-term development, especially spending for large-scale infrastructure.
In the earlier governance stage, the main task is to get existing infrastructure
operating again rather than creating new ones. Building larger new
projects occupies the last important priority on the list.
This sums up the analysis of sequencing, or more precisely, of prioritization.
The listing clearly subordinates both democratization and economic development
to more paramount goals. They should not necessarily be the main objectives of an
intervention. Security and governance are more essential than development assistance,
and in most cases have to be funded externally. The United States does not
invade poor countries to make them rich, but sometimes invades violent countries
to make them peaceful. The UN does the same when it dispatches peacekeeping
forces to violent countries to restore peace. The criterion for success is whether a
society emerges peacefully with itself and its neighbors. Democratization and economic
development are essential tools in this effort, but they are not themselves
the objective of the military intervention.
These priorities are not to be strictly sequenced in a temporal sense. Were there
to be enough money, manpower, and expertise, all these tasks could be carried out
simultaneously. The point is that one should try to make sure not to resource lower
level priorities until having satisfactorily resourced the higher ones. Admittedly, the
US may have other objectives that are directed towards making the society more just
and require a longer investment. But they are not the preeminent goal of the postconflict
phase, when military force is deployed as a component of a broader strategy
in order to turn a violent society into a peaceful one.
The actual track record of US post-conflict strategies has been mixed. The four
successes were Germany, Japan, Bosnia, and Kosovo; the four failures were Haiti,
Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq (at the point when this work was written). The
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 49
Iraqi case may be turning around, but a comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan sheds
some light on the circumstances when the US is perceived as an unwelcome foreign
intervention. In Afghanistan, the Afghan people in 2002 and 2004 wanted
more foreign and American intervention. Afghanistan was the least resourced
American nation-building operation in 60 years; the average Kosovar or Bosniak
received 16 times more assistance than the average Afghan. “The Afghans were
asking, where are the Americans and the international community?” Dobbins remarked.
It was the failure to provide that assistance that led us to current situation.
Iraq, on the other hand, was a misguided invasion based on false intelligence
information, and consequently, there was a certain antipathy to the US presence
from the beginning.
Building Key State Functions
To remedy state fragility and avoid failure, Part I showed that
states need to maintain or restore essential functions such as
security, legitimacy, and effective administration. Those functions
are societal conditions that fragile states should attain over
time. The preceding section described relative priorities that international
actors have generally found to be most effective in
potential-conflict or post-conflict countries.
The present section narrows the lens further by looking at particular policy instruments
or programs that can be used to achieve those basic functions and how
those instruments can be implemented effectively. It addresses three of the most
important functions in fragile or failed states: a) instituting political leadership
that is legitimate and effective; b) establishing basic public services; and c) promoting
economic activity. 14 The phase of engagement mainly focused on here is the
period of rebuilding after a national conflict, such as a civil war—a subset of the
phenomenon of state fragility. The discussion takes a special interest in how these
functions can take root in a particular society’s own institutions and practices so
as to ensure a durable peace.
50 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Instituting Political Leadership 15
An early imperative in post-conflict societies is placing the reins of authority in the
hands of leaders who are regarded as legitimate and who can responsibly undertake
consensus-building around effective policies, as well as executive oversight of
the state’s administrative bodies. Three instruments have been used for this purpose—official
mediation of peace agreements, international support for elections
and constitution formulation, and training for leaders in conflict transformation.
International efforts to engender a responsible leadership are often hampered
by certain conceptual ambiguities. An important distinction needs to be drawn
between a state and a regime. The former is the impersonal body of rules and institutions
that are expected to carry the burden on an ongoing basis of fulfilling
public needs. The latter is a particular group of individuals who hold the authority
to make public decisions during a particular period of time. In post-war situations,
the procedure for deciding who should comprise an interim regime often entails
negotiations that arrange for power-sharing among certain leaders who led factions
or forces during the war, and thus, who continue to be looked to for implementing
the peace agreement. The resulting ruling regimes are usually temporary
and expected to give way to more formal and rule-governed ways to select leaders
and make policy, such as through elections and constitutional provisions; thus,
the workings of a state.
However, the shift from power-sharing regimes to a rule-bound state is often
beset by divisive conflicts among those initial leaders and their respective constituencies,
even if some ultimately win a scheduled election. Alternatively, the leaders
may collude in ways that do not serve the wider public’s interest. Typically, the
links that power brokers in a fragile state have to anything like a general citizenry
are weak, and operate through faction-based networks. There is little separation
between the private and public domains. Thus, power-sharing agreements can act
as a fig leaf that obscures important issues, such as whether the leaders are accepted
as legitimate and act accountably, adequately represent and reconcile competing
interests, and thus can build a sustainable peace.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 51
Can International Mediation Incentivize
Leaders for Post-Conflict State-Building? 16
One of the strategies employed by the US and international community in failed
and fragile states is state-building. During the Cold War period, state-building
was perceived by the United States government as supporting authoritarianism,
undermining its ideological goal of promoting democracy worldwide in the race
against the Soviet Union. Therefore, civil society's role in weak states was to rise up
and challenge the state. Now however, there has been a shift in the opposite direction
where participatory, accountable state-building has become one of the pillars
of reconstruction policy.
What, then, can a post-conflict mediator do to foster a participatory and accountable
form of state-building? In a nutshell, one cannot force a country to be
democratic, nor by extension, to be efficient or effective. That is a contradiction in
terms. What can be done is to give a country a chance at democracy and then accept
the consequences. With this caveat that third parties cannot do a great deal to
ensure the result, the answer to the question has three parts. First, it is not in the
post-conflict mediation but in the agreement structures themselves that something
can be achieved. Second, it is not in the hands of the mediator but those of the
country whether it will achieve democracy and state-building. Third, nevertheless,
carrots and sticks can be provided to influence that process as it moves along.
Two insights support the first contention that the agreement structure can help
to promote state-building. Involvement of a mediator at the beginning in developing
a post-conflict agreement structure is essential. Additionally, the goals for
an ongoing society have to be incorporated in the peace agreement. As William
Zartman pointed out, "[the mediator] cannot get people to lay down arms if they
do not know what they are laying down arms for, since they took them up for a reason."
Elements like power sharing, type of electoral system, independent judicial
system, a free press, involvement of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions
(TRC), and constitutional principles must be addressed in the agreement if the
conflict is expected to draw to a close.
Constitutional principles need not mean the whole constitution, however. In
the successful case of Namibia, general principles were written into the peace
agreement, but the constitution itself came later. Similarly in South Africa, although
the accord included considerably more about the constitution by saying
that certain parts were unchangeable, details were left to be tinkered with as the
country moved towards a shift in power. Therefore, it is in the agreement structure
that mediators have the most efficient means and best chance to set up an accountable,
participatory state. If they do not achieve this goal during this stage, the
52 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
window of opportunity to achieve post-conflict peace could close.
In some situations, the mediator may have considerable leverage over the structure
or substance of the agreement. This is afforded most dramatically when the
previous state structure has been destroyed, as happened in Iraq. But leverage can
exist far short of that. If the mediator has sufficient leverage to hold the structure
or the substance, the opportunity exists to give the country’s citizens a chance to
take the structure into their own hands. A tactical question the mediator must
address is whether to bring the extremists into the talks, as they could prevent any
kind of agreement. It will never be known, for example, what would have happened
in Rwanda in 1993-4 if the Hutu CDR extremists had been brought into
the Arusha talks.
In other cases, such as Sri Lanka, the mediator may not have sufficient leverage
vis-à-vis the warring parties to hold that structure in his or her hands. In this
circumstance, there is little the mediator can do. Either he or she is invited in or
alternately, takes the initiative and has enough leverage. In any case, the present
structure of international relations means that third party mediators from international
organizations or mediator states are expected to deal with their counterparts,
which are the leaders of the state. In state-to-state relations, the mediator does not put
people in power, but deals with the people who are in power. Even though this grants
the mediator an opportunity to develop good relations with the country to which he or
she is accredited, this “diplomacy as usual” approach can create problems.
Second, in Zartman’s words, "the mediator can set the machine running and
turn the crank, but it has to go by itself down the road." If instead, various crutches
are written into the agreement, such as providing for the mediator to always be involved
afterwards, this can become habit-forming. The country will never be left
on its own to learn to deal with its own conflicts and never develop the capacity to
handle its own problems.
Third, notwithstanding the need to let the country go on its own, one can still
utilize diplomatic tools, such as applying carrots and sticks, to keep the machine
somewhat on track and for developing its capacity and effectiveness. Capacity and
effectiveness are the keys to state building. A state whose capacity and effectiveness
is well-anchored is a state that is responsive to its people by being participatory
and accountable. In that sense, the crux of the problem is to listen to the needs
and requirements of the people, as well as to the requirements of peace and conflict
resolution. In regard to Iraq, it has been argued that the US has not failed
to provide for a democratic society; there is more democracy there than existed
before. However, the US did not provide services from the very beginning, did
not buttress the new government so it could be effective, did not provide for disarmament,
demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DDRR), and did not
develop local organizations.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 53
To the extent that actors see
themselves as engaging in a long-term
process of building the fundamental
rules of the state through constitutional
deliberation and participating in an
ongoing series of elections, the parties’
commitment to accepting a cease fire
and programs like disarmament and
demobilization is likely to come easier.”
Equally important in keeping the machine on track is the support of regional
organizations and neighbors in upholding standards—in other words, what the
new state has to do to be an upstanding participant in the international community.
In Mauritania, the July 2009 elections may have been flawed in some aspects,
as opposition leaders claimed, and the election of military strongman Abd Al-Aziz
was preordained. However, at least the important step was taken to try to remain
within the international community by holding elections and putting in a government
that has been elected, and this has met with general international approval.
Another important aspect of state-building is to support inclusion. One of the
greatest grievances in conflicts today is the exclusion of groups, whether minorities
or majorities, each of whom believe they deserve a role in the determination
of their own affairs.
These carrots and sticks require that the international community stay engaged
once the peace has been installed. Peace is the precondition, no doubt, but peace
has to carry with it the promise of justice, of effectiveness, and of handling grievances
that led to the conflict. Outside actors need to remain involved to reward
the positive actions that are taken and punish deviations from that path. Examples
of sustained peace due to the continued presence of international agents can be
cited. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, legitimate leaders came to power and support
was given in various degrees to ongoing governance. In South Africa, the people
themselves were responsible for keeping the train on the track in their post-conflict
situation. In this case, there was international support, but not mediation after the
54 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
signed agreement. One could cite also countries such as Mozambique, Namibia,
and Northern Ireland.
However, other cases are not as exemplary. In Haiti, there was no agreement,
and the initially legitimate ruler who came to power became delegitimized when
the international community dropped its support. As the international learning
curve came into play, more support was provided to the succeeding government.
In Cyprus, a sound agreement was mediated but ultimately rejected by one side.
Although there is no agreement, a government was legitimized through a claim
that it represented the whole country. Yet the situation involves continued conflict,
and support for moving towards an effective agreement is forthcoming
One option that can be used more consistently is to adopt aid policies that
directly support civil society, as in countries such as the Democratic Republic of
Congo, South Africa, and others. At the post-agreement stage, more than the state
needs support. Where there are limits to what can be done in initially determining
the structure of a country that still needs outside aid, standards can be established
in the region as a whole and further carrots and sticks applied. Even in a case
like Sri Lanka, where the government won the war, the region and the world can
establish standards that are required for the government to regain legitimacy and
recognition. Further benefits would not be forthcoming unless there is some kind
of inter-ethnic reconciliation. For example, Sri Lanka may at some point need aid;
an appropriate response would be to make opening up to the minorities in society
a condition to receiving that aid. In such a context, an opportunity exists for training
and fostering local ownership of the structure.
In sum, mediating the agreement structure provides a promising opportunity
to build a participatory and accountable state. After that, it is largely out of the
mediators’ hands. However, by staying engaged, carrots and sticks can be used to
help keep state-building processes on track.
How Can Elections and Constitution-
Formulation Promote State-Building? 17
One of the most common policy instruments used by the US government and the
international community in post-conflict situations is to try to ensure accountable
and effective leaders of its support for elections. In post-civil war scenarios, an
election that implements the peace agreement is basically inevitable. In the last ten
to fifteen years, the world has had a democracy-dominant system, and just about
every peace agreement has led to an election. Post-conflict elections are often seen
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 55
as fundamental to peacekeeping, for a large peacekeeping operation needs to have
an exit strategy, which elections tend to serve. The Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia in 1997, for example, wanted a way out of
the violent situation in the wake of the election of Charles Taylor, and used the
election to justify their departure, although they would return 6 years later to help
remove Taylor. International financial institutions also often want an election so
that the country can move from a transitional status to large-scale economic development.
It could be argued whether or not this pattern is a good thing, but it is
very likely to persist.
Rather than regard elections solely from the perspective of how much they help
support and deepen democracy, as is frequently done by those who study democratization,
they can be approached from the angle of conflict resolution and war
termination, raising a different set of considerations. Elections can be viewed as
more than a distinct task to be tackled on its own. As previous discussions have
emphasized, in post-conflict settings, security needs to be a principal priority. If
that piece is not in place, the next level of issues such as democratization and the
rule of law cannot likely be resolved. If that piece is in place, however, the larger,
more complex process of encouraging a transition from civil war to sustainable
peace becomes possible. So what role is left to elections when they are viewed as a
In a significant literature on elections and constitutions, analysts argue that
certain constitutional or electoral system engineering can produce peaceful outcomes.
For example, they argue that if a proportional representation system or
various structures for allocating governmental authority are put in position, peace
can be promoted and conflicts prevented from returning. This argument has never
been quite convincing. For one thing, it presumes that such structures are already
put in place, whereas the challenge is how to get there. As Don Rothchild once
observed, “The short-term security concerns of the bargaining parties may be at
odds with the long-term institution-building needs of the society.’’ The tension
between the short-term and the long-term is part of the problem that needs to
What can be done in the short-term that encourages long-term institutionbuilding
and yet does not put immediate security at risk or derail implementation
of the peace process? Election support can be approached as a step in an overall
political process for ongoing nonviolent competition. That is, elections are just
one part of a larger iterative process involving multiple rounds of negotiations,
problem solving, and consultations. As stated by Terrence Lyons, “To the extent
that actors see themselves as engaging in a long-term process of building the fundamental
rules of the state through constitutional deliberation and participating
in an ongoing series of elections, the parties’ commitment to accepting a cease fire
56 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
and programs like disarmament and demobilization is likely to come easier.” If
elections can help to shift actors’ thinking and redefine their major concerns from
a short-term “winner-take-all” mentality to a longer term perspective, successful
war termination can be reinforced by being framed within a longer-term process
that includes constitutional deliberations and democratization. In this way, the
process of democratization will make the winning parties feel more secure and
willing to keep playing by the rules, rather than returning to the practices of violent
fighting and predation. When looking at questions of organizing and supporting
elections and of forming a constitution, the main question that needs to
be asked is “Does this process help turn a short term, zero-sum, winner-take-all
game into a much longer-term game?”
Concretely, how can such a longer-term perspective be brought about? From a
peacebuilding point of view, what is more important than an election itself, is the
anticipation and process of getting to voting day. What is done then can shape
the actors way and degree of engaging in the process. Preparations for elections
provide numerous opportunities to transform parties from pursuing the logic of
conflict to working more harmoniously with one another in a process of peaceful
political competition. For example, before Election Day, a multi-party electoral
commission normally will be formed that includes members of the warring parties
who signed the peace agreement. The process of building that commission and letting
it begin information-sharing and problem-solving can matter more than the
specific election rules. Implementing that kind of dialogue before an election is
extremely useful in getting actors who had been engaged in mutual violence into a
relationship of peaceful competition.
The lead-up to post-conflict elections also provides opportunities to transform
militias and other armed organizations that have thrived in a context of
violence into institutions that can operate in a period of peace. A classic example
is Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), which moved from being a
predatory violent organization into a political organization that was able to run
for election. This happened because of specific international policies and funds, by
which the United Nations Special Representative took deliberate actions to bring
it about. A further example is El Salvador, where both the Nationalist Republican
Alliance (ARENA) and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN)
groups transformed themselves into organizations that were ready to engage in
elections. They became confident that if they engaged in an election campaign
and poll, they could succeed or at least not be eliminated.
A similar approach can be taken to constitution-drafting. The fundamental
shift from short-term to long-term may be furthered or reinforced if a constitution-drafting
process is used to encourage parties to focus on developing their
longer-term strategies. In other words, rather than the parties focusing the short-
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 57
term on the immediate threats and opportunities for their security—how can
they win or lose, where they are at risk of being wiped out—they are encouraged
instead to ask themselves what constitutional principles they want to shape the
political process that is to follow. In that way, a constitutional drafting process
becomes a mechanism for lengthening the shadow of the future into the present.
It encourages the parties to focus on deciding their roles in a post-conflict, sustainable
peace-building process for the years to come. Evidence from case studies on
actual constitution-drafting processes also suggests that, to the degree that those
processes can be more deliberative, they will support sustainable conflict resolution
Understandably, certain context-specific factors may make this approach difficult
to achieve. Seeking inclusiveness, for example, may become a trap, if inclusiveness
merely entrenches the actors and constituencies that generated the conflict
to begin with. In cases such as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lebanon, where social
divisions were made constitutional and fundamental to the governing structure, it
is less likely that inclusiveness will be conducive to long-term peace. Yet, it is often
extremely difficult to figure out who are the key stakeholders and political actors
in the immediate aftermath of a state collapse or a protracted civil war. In Liberia,
the Abuja Accords allowed for every warring faction to have two members in the
interim cabinet. It was only after the 1997 elections that it became clear how much
Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) actually dominated
the political scene. A number of other parties were in fact weightless factions who
by virtue of their small constituencies did not warrant being regarded as key stakeholders.
The rest is history, as they say, as Taylor instituted an authoritarian and
violent regime that was finally overthrown through joint African (ECOWAS) and
US Marine intervention that allowed for a UN mandate to oversee a transitional
government and peace process, resulting in democratic elections in 2005-6.
The same risk faces constitutional-drafting. Before things become clearer, the
perceived key stakeholders and parties may not turn out to be the parties that
endure. They may thrive in a conflict context but are not dedicated to more fundamental,
underlying social interests. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in
Sierra Leone, for example, ended up with almost no votes in the post-conflict election
and faded away. The RUF was a war organization that worked well in a milieu
of violence and chaos, but not as an organization able to transform into representing
a constituency during peacetime.
Obviously, any effort to encourage local actors to approach elections as a political
opportunity will run into those among them who feel they have sufficient
power already so that this approach does not add to their position. In 1997, Charles
Taylor in Liberia was approached in an effort to encourage him to support the idea
of a post-election power-sharing pact. The case was made that the stakes would
58 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
not be so high in the election and there would likely be a smoother transition.
Taylor replied to the group that such an agreement would violate the Abuja Peace
Agreement. The idea could not be enforced because the Economic Community of
West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was leaving and the UN was
not interested. Leverage over Taylor did not exist, so he showed no willingness to
engage in this agenda. He could continue to play the warlord with his militia to
obtain resources and dominate the scene until 2003.
If leaders are thus bent on pursuing their narrow interests as they presently see
them, what are realistic options for international policymakers? One entree for
speaking to the rational calculations of actors is that many warring factions in a
post-conflict peace-building situation are in fact split or divided. Some within the
movements believe the best way forward is the civilian route through elections,
whereas more distrustful individuals perceive this option to be a trap, therefore
holding onto their weapons and organized militias. If the balance is 90 percent for
guns and 10 percent for elections, there is little the international community can
do. However, where the ratio is 51 to 49 or is fluid, it is realistic to think that the
international community can make a difference. By a small margin, the majority
in the movement may be swayed to pursue the peace path, bury their guns, and
go into elections.
The international community can also influence that choice by reducing the
attractiveness of the military option through offering demobilization and disarmament
incentives, as well as by having credible peacekeeping operations on the
ground. These measures can lead the parties to feel they can overcome the security
dilemma and not be at risk by demobilizing. Disincentives to continued violence
can also be introduced in the region, such as when neighboring countries close
their borders so armed groups cannot cross them at will to carry out armed activities,
or by imposing sanctions on activities that support an armed group across the
border. These steps reduce the attraction of armed options. At the same time, the
election option can be made more credible by working with the electoral commission;
bringing in election monitors, both domestic and international to develop international
standards for elections; and preparing the parties to compete. In sum,
while there are hard cases where the international community cannot shape the
direction of events, there are also close cases where elections and constitution processes
have openings and opportunities. Although not easy or guaranteed to work,
these are well worth pursuing.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 59
How Can Training Enable Leaders to
Govern Effectively? 18
The key weak spots in fragile states discussed above—such as security, authority,
or legitimacy—are about desired end states. The evidently best prioritization of
policies aimed at remedying those conditions has been outlined. However, academic
research and diplomatic practice also need to examine the specific methods
and programs through which to reach those end states and operationalize those
priorities. Lacking those methods, we tend to fall back on a set of implicit assumptions
that the Western world uses in implementing its peacebuilding efforts.
One of those assumptions is that the real challenges are structural, institutional,
and intellectual. In other words, if you simply educate people or create a
proper understanding of the kind of institutions that need to be put in place, by
establishing those structures you will end up with stable, enduring democratic
societies. In almost every instance, those structures turn out essentially to be replicas
of what we know and are familiar with in the Western world. If we replicate
Western structures, we think we are heading toward achieving sustainable peace.
Those assumptions are flawed for several reasons. To begin with, the fundamental
challenges in these societies are neither structural or intellectual; rather,
they lie in the realm of social psychology. The starting point of the analysis should
be to understand that these are sharply divided societies, in which oftentimes even
the definition of the nation is contested. Where the definition of the nation is less
contested, the members of that society may still not see themselves as connected
or part of the same political system. Further, there is no set of common understandings
about the rules of the game or about modes of discourse, resulting in
these attitudes often pervading these societies. Corruption, for example, is more a
symptom than a cause of state failure. Fundamentally, corruption reflects the fact
that people do not see each other as part of the same system. Within the existing
“winner-take-all” mentality, everyone is left to fend for themselves, and that perception
tends to cumulate in the institutionalization of corrupt practices.
In the fields of Western diplomacy and public policy, the notion of advancing
democracy tends to mean strengthening the competitive aspects of democratic
societies. Western societies frame what they do in terms of John Stuart Mill’s
adversarial paradigm, in which the competition of ideas and of interests is believed
to yield to the best policy. From that it is assumed that if people can express
themselves freely, there will be less violence. What we neglect, however, is that
underlying every Western stable society in which elections and competition are
part of the fabric of democracy, a set of fundamental agreements exists about what
constitutes the nation-state, the rules of the game, and how people deal with each
60 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Had any observer walked
into the workshop, they would
have thought the former
combatants were all from the
same political party.”
other in terms of modes of discourse. If you introduce elections or focus policies
on increasing competition in unstable societies where these underlying conditions
are not in place, you can increase instability; not achieve stability.
Consequently, the fundamental challenge in post-conflict societies is not
strengthening their competitive processes, but strengthening their collaborative
capacities. This refers to the ability of people to recognize that they are in the same
boat, that there is value in collaborating even with former enemies or potential
competitors, and that they can emerge stronger through collaboration with those
with whom they are interdependent. If change can occur in the paradigm from a
“zero-sum, winner-take-all” mentality to a recognition of interdependence and the
possibility of win-win strategies, sustainable peace is much more likely. These attitudes
cannot be taught. One can lecture about democracy or human rights, but
those concepts will become part of the culture only when key leaders of the society
redefine and understand their self-interests differently.
Nevertheless, both international diplomats and nationals often say that the
problem in these societies is that everyone only advances their own self-interest,
and no one cares about the larger public good. But any elected politician anywhere
knows that if his or her constituents feel that there is some tension between the
public interest and private/personal interest, it is quite obvious which prevails. It is
pointless to try to persuade people to be altruistic or think about the larger public
interest. A more fruitful approach is to figure out how to appeal to self-interest. In
other words, to encourage people to consider whether what they are doing is actually
compromising their security and their prospects for prosperity.
So how specifically can one redefine self-interest? This cannot be done by simply
focusing on establishing institutions. Instead, it can be done by identifying
key leaders from a full spectrum of sectors in a society—including civil society,
political, and military—who are each in a position to influence others and to set
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 61
the stage for societal transformation. The next step is to bring them into a process
of training that engages them in a process of relationship building and conflict
deconstruction, not with debating policies. As the discussion of elections above
suggests, process can be much more important than substance. Eighty percent of
conflict resolution is process while twenty percent is substance.
Consequently, what the Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity
(Leadership Project) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
has been doing in recent years in places like Burundi, Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC), Liberia, and East Timor is to engage key leaders in a training program
that spans two or more years and is directed at building their collaborative
capacities. Specifically, it is directed at changing the “winner-take-all” paradigm
by prioritizing collaboration instead of competition. Its second aim is to rebuild
the trust that has been fractured by conflict. Third, it takes up how one goes
about organizing and sharing power, as well as making public decisions. Finally, it
empowers people by providing them new tools and skills of communications and
negotiations. In this way, the participants in the program gain the capacity to put
themselves in the shoes of others and identify ways of satisfying the interests of
belligerent parties altogether.
The training strategy has very little didactic lecture material, but a lot of interactive
exercises. It uses simulations in which people are put into situations where
they are confronted with the kinds of dilemmas and choices they must make in
the real world. However, because these are simulated situations, when they sit
down to evaluate their behavior after the exercise, they are much less defensive.
They are more objective in appraising what worked and what did not, what might
have been done differently, what lessons were learned and how to apply them in a
real world context.
In the first three days of the initial six-day retreat, there is no talk about the
country or any public business with the leaders. Strangely, many diplomats think
it makes sense when they bring people to sit together who are in conflict and distrust
each other that the interaction should start with the issues that divide them.
In this scenario, all the participants will do is defend their own positions and
nothing will be accomplished. The better approach is to engage in process first.
The first three days of the workshop involve very intensive work on communications,
negotiating skills, analysis of conflict, and understanding of the conditioned
nature of perceptions. Trainers have discovered that it takes no more than three
days to break down the barriers between adversarial participants. Once these barriers
fall, people no longer look at each other from within their ethnic or political
boxes, but instead, accept each other as individuals that may have different interests
and perspectives, but that they can begin to collaborate.
As far as results of these workshops are concerned, a number of evaluations
62 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
have been conducted of these trainings in both Burundi and the DRC. To briefly
pick out some findings, mention can be made of the influence of the workshop
on the first election cycle that took place in the transitional phase in Burundi.
The results bear out the idea presented earlier about using elections as a mechanism
for building cohesion. As the election was approaching in 2005, Burundians
were fearful that it was going to mean more assassinations and inter-communal
massacres as had happened in 1993. People tend to think of elections as a means
of creating competition. The training program decided to form an alliance with
the Independent Burundi Electoral Commission as well as the United Nations to
carry out a six-day retreat for the top leaders of the then thirty-one political parties.
The week-long retreat was framed as an effort to prepare for the management
of the elections and was designed along the lines described above.
At first, the participants were frightened, hostile, and did not want to be there.
They felt they had to participate because they thought it was part of getting ready
for the election. However, by the end of the week, as Howard Wolpe recalled,
“Had any observer walked into the workshop, he would have thought the former
combatants were all from the same political party.” When the retreat turned to
substantive issues and gave the participants the opportunity to identify the principal
challenges that faced the upcoming election, they ended up writing their own
electoral code of conduct, which became the official code and was immediately
promulgated by the minister. They also issued a joint proclamation or communiqué
that was signed by all the parties in order to reassure the public of their joint
determination to work for elections without violence or intimidation. They also
demanded more joint training. A month later, they were brought together again
for two more days in Bujumbura. In that second training session, they decided to
invite the media to be present so they could directly observe the participants collaborating
instead of fighting. The result was that Burundi held a very successful
election. So there are ways to turn elections into a much more constructive, useful
and collaborative process. Generally speaking, the transitioning from pre-election
to post-election will be smoother when this kind of work is done.
In Burundi, as well as DRC and Liberia, the Woodrow Wilson Center has been
asked by the governments and key leaders to continue the work after elections.
Three weeks after the Burundian election took place, the new president requested
training for the entire new council of ministers and parliamentary leaders. When
a crisis took place a year later and the country arrived at a total political impasse,
the Wilson Center helped break that logjam by bringing together a high level retreat.
This involved all the former presidents of the country and top leaders of all
the institutions—military, political, and civil society. In addition, at the request of
the Minister of Defense, the most recent effort is to provide a Training of Trainers
series to begin institutionalizing these techniques in the military academy, so that
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 63
What was driving their
extremism was their fear
and stereotypes of the
64 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
every officer will have the skills of building cohesion. Thus far, the high commands
of the army and of the national police have been trained.
There are certain keys to making this process work. One cardinal principle is
that the third party actors are merely facilitators who do not intrude into matters
of substance. The substance is for the participants to determine. They are invited to
identify what they see as the principal challenges on any subject they see necessary.
After the participants break out of three very intense days of process exercises and
form into working groups, they take the new tools, skills, and relationships and
apply them to challenges in their society that they have identified. They diagnose
the problem, identify policy alternatives, and begin to devise a plan of action.
Essential to this process is the perception that the third party is neutral and
nonpartisan. An understandable conventional wisdom about peace processes is
the notion that regional engagement is crucial to a local peace process. Very often,
however, the regional states that play the third party role are themselves partisans
in the local conflict, and so the mediators are often suspect, depending on their
nationalities. Neutrality is absolutely indispensable. By the same token, the third
party needs to reframe the usual role and image of third-party intervention from
that of being a mediator, to that of being a facilitator, meaning that one does not
intrude in the substance of discussions. The role is to create political space for
bringing belligerent parties together, help to build their confidence and relationships,
and provide tools and skills that can be useful for decision making.
Consequently, the initiative has to make it crystal clear from the beginning that
it is not creating an alternative negotiating venue. It is stated very explicitly to the
leaders that the workshop is not a decision-making body, but rather, an effort to
enable them to take what they learn from the experience into their own structures
so as to make decisions. The fact that it is conceived as a capacity-building rather
than a negotiating mechanism depoliticizes the milieu surrounding the activity.
This does not mean that it does not have profoundly political implications; quite
the contrary. However, it is much easier for people who are threatened or suspicious
of one another to come into a process that involves capacity-building for
themselves and others individually.
Further, the subsequent workshops need to be driven by the nationals. Actually,
the individuals who experience the process usually want everyone else to experience
it as well. “When they walk out of the training into their society and realize
that no one else has had the training, they face a real challenge. But the process is
theirs; it is not the initiative’s job to impose a direction on them or try to give them
advice,” Wolpe observed. Despite the lip service that is paid to the notion of local
ownership and grassroots participation, external actors need to resist the temptation
to provide substantive guidance.
Another key is the selection process. It is essential to bring the most appropriate
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 65
participants on board and to have them agree to come into the process. How this
task is handled varies from country to country. When the work began in Burundi,
about seventy leaders of institutions were asked to come up with lists of names of
Burundians whom they considered will influence the future of their country for
better or for worse. The procedure produced about 340 names of persons that the
respondents thought should be invited to the process. However the selection is
done, the recruitment needs to depend heavily on the perceptions of nationals as
to who are the key players.
The Wilson Center's experience with this selection procedure sheds light on the
question of whether to involve hardliners. The inclination of the project to include
so-called extremists, in addition to moderates, has been reinforced. In Burundi,
for example, two names on the list were known to be extremely hard-line Tutsis.
If any government had run this process, these individuals would not have been invited.
But the project was free to do so and made the decision based on the participants’
preferences to invite them. This turned out to be one of the best decisions
that was made. What was driving their extremism was their fear and stereotypes
of the other participants. When those were broken through, the participants went
through the most dramatic transformation of any of the participants. Today, one
of them is a leading general in the country who has worked under both Hutu and
Tutsi presidents and become the principal force for military integration and reform.
Excluding extremists by assuming they are irrelevant to maintaining a peace
agreement will render it ineffective at the end of the day.
Another key is having international leverage. Some have argued that if a conflict
is ripe, people will be more amenable to entering this kind of process. However,
the program has found that it is its leverage that has enabled the initiative to attract
the participants and to achieve progress with them. While the ripeness of
a conflict is important, so is leverage. Unfortunately, openings for carrying out
this kind of process have often been missed. In Iraq, for example, once Saddam
Hussein was overthrown, there was a brief window when the United States could
have pulled together the top leadership of the country and created this kind of process
of beginning to take ownership of the transition. In Burundi, Julius Nyerere
was the regional facilitator at the beginning of the peace process. The idea of doing
this kind of work with the negotiating delegations that were being assembled was
suggested to him. However, he did not understand the process, and possibly felt
threatened by it, so he rejected it. Had Nyerere decided to merge this kind of
training strategy with his facilitation of the negotiations, it could have made his
job much easier—possibly shortening the negotiations by a couple of years and
saving thousands of lives. If this kind of method can get leverage, it can do things
that would not otherwise be achievable.
Finally, due to the challenges of conducting the training and having them pro-
66 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
duce concrete progress in furthering the peace process, this kind of engagement
requires the involvement of both diplomatic practitioners and trainers. Diplomats
assigned to a country by donor governments and multilateral institutions can help
to establish the core importance of conducting this type of approach. They also
can help to identify the other ingredients and sequencing that needs to be part of
the peace process for each country. Unfortunately, although diplomats can provide
access to national leaders and can comprehend the regional environment, they are
not trained in the techniques and skills of institutional or conflict transformation,
nor often, even in mediation or negotiation skills. Trainers, on the other hand, are
more focused on small-group team-building rather than the wider turf wars and
other political challenges of transforming a dysfunctional system into an effective
state. They have the skills but seldom have ready access to national leaders or influence
over the political dynamics of the society. Consequently, what is required for
moving forward is to build a new synergy between diplomats and trainers in the
application of more holistic peace and development strategies.
Building State Capacities for Governance
Another key deficit in fragile states is their limited capacity to provide basic
services such as health, education, and justice, as well as security. As indicated
above, making such services available is an early imperative in postconflict
How Can Governments’ Delivery of
Basic Services Be Strengthened? 19
Valuable analysis on how to improve basic services in fragile states was produced
recently by a multi-donor committee called the Fragile States Group under the
Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. The World Bank’s World
Development Report of 2004 focused on service delivery for the poor, but much of
it concerned the better performing, more stable developing countries. At about the
same time, many donors were issuing their initial policy papers on the problem
of state fragility in particular, in which they argued that fragile state situations
needed to be treated differently from more conventional settings for development.
Consequently, the World Bank report raised the question for many donors of how
service delivery needed to be approached differently in countries characterized by
fragility and instability, not only in more favorable environments for development.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 67
The Fragile States Group decided to gather some policy recommendations that took
into account the differing contexts in which better service delivery is needed.
The study focused on four service domains where providers are expected to
deliver services to clients: education, health, water and sanitation, and security.
Cross-donor technical working groups were set up in each of these areas, with
technical experts for each group. The technical groups also spawned two self-organized
networks—one on health and the other on education—that reached out to
non-governmental organizations who work in these areas. 20 This two-plus years of
work was significant both as an instance of multilateral cooperation on common
policy issues and in producing a remarkable amount of work that crystallized the
initial analyses the donors had been doing. Interest has substantially increased
within the wider development community in how to approach state-building in
fragile environments. In particular, the discussions led to several substantive findings
that were entirely unexpected.
The Group originally expected this work to focus on technical matters about
how one works around the problems in fragile states. For example, one such question
is how to deal with corruption in unstable contexts, particularly with regard
to education and health programs that were receiving a large amount of donor
funding. But a fundamental finding of the inquiry was that the focus should shift
away from how to improve the public administration of fragile states, thus viewed
as a matter of state capacity. Instead, the emphasis should be placed on the relationships
that exist between citizens and their government—or in the terms of
Part I, on state-society relations. Consequently, that perspective became the core
of a new convergence among donors regarding what is fragile about fragile states
and what state-building is about in those settings.
This insight resulted from reflection on a breakthrough in the World
Development Report, namely, that service delivery was not simply a technical
question of how providers deliver a service to clients. Effective service delivery
requires mechanisms for accountability, which can be achieved in two basic ways.
The long route looks at the relationship between clients and policymakers through
an election or other process that influences top government officials. In principle,
this route allows beneficiaries of the services, as citizens, to identify their priorities
in terms of the range of services desired and their quality. Policymakers then
have to exert their authority on providers to ensure the provision of those services.
The providers might be internal to the government or non-governmental providers
such as the private commercial sector, non-profit sector, or religious institutions.
The short route of accountability involves more direct relationships between clients
and providers. For example, when a parent of a child in school speaks with
the teacher about the way lessons are being taught, some degree of client power is
exercised regarding how that service is delivered.
68 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
However, the Group realized that in contexts of state fragility, the relationships
of clients to policymaker and of policymakers to providers do not exist. There
was no long route to accountability. Instead, what you generally have are donors
or other organizations stepping in to provide support to services through some
separate parallel process. Even if national governments have ceded formal responsibility
for services to local governments, local governments are also left out of the
equation. Essentially, a vacuum exists that invites non-state actors to step in. The
alternative non-state providers also have no necessary accountability directly to
clients, so the short route is absent as well.
It also became evident that whatever modest relationships did exist between
clients and their providers might actually have a negative effect. Sometimes, the
providers are perfectly benign private sector or non-governmental organizations.
But as in the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon or, as recently argued, the Taliban in
the Swat Valley in Pakistan, they offer services in a way that donors might not
consider as benign. As Tjip Walker observed, “There’s no guarantee that these
service providers are any more accountable than the government is.” Another
important finding was that, no matter which service domain you look at, the
socially pervasive nature of fragility is evident. If there are problems of exclusion
in the society writ large, for example, they are also manifested in the education
and health sectors. If there is corruption, it manifests itself in each and every one
of these sectors.
These findings led to the single most important conclusion to come out of the
Fragile State Group’s work. To the extent that the state is left out of the discussion
and a range of non-governmental actors substitutes for it, the process of recovery
from fragility is retarded. It followed that the most important state-building
requirement was to forge relationships between citizens and their governments,
and relationships in particular that permit negotiation about what their mutual
compact is going to be.
A related realization was that the argument that state fragility impacts service
delivery was actually backwards. The proper argument is the reverse—improving
the character of service delivery can itself be part of the process of state-building
and reducing fragility. Those accountability relationships need to be developed
so the focus should not be simply on technical competencies. The issue is not so
much whether, for example, teachers are trained. Rather, it is a matter of whether
education is seen as a public service in which parents, students, teachers, and the
government are engaged together in working out appropriate goals, how these
goals will be achieved, and how to hold each other mutually accountable.
The inquiry also came to the realization that a distinction needs to be made between
provision, on the one hand, and production on the other. Provision involves
assuring that something is done and production is the doing of it. For example, a
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 69
local government in the United States may assure that garbage collection is provided
but the service itself may be contracted out to a private sector entity. Or the
local government could undertake the collection itself as a basic state function.
The usual discourse on service delivery issues often neglects to make the critical
distinction between these two roles, which raises the question of what the appropriate
role of the state is.
Regarding the difference between provision versus production, one of the most
surprising findings concerned the issues of security and justice. In most developed
societies, non-state actors provide somewhere on the order of 60 percent of security
and justice services to the population. However, in fragile states, that amount
climbs to 90 percent. In other words, when it comes to fragile situations, the
classic Weberian notion that the state should have a monopoly of force has little
basis. Again, there is often a mixture of benign, perfectly effective and responsible
organizations as well as not so benign organizations. Also, the people who
provide the justice and security services may also be providing the education and
In view of these discoveries, the overall task becomes one of rebalancing the
roles and responsibilities in service delivery to make sure that appropriate organizations
are doing the provision and other organizations are doing the producing.
Where government has never played the production role or had to relinquish it
to private sector and non-governmental entities, it is probably unwise to decide
to throw all that existing capacity out in order to establish or re-establish a statebased
system. Some non-traditional service delivery mechanisms may be needed,
or contracting out basic services, at least for a time, until state capacity can manage
them. The point is not to necessarily replicate what was done before, but to determine
which roles the differing actors can best play in the future, and then train
for them. Pertinent policy questions are: What should the core state functions be?
What does the state itself need to do? What should the national government do
versus local government? If the government is going to take less of a direct provision
role, for example, more attention needs to be given to developing mechanisms
for managing a contracted-out system and to establishing standards and evaluative
criteria, rather than to gearing up the state to produce health or education
One idea that has been advocated recently is that donors create an independent
service authority in a given country. This is a quasi-governmental institution or
body that would contract with NGOs to provide services in a sort of parallel service
sector. It contrasts with an earlier European model that established a whole
set of ministries which then implement public services but do not use non-state
providers. Something like this is already done when donors fund NGOs to provide
health or education or other services. However, that model would obviously
70 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
...One reason Haiti has
had such difficulties
was that for way too
long, the donors were
basically providing all of
the services. Because
there was no connection
between citizens and
their government, there
was no sense of mutual
Responding to Fragile States
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 71
not be sustainable. What is needed instead is a system that engages citizens of the
state. Paul Collier has raised the question of why a capital city-based bureaucracy
should be responsible for all the activities entailed in implementing state health
services or education services. He suggests it is better to focus on what the core
functions of the state should be.
To take the example of health services, what should the government’s key tasks
be? One such task may be to decide the overall health priorities. However, with
regard to actually delivering the services, there is a variety of ways in which a state
can arrange for effective health delivery. Collier advises separating the policy function
from the funding of various actors to undertake delivery. The funding might
be taken out of the ministry and a separate structure created for funding and oversight.
This strategy is similar to that which the World Bank adopts in highly corrupt,
weak states. Yet the challenge is figuring out how that kind of ad hoc structure,
which comes and goes with the Bank presence, can be made permanent.
The idea of a similar structure came out of the OECD, which was called the
Partnership for Democratic Governance. Under this, support would be provided
to countries that were interested in doing innovative contracting-out kinds of arrangements.
However, certain cautions need to be mentioned to avoid replicating
the past mistakes. In the OECD-DAC’s work on Haiti, it was found that one
reason Haiti has had such difficulties was that for way too long, the donors
were basically providing all of the services. Because there was no connection
between citizens and their government, there was no sense of mutual accountability.
Whatever kind of performance management contracts are set up, an accountability
relationship clearly needs to be built in between service providers
and their clients. Also, this process cannot let the government off the hook.
Government still needs to have a role to play in services provision, such as
in establishing the overall policy dimensions or providing some monitoring
and evaluation of the services. Ultimately, that kind of long route of accountability
needs to be established.
Finally, it is evident that in post-conflict countries at least, a series of business
models is at work that may come into conflict. First, a well-established humanitarian
business model emphasizes saving lives. It has a built-in system of contracting
arrangements, expectations and benchmarks. There is also a longer-term development
business model with a similar set of procedures. The fragile states work led to
a growing recognition of a third, intermediary business model that is still in formation.
This emerging system creates tensions with both the humanitarian model
and the development model.
In the case of the humanitarian model, the emphasis on urgently saving lives,
irrespective of what else stands in the way, often leads to by passing state organizations.
To the extent that this model operates, state building cannot begin to be
72 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
addressed. In addition, to the extent very high standards are set for humanitarian
relief, the states may not be able to meet them when the time comes to actually try
to take on those roles. As documented in a case study on the health sectors in the
Southern Sudan and the DRC, a perverse incentive is created to want to keep the
humanitarian organizations around as long as possible. After all, the people will
benefit when the standards are high.
When it comes to the development model, because it is motivated primarily by
technical criteria, one of the challenges is that state-building is often very political.
In the immediate aftermath of the Liberian conflict, the argument was made from
a public health standpoint that the biggest bang-for-the-buck in terms of keeping
people healthy would come from re-establishing inoculations. But this was not
what the Liberians wanted. Instead, they were more concerned with reopening
the clinics and access to competent services so that they could give birth to their
children in a stable environment with expertise to help with the birthing process.
A discontinuity existed between technical efficiency and the population’s
On top of these models also lies an architecture of policy expectations such as
the Paris Declaration, the Millennium Development Goals, and Education for
All. These have set standards for what is thought to be appropriate in all developing
country settings. However, these may conflict with the needs in fragile states.
Education for All emphasizes primary education, for example, yet the Fragile
States Group found that one of the key groups that needed to get educated were
older youth, particularly those who were demobilizing. They could not be sent
back to first grade, and yet there were no resources going to this particular group
because the emphasis was on primary education. In a similar way, the vertical
Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria tends to focus on a specific aspect
of development and measures output indicators on that dimension, without
adequate attention to how to build sustainable delivery systems.
Although the Fragile States Group’s findings and recommendations have been
in circulation for over two years, these tensions essentially remain unresolved.
For the sake of those living in fragile state environments, the tensions must be
addressed through reigniting conversations between the policy communities involved
in service-oriented state-building in fragile state environments.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 73
Can Responsible Governance Emerge
from Informal Authorities? 21
Evidently, many services in fragile or failed states are actually provided by nonstate
organizations that are outside the control of the state, and these entities
may or may not be accountable to the population they ostensibly serve. The
question is whether the capabilities of such providers can be utilized to meet
much of the state’s responsibility for public service delivery by helping them
to become more effective and accountable. This matter applies to other aspects
of governance as well. This section considers whether viable state functions
can be undertaken by such informal de facto authorities, i.e., governance
The first issue to consider is whether informal governance really exists. For
those who work at the field level, it is obvious that it does, and the phenomenon
is also being documented. At the policy level, it is not as self-evident, so the point
has to be reiterated many times. Put concisely, where the state does not operate,
there is not necessarily anarchy. In the face of state fragility or collapse, people
still have control, and are not always simply passive victims. They quickly get to
work trying to set up local security arrangements that will provide if not peace,
at least provision of basic security. The evidence is extensive. In Afghanistan, for
example, the formal judicial system never really worked and still does not function
well. However, several studies report the existence of extensive traditional judicial
systems and the preference that local communities have for them.
In Eastern DRC, the town of Butembo with a population of a half million
people is being run as a hybrid political system. There is no formal state presence,
but they have a chamber of commerce, a business community that’s interested in
basic rule of law, a large Catholic order that has a university and a seminary, and a
local municipality that is responsible for essential daily functions of the town. In
that and other areas such as Somalia, a patchwork of such local hybrid systems of
governance is in place that is messy and fluid. These are not simply local communities
falling back on traditional law. Clan or tribal elders and customary law play
an important role in these political orders, and typically they are partnering with
other actors—a business community, religious leaders, professional associations,
women’s market groups—to create a mosaic of governance.
In Somalia, there was a gradual evolution of this kind of governance without
government from about 1994, when the United Nations Operation in Somalia
(UNISOM) left, to 2006. Since then, the country has experienced a series of
major shocks: the Ethiopian armed intervention, the insurgency and counter-insurgency,
massive violence and displacement, and targeting of civil society figures
74 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
and business people. Almost all the budding systems have been shattered. Because
of the recent insecurity, the business community has been on the retreat. In the
meantime, Al-Shabaab, the jihadist militia that is currently fighting the transitional
federal government, is providing jobs. They offer about a $150 a month to
young men to fight and are tapping into foreign sources for this support. They are
also enforcing Draconian sharia laws that are quite unpopular in areas that they
can control. The question now is whether other structures of local governance—
land use, traditional and clan rulers, water rights, etc.—in central Somalia where
Al-Shabaab has less control, will survive. It is clear that some neighborhoods in
Mogadishu are forming watch groups again—some very crude and others more
elaborate. Which other structures at both the national and local levels will reemerge
or be revived is unclear.
One important question is whether the private sector and business people can
resume their earlier roles. A remarkable development in Mogadishu and other parts
of central Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland, all outside Al-Shabaab control, was
the extent to which many services that are normally associated with a state were
taken up by the private sector. These services did not reach the poorest of the
poor, reflecting a major problem of market failure, but they did reach many others.
Despite the recent instability, an effective telecommunication system is still in
place and a quasi-banking system is still operating. Private sector actors were also
operating seaports, airports, underground water systems in neighborhoods, and
local electrical grids. Beyond providing these services, moreover, clan elders served
as essentially regulatory bodies that determine the rate that could be charged per
bulb, in the interest of the local community. Just any rates could not be charged as
in a monopoly. Any consideration of contracting-out has to take these significant
developments into account.
Moreover, these communities had the potential to become growth industries.
Interestingly, over time, spoilers in these communities such as warlords were able
to accrue significant amounts of assets. In some cases, they invested those assets
and made the transition from warlord to landlord. In Somalia in a number of
instances, business and militia leaders who in the early years of the crisis were
extremely predatory, segued into more or less legitimate commercial roles and obtained
fixed assets. As a result, they developed a renewed interest in basic public
order. What this all means is that any analysis of these situations needs to recognize
the interests that emerge in these local communities. These interests can and
do change over time, and they can be influenced.
Nevertheless, these trends are not the same as an interest in reviving a state, but
rather a form of governance without government. There is a difference between
wanting to see improved public order and wanting to see a rejuvenated central
government. Reviving a central government is riskier, for it creates a potential
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 75
zero-sum game. If you do not capture the state and someone else does, your interests
can be threatened. This has been the dilemma in Somalia.
To what extent are the actors who are supportive of these informal systems
of governance actually impediments when it comes to building a central government?
Can weak states partner with or plug into these local governing systems?
Such an effort would entail the notion of a “mediated state”—a state that is willing
but not able to govern, especially in its hinterland areas. Although it lacks the capacity,
it has an interest in laying some claim to controlling those territories. There
are cases of weak governments that are uninterested in governing their hinterlands
because there is little economic value from them and it is very costly. So they let
them languish. However, in cases such as Kenya over the past seven or eight years,
the central government has developed an interest for a variety of reasons in governing
its hinterlands. About a third of the country, largely in the north, has been
essentially beyond the reach of the Kenyan government. But Kenya is now one of
the most interesting examples of a mediated state.
In the mid to late 1990s, Northeastern Kenya was the most dangerous place
in the country—even more dangerous than the other side of the Somali border,
according to humanitarian aid agencies. Remarkably however, within five or six
years, the area became one of the safest places with the lowest crime rates. A willing
but not able Kenyan central government approached local non-state actors
and essentially ceded authority on a wide range of issues that would normally be
considered the purview of a sovereign state. These include security, the judicial
system, and even cross-border diplomacy through a partnership arrangement. In
the recent election crisis in Kenya, that was one of the areas where there was no
trouble at all, although subsequent refugee flows from southern Somalia, as well as
violent incursions by armed militias have undercut this stability. Southern Sudan
is another example of a government that is willing, but not able to govern in its
hinterlands. It is using the Boma Courts, run by traditional elders, as a regular
part of the judicial system.
Regarding security, the point was made earlier that a great deal of security in
fragile or failed states is provided by non-state actors. State partnerships with nonstate
actors are handling a lot of activities in sovereign states around the world.
Consequently, current security sector reform programs are often ill-equipped to
deal with realities in many fragile or failed states. Most of the wars and the resulting
abuses are not carried out by the formal military, but by various kinds of paramilitaries,
whether or not they are under state auspices. The lines are blurry between
the military and civilians, paramilitaries, or local protection forces to which
the government provides assistance. International agencies are ill-equipped to interface
with these entities because they are not presented in their own likeness.
76 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Should governments explore the use
of mediated state arrangements in
On the one hand, some say that the non-state actors in some cases are not that
benign. Examples would be warlord fiefdoms or terrorist groups that have set up
a state within a state. These are not to be dealt with. Even when these entities are
benign and owned by the local community as an organic manifestation of local
governance, they are extra-constitutional and illiberal. Invariably, they apply laws
that do not provide full and fair treatment for all. This can pose problems, for
instance, for those who are not a member of a certain ethnic group or for women.
Many of the rights under them fall far below basic constitutional and human
rights. In addition, they are patchy and their services are often uncertain. Relying
on them is risky because they may break down.
Most important, as mentioned earlier, support for these entities can reinforce
state failure. As someone observed who has worked in Lebanon, “The problem is
that the Lebanese have adapted too well to a fragile state. They have created all
kinds of extra-state systems with non-state actors. So much so that the pain of not
having a functional state has been reduced to the point that they no longer have an
incentive to try to get a state back.”
On the other hand, while these are all legitimate concerns, others argue that
governance should take a close look at mediated state arrangements in the worstcase
countries where states have collapsed or badly failed. This is simply a realistic
approach to governance in those settings. These mediated governance systems have
been operating for decades relatively effectively. A policy of working with them is
already operational. Moreover, these entities often represent a basic source of security
and public order for local communities. From a human security perspective,
the goal is not so much how the state is doing, but how the citizens are doing. Are
they safer? Do they feel more secure? Do they have basic services? These non-state
actors at the local level are often the most important source of what little law and
Furthermore, these entities are often organic and locally-owned. People feel
that they have stakes in them. Because they are trusted, they can be more accountable.
This issue needs to be approached on a case-by-case basis to see how
accountable these bodies are to their local communities. At any rate, from the
point of view of the principle of subsidiarity, these governing arrangements are
much closer to the people, and they are financially viable. Because they are already
operating, we know they can afford to operate. In contrast, the maximalist state
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 77
It’s not going to be a state
that fits into the template that, say,
UNDP has for Rule of Law projects,
but that’s okay. It’s our problem, not
theirs, to understand the emerging
new polities that are going to be
better fits for these countries.’’
models are entirely unrealistic in the poorest, most collapsed states, for they may
only have state budgets of $100 or $200 million. There is simply no feasible way
that such countries will be able to set up a state in the short-term that is effective
on the local level.
Finally, some who advocate a mediated state arrangement assert that the system
squares a certain circle. One problem referred to earlier was the tension between
trying to make the state stronger by building capacity, and at the same time, trying
to make the state more accountable. A dilemma exists between restraining a
potentially predatory state and building up the capacity of the state. A lot of programs
are ambiguous about this and work at cross purposes. In mediated states,
however, that is less of a problem because building the capacities of local systems
of governance usually does not involve a predatory system. If it does, you can
choose not to work with it. You do not need to extend assistance to a terrorist or a
What then is the goal of trying to achieve state-building via a mediated state
model and thus being willing to work with non-state actors on a case-by-case basis?
There are two schools of thought. One sees this as a temporary coping mechanism.
It is designed to provide local communities with some level of law and order and
basic services until the state can assume those responsibilities. That is a perfectly
reasonable approach. The other view is more radical. It affirms that what is potentially
happening in places like Somalia is that society is not falling back to a 19th
Century, pre-colonial state collapse, but actually is on the cutting edge of the 21st
Century. In this view, these societies are shaking off the old post-colonial state,
which never fit and never worked, and remaking it in ways that are in fact more
appropriate and organic for them. A state is going to emerge, though it may take
78 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
a long time, but not a state in our own likeness. As Ken Menkhaus characterized
this view, “The state that is envisioned will not fit into the templates that UNDP
has for Rule of Law projects. But that is seen as okay. It is UNDP’s problem, not
these communities’ concern.” The challenge for outsiders is to try to understand
the new polities that are emerging, which may be better fits for their countries.
There is no single answer in this debate. It is up to the local people to decide
whether their hybrid arrangements are temporary coping mechanisms or an enduring
What do these issues mean for policymakers engaged in state-building? First,
what seems to have worked best so far is to create and protect space for these systems
of governance without government. A corollary to that is the “Do No Harm
Principle’’. Perfectly functional local systems of governance have been upset and
undermined by template-driven, formal systems of state building, but the purpose
of state-building cannot be to leave people less secure than they were before.
What kind of support can be provided? In the case of Northern Kenya, a USbased
consultancy firm worked very well with these local systems. Small forms of
assistance were provided for the non-state actors to do their work, such as for travel
and communication. It had to be done very surgically; smothering them with
money and technical assistance would likely discredit them or worse, get them
killed. This task required a well-informed national team who had good information
and analysis about what is going on locally. Otherwise, they would not even
be able to see these groups, much less help them.
Finally, relationships still need to be worked out with the state. The key when
working with formal states, fragile or failed though they may be, is to focus the
effort on fulfilling the core functions that communities do not currently have, but
that they desperately need. Instead of encouraging local communities to create a
state or central government—as in Somalia with its eighty-two ministers, including
a Minister of Tourism—redirect the question. Start by asking what the
five or six agreed-upon essential core functions of a central government are. A pie
chart could help figure out how much money is realistically going to be obtained
for this or that function from tax revenues. Over time, if the state can build the
capacity for a Scandinavian welfare state, that is its prerogative. But for the shortterm,
the tasks that the state takes on must be realistic.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 79
How Can “Islands of Stability”
Be Expanded or Created? 22
Some states are really broken and need certain core functions to be set up. What
precisely needs to be done? And if these core functions are to utilize provision of
services by certain existing local or national authorities, how can the capacities of
those authorities be improved so they act more effectively and accountably? This
section builds upon earlier points to address how adequate basic services can be
established and sustained. The approach proposed is called TPA, which stands
for three essential elements: Training, Payments and Accountability. For any government
sector to function, these three factors have to be adequately addressed.
If they are not, any approach will fail. The definition of basic services used here
includes security, as well as other services a state engages in.
The diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi, who worked on this problem in Afghanistan
and other places, has argued that without functioning and self-sustaining government
systems, peace and development will be, at best, short-lived, and the
disengagement of the international community will take place in less than
ideal conditions. This can be illustrated in relation to the Democratic Republic
Every place in the DRC is not like Butembo, the area described earlier. Butembo
and the areas immediately around it are basically sui generis; there is no other area
within the country like it. Instead, the DRC has few, if any, governance without
government options, only situations of neither governance nor government.
The DRC has had a UN peacekeeping force there for a decade called MONUC
(United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo). While
the leadership of MONUC talks openly about the need to plan for its departure,
the conditions are much less than ideal for its exit.
MONUC itself laid out conditions under which it says it can withdraw successfully.
Number one, the Congolese army and police need to achieve enough capacity
to assume responsibility for the country’s security, including the duties now
performed by MONUC. Two, an independent, functioning judicial system needs
to be established. Three, essential core state functions are needed at the national,
provincial and local level, and progress made towards decentralization. This is a
good list, but the reality is that getting to those points is vanishingly remote in
the DRC. The situation is nowhere close to the Brahimi reality test: functioning
and self-sustaining governmental systems. The international community wants to
discuss an exit—"We’ve been there ten years, isn’t that long enough?”—but premature
disengagement would lead to disaster.
In their book Fixing Failed States, Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart make a
80 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
conceptual breakthrough with their concept of the “sovereignty dilemma.” In the
DRC, the international community has gotten itself stuck in this situation. After
ending a war and starting a peace process, the international community focused
on keeping the country stable and getting to reasonably free and fair democratic
elections by 2006. Since elections were seen as an essential element to maintaining
stability, it was believed that a very heavy hand needed to be laid on Congolese political
leaders in acknowledgement of their sovereignty. The state was regarded as
a hodgepodge of military leaders, warlords and others acting as the president and
various vice presidents, but who did not have much legitimacy. The international
community decided to push hard to ensure that certain tasks got done, and the
plan succeeded. The DRC had reasonably free and fair elections in 2006. Because
a sovereign, legitimate state was in power, the international community concluded
that its job was basically complete. The subsequent task of donors was to respond
to what that state requested.
However, even today the DRC is home to people who are predatory and are
incapable or unwilling to accomplish the core functions that any functional state
needs. So what needs to be done? How can those benchmarks be reached? Ghani
and Lockhart address the dilemma of sovereignty with what they call a double
compact. This notion starts with the frank acknowledgement that governments in
failed states operate as predatory agents that prey on their people. In such a context,
sovereignty should only be seen as a set of rights and obligations that operate
between citizens and their governments, as well as between a government and the
international community. The double compact embodies a set of mutual understandings
among these various actors. The compact is not some kind of written
agreement or series of agreements, but rather, a conceptual understanding.
If one adopts such an understanding, what is the role of donors? This is where
TPA steps in. Training has to be effective, pay has to be adequate, and accountability
has to be emphasized. In especially challenging countries like the DRC,
TPA should not be implemented on a national scale. Rather, it is to be implemented
only on a scale where the success of implementing specific TPA interventions
can be independently verified.
Training has to be effective. In the real world of donors where training is a
staple of donor-funded activities, too often it is done as a stand-alone program.
“There is a peculiar assumption,” Tony Gambino explains, “that if we do disparate,
scatter-shot, uncoordinated training, somehow, with no theory provided,
that’s going to lead to better performance and on-the-job results. But no, even if
you assume that somehow the training is well-coordinated and done effectively, it
is not enough by itself.”
One reason why training is insufficient is the P—payments. If you are adequately
trained but are returned to a position where you are poorly paid, your level
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 81
There is a peculiar assumption
that if we do disparate, scatter-shot,
uncoordinated training, somehow, with
no theory provided, that’s going to lead
to better performance and on-the-job
results. But no, even if you assume
that somehow the training is wellcoordinated
and done effectively, it is
not enough by itself.”
of performance is likely to be poor. In the DRC, inadequate pay does not even
begin to capture the low salaries of the vast majority of civil servants. An employee
with a family of about six people needs at least $150 a month in rural areas and
$200 in urban areas just for basic subsistence. Yet the salaries are $25 or less, and
in fact, what is actually compensated is between $0 and $10. If you need $150 to
$200 a month so your family can survive, you will do whatever you can to get as
close as possible to bare subsistence. Obviously, to achieve these core functions,
adequate salaries paid on time every month are essential.
Unfortunately, most donors’ approach to paying salaries or salary supplements
is inconsistent. In places where donors really care about results, they are willing
to supplement salaries to get them up to an adequate level. Donors regularly do
both T and P in the countries they really care about. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the
United States trains and continues to pay the salaries of enormous numbers of officials.
The US has paid police salaries in Liberia. Even in the DRC, in one area,
the European Union paid salary supplements as part of its use of TPA in a justice
program in one area. However, in lower priority places, donors argue that paying
salaries is not sustainable. However, the reason they pay them in one place and not
in others is because they actually do not care enough about the latter.
The optimal circumstance is for the state itself to pay minimally adequate salaries
using its own funds. However, if the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
determines that a government like the DRC government does not have sufficient
resources to pay adequate salaries, then salary supplements may be warranted.
82 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Many donors follow this logic, but it falls apart when they try to implement it
on a national level. In any fragile state like the DRC, to pay adequate sustainable
salaries to the civil servants in all the core functions almost certainly requires fundamental
civil service reform. However, in many cases, the government is unwilling
to do that because civil service reform would mean firing a lot of people who
have become used to and would prefer staying in state positions, even with little
or no salary. States do not want to incur the political risk of putting these people
on the street.
However, under TPA, donors do not have to choose between the equally unpalatable
options of pushing a government towards politically-dangerous comprehensive
reform or doing nothing. Instead, donors can push for TPA only in areas
that are essential. In the DRC, that would mean paying salary supplements or,
in extreme cases, salaries, only for the officials in targeted key areas or sectors.
What about the A, accountability? Here, civil society has a crucial role to play.
As part of a durable solution, donors should support civil society’s role in monitoring
and evaluating government implementation. However, as civil societies are
weak in many of these places, in the interim, outside verification by donors and
donor-funded organizations is needed to hold officials accountable.
TPA worked in Sierra Leone in 2000 when the British intervened vigorously
and adopted a TPA approach. Even in the DRC, the European Union employed
the TPA approach in the province of Ituri in northeastern Congo. This involved
training, salaries and carefully monitored implementation working with the justice
system, including the police. The program succeeded in bringing order to a
part of the DRC that had been plagued by warlordism and rampant abuse, and it
can be directly applied to establishing an effective nucleus within the justice system
in other provinces as well. The TPA is also applicable in other essential state
functions, although conditions of security are usually necessary. If peace has not
been established, it is difficult to successfully install systems for education, health,
and most other priorities. However, TPA can be applied to improving the performance
of military and police actors.
The Congolese military is among the most ill-disciplined, predatory militaries
in the world today. The soldiers remain poorly paid; all or part of their salaries
are regularly stolen by higher ranking officials. Impunity is rampant. Rarely is
a soldier held accountable for abuses that have been committed. The Congolese
police are a similar story. Poorly trained and poorly paid, they do not protect the
population; they prey on it. When the problem is thus an entirely dysfunctional
military, the traditional ways to reform the military will not work. A few years
ago, the European Union was serious about military reform in the DRC, but tried
the conventional way. This approach involves going to the capital city and saying
to the Defense Minister, “Sir, how would you like to reform your military? We’re
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 83
here to help. We have training and systems that can be used.” The end result was
that the Europeans’ funds were wasted, there was no useful military reform, and
the security sector continued to function as poorly as it had been.
This kind of work with the senior actors in the Ministry of Defense broke down
because they were either uninterested or unwilling to engage in serious reform of
the defense structure in the DRC. It is littered with thugs because the actual policy
of the Congolese state over the last decade has been one of co-optation. If you
are a warlord, and the military wants you to stop fighting, you are given $50,000
and made a general with the command of a certain area, no matter that you are a
human rights abuser. Beyond that, the Congolese wanted a military of ultimately
100,000 to 200,000 men to be trained, while still maintaining the same kind of
With that kind of command structure, it is impossible for donors to address
the problem at the central level. What the DRC needs is roughly a brigade or two
that functions like a real military should—five or ten thousand men who actually
know how to fight and behave in an appropriate fashion for a fighting force.
A number of steps can be taken to embed the structures that you select to train.
Regarding the payment process in the TPA approach, you have to work carry out
strict policies at the center to ensure that the resources are getting to the brigades
you want to affect. Over time, however, it is possible to create and sustain national
standards and procedures, such as for maintenance of equipment; open, transparent,
ranking structures; and promotion in the ranks.
Once this approach starts to produce results in a large enough sectoral or geographic
area, others will begin to see it. It is likely there will then be citizen demand
for such improvements in other parts of the country. At some point the system
can become self-sustaining, even though this will take some time to achieve.
In sum, a long-term commitment to a TPA approach, implemented by as many
like-minded donors as possible who work in a coordinated fashion with governmental
allies and civil society, can be an effective route to sustainable development
and economic empowerment in fragile states like the DRC.
Unfortunately, TPA contrasts with what donors normally do in places like
the DRC. Regarding security forces, for example, few donors are implementing
TPA. Training is conducted in many countries in uncoordinated programs by the
United States, Belgium, South Africa, France, and the United Nations, but the impact
is minimal in terms of improved performance. One obstacle to pursuing the
TPA approach is the dominant “stove-piping” or “silo” structures that characterize
donors’ organizations and funding. Trying to tackle corruption in the delivery of
payments to teachers, for example, may run up against a donor policy that does
not allow anti-corruption efforts to be paid out of education funds. Trying to draw
the funding from a governance fund may run up against the need to keep that for
84 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
elections. Such stove-piping constantly stands in the way of capacity-building for
institutions using a TPA approach.
The kinds of counter-productive systems and frameworks that are operating
need to be reviewed. For states like the DRC, most of these regulations should be
swept away. Trying to use tools, like girls’ scholarships, in contexts like the DRC
will not accomplish the goals donors set for their efforts. Unless these kinds of
obstacles are tackled and the regulations changed so that progress can be demonstrated,
development agencies will become mired in the tendency to decide that it
is too difficult to work in places like the DRC and they will go to places that are
better off. However, even in the toughest places in the world such as the DRC,
there are approaches that can be used that will work.
Restarting the Economy 23
Discussion of post-conflict countries often assumes that once elections are held
and political processes are in play, the conflict can be channeled into peaceful political
processes, and the economy will take off by itself. To the contrary, economic
policies need to be part of post-conflict responses, and arguably, are the most important
element. Because economic growth is critical for success in the transition
from conflict to peace, economic programs and reforms need to start as soon as
possible. An economy that has been moribund or skewed to wartime economy
activities is not doing what a peacetime economy must do. Economic policies are
not a panacea, but they increase success by reinforcing political and stabilizing
goals. 24 This section presents key lessons from the post-conflict experience of the
World Bank and USAID.
How Should Economic Policy
Be Done Differently?
Economic rebuilding efforts need to be carried out quite differently in post-conflict
and other fragile state contexts than in countries that are able and seeking to
achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG) or other general developmental
frameworks. It is difficult for economists and development specialists to recognize
that in situations of early transition after conflict or of rising conflict, economic
programs must serve political and stabilization purposes. Programs have to be exceptionally
sensitive to the political settlement that has been reached as well as to
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 85
What motivates people
to engage in or support
armed conflict are not
only grievances, but greed,
in the sense of fulfillment
of basic economic needs.
Policies have to address
these underlying economic
86 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
the social context. The central question needs to be how the peace can be preserved.
At USAID, it was recognized that the usual guidance being offered by economic
growth and private sector specialists reflected what they knew how to do, but not
necessarily the appropriate policies for post-conflict environments. Consequently,
USAID developed A Guide to Economic Growth in Post-Conflict Countries to train
economists and others in new concepts suitable for these environments.
Policies should not focus simply on achieving overall economic impacts but
need to factor in distributional criteria. The aim is not just efficiency; who receives
the benefits from the economy also matters greatly. Particular groups, like
demobilized soldiers, need to find ways to gain an income through legal activities.
Rather than focusing only on the growth rate, economic decisions need to look at
the relative gains of differing segments of the population and at how the urbanrural
divide is affected. For example, regional disparities that exacerbate access to
economic participation may have been important in the conflict.
What are the Most Important
Economic policies in post-conflict settings need to take a number of actions in
the early stages of transition. First, it is essential for stabilization to boost general
well-being and employment through programs that get money quickly into the
hands of ordinary people. What motivates people to engage in or support armed
conflict are not only grievances but greed, in the sense of fulfillment of basic
economic needs. Policies have to address these underlying economic motivations
because individuals make decisions about which group they will follow based
largely on who is going to make them and their family better off. Will people
support a new regime that is still in formation, or existing leaders who control
a resource and offer them an immediate income? It is critical to influence this
calculus by showing that the future lies down a peaceful path and they should
not return to violence.
An earlier section highlighted the importance after a war of ensuring continued
physical security. This is crucial, not simply from a personal standpoint, but
from an economic one. Will there be a return to violence? How long can security
be counted upon? The assurance that physical security is in place is very important
to the kinds of investors who need to be attracted. To expect people who
are interested in doing business or to invest in activities that will create a lot of
jobs, there needs to be enough security for them to take a long-term perspective.
Economists tend to take security for granted because in most of the countries
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 87
they work in it is not a major problem. But security in post-conflict countries
remains a big hurdle for economic investment. The transition cannot really start
until the conflict is ended.
However, short term economic aid programs themselves can be useful even
when counter-insurgencies are still active. Creating opportunities to work can
hasten the cessation of armed activity. Some of the immediate need for income
and jobs can be satisfied without accomplishing all that is necessary to revitalize
the private sector, such as through directly increasing jobs in public services like
health and education. Most international NGOs do this better than the governments,
which are usually still too weak. In most countries, labor-intensive public
works programs are started up to create temporary employment. Although development
practitioners may prefer creating sustainable long-term jobs rather than
supporting such make-work policies, those long-term, sustainable jobs cannot be
identified for some time and employment opportunities are needed right away.
Because make-work jobs can help to stem the insecurity, it is important not to be
ideological about the balance between public-sector and private-sector activity.
Similarly, early support for existing state-owned enterprises may also be fitting.
While it is true that many state-owned enterprises may be on the edge of failure or
have failed, if the rest of the economy picks up activity, it can still absorb the labor
from these industries. In the meantime, it is unwise to eliminate those workforces
right away, for that may lead many people to conclude that the new government
is not good for them. Therefore, in Iraq, the Defense Department has invested
in such enterprises to get people jobs security. However, providing help for state
enterprises has been controversial. Previously, the State Department blocked such
aid on the grounds that aid should not go to the public sector. Recognizing that
this was not pragmatic, USAID in one country supported a bicycle manufacturer
and a small tire factory, for example. Over time, these enterprises would likely face
competitive pressures and die out because cheaper bicycles or cheaper tires of the
same quality were going to come along. In the meantime, however, this support
puts dollars into people’s pockets that can begin to create demand for other goods
and services. In short, make-work policies are not only needed until an insurgency
comes under control; getting money into the economy also begins to create demand
for goods and services.
Nevertheless, to create lasting employment and sustain the peace, the ultimate
objective is to transition to a job-generating private sector. Providing an immediate
economic stimulus through aid cannot give people the impression that the
temporary programs will continue forever. The short-term programs need to be
described and implemented so that people realize that make-work jobs are only
a temporary band-aid in a longer term strategy. Aid to revive former state-owned
enterprises cannot create the expectation that a continuing subsidy will persist. As
88 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
To create lasting employment
and sustain the peace, the ultimate
objective is to transition to a jobgenerating
the private sector begins to revive, the economy picks up, and the environment
becomes more stable, it is time to cease those activities.
The main elements of a transition to private sector activity need to be: a) to
rebuild the infrastructure necessary for larger enterprises and trade to operate, and
b) to support small or medium enterprises. A basic step is to analyze bottlenecks
and remove them. Basic infrastructure often has been destroyed or most of it has
been neglected for a long time. Landmines may have been laid in the roads, and
the fear of hitting them keeps the roads from being used. In Mozambique, after
2500 kilometers had been de-mined, only 38 mines were actually found. But for
commerce to pick up again, people needed to have confidence that they could
travel safely. In Afghanistan, one of the tunnels to the north was a major bottleneck
for getting supplies into Kabul, so it was repaired very quickly. Road, port
and similar rehabilitation programs can also create jobs that contribute to more
genuine private sector activities in the longer term.
Infrastructure reconstruction may also be crucial to lowering prices. High
prices or price rises are often caused by bottlenecks in supply that are caused by
broken infrastructure like the port or main roads affecting trade flows across borders.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the road to the coast needed to
be repaired because it was extremely expensive to get goods into Kinshasa without
an operating coast road. Higher prices can cause tensions, while lower prices can
provide a stimulus and are easily recognized by the population, thus adding legitimacy
to the peace process.
For an economic rebound to take place, it is also essential to restore the financial
sector to full functioning, from the central bank through the large commercial
banks. Typically, small and medium enterprises have lost a huge amount of
plant and working capital during the conflict. The banking sector and the collateral
for credit generally will not work smoothly. Unless you take action to get lines
of credit to businesses, they will probably be prevented from participating in the
early reconstruction. Fortunately, where there is very low capital in relation to other
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 89
inputs, inputting capital has a high rate of return on investment. For example, the
rate of return of rebuilding basic infrastructure is very high at the beginning.
Modest grants can also be used to get small businesses such as bakeries and
butchers started up again. Once they get underway doing what they already know
how to do, they may hire an employee or two. If there is demand from what you
have injected into the economy through make-work, people will begin to provide
those goods or services locally. Of course, it is important to have some way of
tracking this, even if it is an informal survey, in order to know what economic
activity is occurring, such as whether jobs are being created. But as long as the
country stays on that track and it has reasonably good policies and performance,
continued high aid investment is beneficial.
Another factor that needs attention is the surprising lack of information on
the part of business owners. Local entrepreneurs may not have the basic information
they need to survive and to take advantage of new market opportunities. For
one thing, they will be unfamiliar with the procurement and bidding procedures
they are suddenly confronted with by the completely unprecedented international
operations in their midst. Another problem is that their trade routes and the languages
used in trade are no longer the same because of the political changes that
For the economy to generate large numbers of jobs requires additional investment
and removing any barriers that may be blocking investment. Natural resource
extraction is often an enclave activity, so it may be possible to start it right
away without changing national policy. Other types of enterprise, like physical
plants that do manufacturing or distribution systems for services, might have difficulty
in attracting investors. Due to wide awareness of a conflict, it takes time
to change perceptions, which can only begin to shift when there is evidence of
real security. Regional investors in neighboring countries may be easier to attract
because they understand the environment much better.
Initially, the focus should be on local investors. As long as the environment is
secure, they can invest immediately. International investors are not likely to be
motivated for some time after a conflict. Their timeline varies in each single situation,
but on average it has been roughly a decade. Telecommunications is one
type of investment that may be especially viable because they can be integrated in
almost any location and telecom providers can be set up relatively quickly. These
systems then provide entrepreneurs with a means to do other things. The technology
is not very difficult to set up if no state is regulating it. One of the best telecom
systems in Africa in the early 1990s was set up in Somalia because there was no
regulation. Elsewhere in Africa, governments were trying to control communications,
and thus cell phones did not come in until later.
Different approaches to transition can be taken in various areas within the
90 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
same country. In some areas, support can be given to local government that is perceived
to be legitimate and responsible. In other areas where that is not the case,
financing should go through NGOs or the private sector and not through the
government. Development agencies often tend not to differentiate enough within
Another key to improving the business climate for investors is to start policy
and legal reforms and to improve the ongoing policies and institutions of economic
governance. The Doing Business reports of the World Bank reveal that the
legal and bureaucratic environment for doing business in developing countries is
poor compared to other countries. If a reform-minded government is in place, a
stroke of the pen can deliver visible benefits quickly. In Mozambique, for example,
a controlled market system required people to line up just to buy cabbages in the
market. However, after a simple assistance program suggested that the price of
cabbage and other vegetables could be freely set by the market, it did not take long
for a vegetable market to thrive. In sophisticated countries where the institutions
are still intact, effective reforms can be more difficult to identify. Still, a wide
range of things can be done, some of which are not very difficult as long as they
take into account that local interests will try to block the changes.
Such reforms should not let perfection become the enemy of doing some good.
Urgent tasks include expenditure control, receipts management, and indirect taxes
such as border taxes and sales taxes. More complicated tasks, such as reforming
the income tax or building the capacity of the finance ministry, can be deferred
until after the simple things are done and a more stable internal environment is
secured. For example, flat tariff rates of ten percent on everything with no differentiation
among the goods coming in is simple to administer, and it is easier for
controlling corruption because invoices can be checked quickly. In sum, very special
attention needs to be given to the specific content and timing of economic policies
during the transition from initial aid to private sector growth.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 91
How Should Economic Policies be
Decided and Managed?
In addition to paying attention to which policy priorities are most appropriate
and when, it is crucial to be cognizant of who decides them and how they are
implemented. Certain issues, if not grappled with early in the process, have great
potential to cause problems. The international community needs to look deliberately
and systematically at how to take advantage of both the potentially positive
impact of the international presence in post-conflict societies, as well as how to
avoid negative effects. If not managed effectively, a significant influx of aid could
act as a deterrent to peaceful outcomes. It has been brought to the attention of
many international aid organizations that immediately following a conflict, workers
and capital sometimes seek immediate employment from economic sectors that
support aid workers within the country, such as through the food service industry.
However, when aid is directed towards this short-term, sector-specific strategy
of development, it diverts much-needed aid from supporting possible more longterm,
sustainable economic sector development. Compounding this issue is the
use of international rather than local goods for development projects. This can
cause tensions with local entrepreneurs and fail to make use of opportunities for
them to strengthen their capacity.
At the same time, a high level of aid dependency may be necessary in the first
five to ten years. Unfortunately, the tendencies in actual aid flows show little recognition
of these changing needs over the post-conflict period. Immediately following
a conflict, the absorptive capacity of the country is at its weakest, but expands
incrementally after a few years. It is at this time that investors start to invest
money and resources into local economies. In practice, however, the political process
tends to provide the most money right away but then begins to lose interest
after three years. Consequently, for the times when aid flows suddenly drop or an
international peacekeeping mission leaves, contingency plans are needed regarding
how to seize opportunities to cope with aftermath of such sudden shocks to
At a minimum, it is crucial not to sideline host governments and ignore issues
of aid dependency and sustainability by failing to focus on building the government’s
own capacities and legitimacy. The main priority has to be building the
capacity of the government to actually function effectively. Post-conflict economic
and other policies need to restore the legitimacy and sense of ownership by giving
them credit for their achievements. Assistance programs come in and go out, but
unless host country ownership has been achieved, the economic generators that
have been supported are going to die once external actors stop promoting them.
92 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
People need to feel that development programs have the involvement and backing
of their governments. This is not easy when a host of international NGOs, contractors,
and other people are active all around the country.
A related danger is undermining effective indigenous institutions and practices.
Often, there is an automatic tendency to assume that traditional or local ways
of doing things do not work. Models are applied from outside about how institutions
should work instead of looking at what has already been established. In
Herat in Afghanistan, for example, the city had a functioning system for tracking
and collecting revenue, which was quite efficient. However, the donors focused on
whether Herat needed a more sophisticated information system for revenue collection,
even though the need was not evident.
One way to increase local capacity and ownership in policy decision-making
is to incorporate host country professionals in the process. The need to encourage
national dialogues and inclusiveness is widely recognized, but is often not
easy to carry out in view of local political infighting. To handle this effectively,
a comprehensive knowledge of the country is required beyond narrow technical
considerations so as to develop a good sense of what the real issues are and where
political and social tensions lie.
A difficult balance thus can arise in financial management and oversight. It is
especially important to avoid perceptions of corruption and favoritism in the bidding
and awarding of contracts. There can be a serious loss of legitimacy and credibility
if a program fuels corruption or shows favoritism to one particular group.
However, it is extremely difficult to monitor programs in these settings. Being
overly fastidious about the type of financial management systems that are workable
in post-conflict countries is not realistic, especially as the task requires that
the work be done quickly.
Another adverse, but underestimated, consequence occurs as a result of the
stove-piping structures within the international actors who engage in post-conflict
countries. For example, the signals that foreign ministries send to host governments
regarding priorities as they seek to provide an authorizing environment for
the UN are often very different from the signals coming from finance ministries,
even those of the same government, as they seek to create the authorizing environment
for the international financial institutions. Also, some donors have legislative
earmarks that require them to put a certain percentage of assistance to certain
countries or sectors. As a result, some countries become aid darlings, where donors
end up tripping over each other, causing more problems than they solve. On the
other hand, countries like the Central African Republic or Guinea-Bissau have
only the ex-colonial power and a couple of multilateral institutions working on
certain essentials, but no one else involved.
At the country level, donors often favor certain programming sectors. For ex-
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 93
ample, there are strong earmarks for microfinance and microenterprise in the US
Congress. Given that the overall challenge is to change the structure of the economy
over time, the focus needs to be on the financial sector as a whole, and no
literature shows that microfinance alone is the engine of economic growth.
These preferences arise both from outsiders’ assumptions about proper design as
well as their tendency to put a larger volume of aid into projects that photograph
well and are less vulnerable to criticism or reputational risk. Certain programs
make it easier to assure taxpayers back home that their aid investments are being
used wisely. As a result, donors’ money is often channeled into education, health,
and microcredit, as well as into non-government activities, due to the perception
that investing through NGOs is safer than funding governments because of the
high rate of corruption.
Ways exist to negotiate these skewed preferences with legislative bodies. One
of the advantages to microfinance projects, for example, is that they can be made
available to populations that were once excluded from or poorly served by the
previous economy. If that exclusion was among the grievances that led to the conflict,
microfinance can play some role in the overall post-conflict response as well.
As to those program designs that have been proven to work well, donors need to
ensure that their local counterparts in host countries are brought on board. This
can be done by showing the evidence about the feasibility and benefit of certain
program designs, sharing best practices, and developing a communication strategy
that contributes to tension management.
Still, the timing of the different tasks that donors ask governments to do can
create great organizational and political difficulties. Quite often, governments have
difficult domestic decisions to make on the economic and the political side, such
as economic policy reform and constitutional discussions. Yet there are often situations
where delegations from the UN, bilateral organizations, World Bank, and
the IMF arrive at the same time and need to speak to the entire senior government
leadership about critical policy questions. It is too much to expect a government to
make all these decisions at the same time.
Coordination is the key, but collaboration among donors is a major challenge.
To some extent, these tendencies are unavoidable and effort can only be made to
work with the various donors and others to fill the gaps. It is crucial to work toward
better coordination among all donors who are in a country about what the
policy goals should be, so that they are not pulling in different directions. If you
carry out a demobilization program, for example, there need to be economic opportunities
available for the participants.
In order to enhance state legitimacy, especially in countries with governments
that are making genuine efforts to set directions, donors should support a country's
own national priority setting processes and the national budget. This can be a
94 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
way to encourage donors to move some of their funds into areas of national priority.
Policies can be much more successful when a finance minister or a minister of
the government has an agenda that merits support, and the donors can get in line
behind that agenda.
Local military agencies have also played a role in development tasks in some
post-conflict countries, in part because civilian agencies were slow. In some cases,
the military has had both the financing and political savvy about the issues to go
in and try to bring about policy changes. However, these arrangements can compromise
other goals. Where the military is forced to assume the role of a local administration,
it finds itself responsible for functions that are not normally in its own
mandate or background. The military's role in development also contradicts what
they may be saying to the national army of the country, which is that they should
not be involved in civilian decision-making.
Civilian international agencies can have difficulty monitoring these programs
as well. The experience with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in
Afghanistan and Iraq should be extrapolated very carefully to other countries.
There are differing models of PRTs in terms of how they operate. Some are more
military led, others more civilian led, and they have different compositions and
functions. Ideally, civilian agencies should be playing these roles in post-conflict
situations. Useful experience has been gathered through models such as community
based programs. In Afghanistan, the National Solidarity Program (NSP) is
a very big community-based program that has been able to continue to work in
areas where an insurgency is still active. Some health finance programs of the
World Bank and USAID have worked the same way.
Overall, the essential message is to stimulate economic activity early on and
do it pragmatically with committed governments driving indigenous changes.
However, to carry out such economic priorities while also attending to appropriate
procedures is one of the most difficult things to do in post-conflict circumstances.
Everything needs to be done, but everything cannot be done right away. The process
also needs to consider tradeoffs, sequencing, and how short-term endeavors
might affect long-term outcomes. Therefore, it is important to plan the needs of
economics, politics, and security together, look at how the pieces affect each other
to avoid problems, and agree on timeframes to achieve some concrete results. These
linkages need to be integrated into initial program planning.
Responding to Fragile States: Lessons From Recent Experience | 95
What is the
fragile or failed
For efforts at any of the levels
to achieve significant results,
more than a single actor needs
to be involved; no actor alone
has sufficient resources,
policy tools, or standing.
96 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
Previous sections focused on global, country, and sectoral levels.
This section shifts back to the international and national levels,
where external responses to particular fragile and failed states
are, by and large, authorized and formulated. Both the transnational
character of global security challenges and the limited
resources allocated to address them are pushing states and international
organizations to consider cooperating more with
each other with coherent multi-actor strategies. In order for efforts
at any of the levels to achieve significant results, more
than a single actor needs to be involved; no actor alone has sufficient
resources, policy tools or standing. The recommended sequencing
for fragile or failed state strategies entails several differing
policy instruments to be applied at differing times. Any
single actor is unable to implement all the instruments needed
in that way. The guidelines require several international actors
working together. In addition, because scarce international resources
to address fragile states are becoming further squeezed,
pooling resources makes sense.
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 97
However, the prevailing unilateral processes and stovepiping structures through
which problems in fragile or failed states are defined, decisions are made, and programs
are designed and implemented are so dominant that they rarely allow for a
synoptic and lateral approach to diagnostics or strategy on the ground. The ways
in which such a multi-actor strategic process may still be possible are taken up in
Part III. The following pages examine possibilities and constraints that affect the
ability to carry out the multi-dimensional strategies and sequenced actions that
are needed. The first section looks at the current status and prospects for strategic
coherence in the UN and other major international actors. The subsequent section
looks at the US government.
Strategic Coherence in the UN, EU
and Other International Actors 25
A critical issue for the US in preventing and rebuilding failed
states is how to work with the multilateral organizations that are
also involved in order to make use of comparative advantages
and optimize their combined impacts. Can the US take better
advantage of these organizations' existing capacities and knowledge
on fragile states policies? A first step is to look closely at
the potential benefits and limits of cooperation and cohesion
with other international actors.
What Capabilities for Coherence
Have Been Developed?
The UN system does not use the terms “fragile” or “failed” states, or for the most
part, “state-building.” The United Nations is comprised of member states, and
in New York, they are, in a sense, sacred. To acknowledge that any of them are
weak, failed or failing can elicit a letter from the country mission that objects
98 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
The UN is often the best
starting point for achieving
what are called The Three
coordination, and coherence.’’
vociferously to any hint that its state might be weak. But member states use other
language for these phenomena, such as “peace-building.”
The United Nations system has several advantages for working within fragile
state. One is the universal legitimacy that the UN system brings to international
action. The UN is seen as the best place governments can go to for an honest
broker, even though it sometimes is not. The second is that the UN is often the
best starting point for achieving what are called "The Three C’s": complementarity,
coordination, and coherence. These advantages are demonstrated to some
extent in the UN’s several types of mandated missions. They include not only
the UN peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council, but also
UN political missions, such as special fact-finding missions, which are often
authorized by the UN General Assembly and organized by the Department of
Political Affairs. The UN Peacebuilding Support Office is also involved in some
of its own missions. Recent experience has shown that working through these
missions offers certain advantages.
With regard to the military deployments, where there is a counterinsurgency,
the UN generally has not been as effective as bilateral actors. The experience of the
United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia taught that lesson the
hard way. For these situations, bilateral forces are generally more effective, as seen,
for example, when the British took the lead in Sierra Leone in 2000. That does not
mean, however, that bilateral forces should not deploy as part of a multi-national
force. UN authorization is still preferable. The US has learned in the last few years
that such authorization is better for achieving the legitimacy of a deployment and
for doing the necessary post-conflict work. It also makes a lot of sense to work with
UN mandated missions where there is a stable environment.
Moreover, under the UN umbrella, the members of the Security Council have
been able to influence recent UN policy toward its military missions in positive
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 99
directions. Through their seats, these governments have changed the character of
military deployment. One change is to acknowledge the danger of pulling troops
out too soon. In Liberia in 1997, three months after Charles Taylor’s election,
the UN mission was completely shut down. The Economic Community of West
Africa States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) withdrew within a year, which resulted
in the reoccurrence of war. While that was an example of the hasty and
imprudent withdrawals of forces that the US used to champion for cost reasons,
more recently there has been a willingness to let peacekeeping forces stay longer;
Liberia’s United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has been in place now since
2003 and MONUC has been in the DRC since 1999. That creates a new problem
of knowing when peacekeeping forces should come home in places like Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Haiti, Timor, and Kosovo. However, the basic change in attitude
A second helpful change is that the default authority for military deployment
is no longer Chapter VI, but the peace enforcement mandate of Chapter VII.
Studies that compared Chapter VI with Chapter VII mandates have led to a policy
shift whereby future deployments will be Chapter VII-oriented. This provides
the opportunity to ramp up the use of force if needed to protect a contributing
The UN’s international legitimacy means that the organization is the logical
starting point for enhancing coherence. For instance, if someone was hired by a
contractor and sent to Haiti to work on justice reform, it would be a great waste
of resources not to use as a frame of reference the several planning documents the
UN, in conjunction with the US government, has developed to promote coherent
approaches to this sector in recent years. In addition to this sector-specific planning,
UN processes in fragile state settings often include joint needs assessments
and strategic plans, as well as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). These
frameworks tend to become the basis for medium and long-term development in
post-conflict countries. Not to plug into these processes and instead, take a separate
approach, would not only be duplicative; it would undermine the donors in
their interactions with the host government.
The UN has made other improvements in its post-conflict development programming.
The conceptual development of the civilian work of the Department of
Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has improved in the last few years. Its new Rule
of Law Office works on security sector reform and rule of law in a more systematic
fashion. The UN Civilian Police Office (UNPOL) has been strengthened, and specialists
have been added in DDRR, gender, and other areas. The new Peacebuilding
Support Office (PBSO) also has increased the amount of attention and coherence in
UN and donor activities in the four countries where the PBSO has been mandated
to work so far. In development, the UN Development Program (UNDP) is the most
100 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
important actor, and its Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) is
dedicated to humanitarian disasters and capacity-building, not only in post-conflict,
but also potential-conflict situations. BCPR has set new precedents for the way
UNDP operates in such environments.
The UN Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in the field
missions are trying to promote more coherence between the reconstruction elements
and the security elements; useful frameworks have been developed for this
purpose. More joint needs assessments and planning within the UN system are
being conducted and are beginning to include the World Bank and the IMF in
immediate post-conflict environments.
Changes are also taking shape with the relationship between the US and the
UN , which were previously strained in 2003 by war in Iraq. US-UN relations also
worsened in 2006 and 2007 when a few member states decided against seeking
help for development assistance from the United States and other western powers.
Moves were made to try to control boards of some of the UN agencies and funds
in ways that would further distance the organization from US influence. However,
the election of President Obama has begun to change that landscape, although it
is not clear yet how much. The decision of the US to rejoin the UN Human Rights
Council, thus reversing Bush Administration policy, was the most visible change
and is emblematic of a US re-engagement policy. The appointment of Susan Rice
was viewed very positively within the Secretariat and by other Member States. It
has been noted that she hired some very experienced individuals who are extensively
knowledgeable on the UN system. To be sure, it is yet to be seen how far
and how deep these changes will go. In any case, huge transformations should not
EU, NATO and the OSCE
Further opportunities for the US to work with other international actors in dealing
with fragile and failed states exist with the multilateral organizations that involve
like-minded governments of Europe. Principal among them is the European Union
(EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These entities also raise the topic of
multilateralism. Since the early 1990s, there have been increasing calls for greater
coherence within and between these international organizations. What are these
European-centered capabilities, and is there any coherence within and between
The EU has made enormous progress over the past 15 years. Its membership
has more than doubled so that it now has 27 members with a combined population
of almost 500 million people. The EU is a leading global organization
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 101
in development aid, providing roughly 60 percent of aid financing to developing
countries. The EU is also a major contributor to UN programs and activities. Its
member states provide 37 percent of the UN overall budget, and 40 percent of
the UN peacekeeping budget. Since the 1990s, the EU has steadily developed
its own common foreign and security policy, with a capacity to intervene outside
of Europe acting through the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). In
2003, Europe adopted a security strategy that envisions Europe as a global actor
in dealing with international security challenges, which was a first step towards
greater coherence in the EU’s foreign policy. At the conceptual level, all the elements
for strategic coherence are also laid out. The implementation document of
December 2008 reflecting European security policy establishes the importance of
the connections between security, development, poverty eradication, good governance,
and human rights. The goal of a systematic, comprehensive approach is
affirmed, and the importance of cooperating with the UN and other international
organizations is also stressed.
As a response, in part to its continuing enlargement, the EU has started to
streamline its institutions and decision-making procedures. These efforts led to
the Lisbon Treaty, which, despite a lot of setbacks, came into force in 2009. The
Treaty will increase the institutional coherence of the EU, such as through the
creation of the EU high representative and the establishment of the European
External Action Service, which serves as a European diplomatic corps. This will
lead to greater coordination between the supranational efforts of the European
Commission, on the one hand, and the inter-governmental efforts of the European
Council, on the other. It will also provide possibilities for small groups of states to
work more closely together on issues like defense policy. The EU has also established
the target of a more integrated civilian and military planning structure for
ESDP operations. It has early warning units and modalities, such as the European
Development Fund, EU special representatives, and the European Defence
Agency. In late December 2008, the European Council set for itself the goal of
creating the capability to undertake two major stabilization and reconstruction
operations supported by up to 10,000 troops for at least two years, and a dozen
other ESDP civilian rule-of-law or police missions. Ideas have also been pursued
in the European parliament to set up a civilian peace corps of 2,000-3,000 civilian
experts who would be sent out to post-conflict situations where needed.
On the ground, the EU is now engaged in 12 missions in Europe, the Middle
East, Afghanistan and Africa, deploying a total of about 5,000 people. Most of
these missions are civilian, such as police or rule-of-law missions which are relatively
small in nature. However, the EU has also recently fielded major military
missions in Bosnia with 2,500 troops and in Chad with 3,700 troops, the latter
of which was recently handed over to the UN. In addition, about 15 EU battle
102 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
groups of 1,500 combat troops and 1,000 support personnel are now operational.
It also can stand up a police force of up to 5,000 police officers. The EU has set
up a European Gendarmerie Force, with 3,000 gendarmeries. Six hundred ruleof-law
experts are on an EU roster, which includes several hundred civilian administrators.
Additionally, the EU has approximately 9,000 personnel devoted to UN
missions and around 40,000 troops in NATO operations.
With regard to the other main security institutions in Europe, specifically
NATO and the OSCE, progress is less evident. Both of these institutions developed
crisis management capabilities in the 1990s, but are struggling to articulate
a coherent organizational vision of their future. With 55 member states from
Vancouver to Vladivostok, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization.
In the early 1990s, the OSCE was very well-placed to promote its
comprehensive concept of security linking political, military and economic issues.
However, with the German reunification issue being resolved, the Russians started
losing interest in the OSCE, and the successive enlargement of both NATO and
the EU diminished the advantages of its inclusive membership. There is also political
dissent within the OSCE member states, notably Russia, not being supportive
of the insistence on democracy and good governance.
In 2005, a panel was convened to discuss the future of the OSCE, and they
pointed to the importance of its election monitoring missions, mediation efforts,
and other areas where the OSCE has been very effective. Reforms were recommended
to redefine the roles of its rotating Chairmanship and Secretary General
and to pay heads of field missions from the core budget rather than from their
countries. The idea also has been proposed that the OSCE should develop a global
niche as an organization that would focus mainly on election monitoring, which
could contribute towards building a greater relationship with the EU, UN, and
other regional organizations. A degree of new interest in the OSCE has been
prompted by a proposal from the Russians to think about new European security
architecture, and a proposal of an OSCE-plus might hold some hope for the future.
Unfortunately however, the resources of the OSCE are very minimal.
All these developments have implications for the relationships and divisions of
labor between the multilateral organizations in Europe. One issue that divides a
number of European states is whether to emphasize military or civilian missions.
For example, the Nordic countries have been pushing civilian missions in ruleof-law,
police reform, election monitoring, and so on. But while the OSCE has
developed extremely fine capabilities in this domain, it is gradually being crowded
out by the EU because of its vast amount of resources. As seen in the Caucasus and
in the Balkans, the OSCE and EU increasingly have come into competition. This
poses the question for the OSCE of what its future should be.
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 103
What Obstacles Stand in the Way?
The UN system has many constraints as well as advantages. Major dysfunctions
exist, in part, because of the way it has been structured. There is no center for strategic
thinking about weak states or post-conflict states. When the Peacebuilding
Commission (PBC) and the PBSO were developed in 2004, it was supposed to
become the body where a small number of experts would help develop strategic
planning about the UN approach to those countries. Unfortunately, it has not had
a broader impact on the thinking and operation of the UN system as a whole.
Major problems exist in recruiting UN personnel in general and in its systems
of oversight and accountability specifically. The most serious underlying problem
is how to bridge the gap between the military approaches of DPKO that focus on
short-term security and the long-term development approaches, funds, and programs
of the other agencies. This gap is especially obvious in the medium-term
period between a year or two after a conflict and four or five years after that. Huge
imbalances exist between these phases in terms of funding and capacity, as well as
thinking and planning. There is insufficient capacity on the civilian side, which is
a problem in regional organizations as well. To fill those gaps, DPKO is extending
its scope of work and capacities in civilian tasks. Unfortunately, these efforts are
insufficient to do the institution-building that can ensure success in preventing
war recurrence and achieving longer-term objectives, such as state-building.
A related problem is integrating a conflict perspective into the range of UN
development programming. BCPR within UNDP has done important work in
indirectly addressing the political dimensions of conflict in West Africa. But in
other places like Haiti, there is continued resistance on the part of staff in conventional
development programs to consult with people from the political and peacekeeping
side of the UN about conflict resolution and security; they are inclined
to keep doing standard development in those contexts. People who have worked
with UNDP in fragile states are quite critical of its performance. The question is
whether it is fixable, and if so, how. If it is not fixable, possibly some kind of new
structure within the UN system should be set up to relate specifically to fragile
states, such as breaking out BCPR as a new function, or more deeply empowering
the ad hoc peacekeeping missions, such as the MONUC mission in the Congo, so
that they can actually undertake these functions.
The new head of BCPR, formerly the Deputy SRSG in Liberia, has an impressive
vision of what BCPR can do, and that may help bring about change. Perhaps
the only way to achieve a change in attitude is to change the way they recruit,
104 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
train and incentivize staff so as to orient them to deal with conflict issues in a
much more integrated way. The alternative of creating some kind of separate postconflict
recovery unit or mechanism, such as by breaking off BCPR, would likely
encounter the same problem of harnessing the resources that come through the
development agencies. Similarly, the idea of continuing to support the growth of
DPKO to become sort of “Peacekeeping plus” that moves into peace-building—
though not using that term because it is in other agencies’ purviews—would have
to be very systematic. Unless they can get access to adequate resources, the gap
will still exist.
In addition, the UN’s overall strategic planning is still insufficient in the realm
of prioritization. To illustrate, a study in 2008 of the UN system and state-building
in Haiti found that an interim cooperation framework was hastily put together
that involved some modicum of a consultation with the government. In the immediate
aftermath of Aristide’s departure in 2004, a transitional government was
in place in Haiti that was not considered very legitimate, internally or externally.
As a partner, it still had to be consulted, but taken with a grain of salt. It was essentially
a donor-driven process that put together the priorities. Subsequently, a
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) was developed with more consultation
and meetings around the country. This was a positive step forward compared to
other PRSPs that have been undertaken in post-conflict countries. At the same
time, however, the document had the same problem that planning documents
from the UN tend to have. Essentially, every agency gets its piece thrown in without
sufficient prioritization. Prioritization of programs exists on paper, but there is
no prioritization of funding or funding mechanisms.
Another obstacle to effective multi-organizational strategies is informationsharing,
including intelligence, with regard to crucial but often sensitive political
and security factors. Working in fragile and failed states requires accurate information
and analysis, or policies will be ineffective. The UN is not well-structured
to do its own analysis, and for UN agencies to develop papers that suggest how
certain member states are fragile is often very sensitive politically. As a result, a
trend in UN specialized agencies is to outsource this kind of analysis in order
to allow themselves a disclaimer. Due to these constraints, there has been incremental
progress in improving the quality of a UN analysis and its ability to share
it more broadly, as well as in gaining access to analysis from bilateral agencies.
Progress has depended on the particular context, relationships, and the strategic
interests of the US and other actors who are involved.
Finally, there is an inveterate tendency to avoid challenging states that alienate
important sectors of their populations. In states where post-conflict governments,
elected or unelected, act in ways that are exclusionary, there is a deep reluctance to
keep the government’s feet to the fire from a conflict-resolution perspective. The
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 105
UN acts essentially as if in a consultant relationship to a client. This occurs particularly
outside of mandated missions and regarding development.
EU, NATO and OSCE
While on paper, the recent EU efforts are impressive, there are also serious problems
with EU policies with regard to fragile states. The EU has over 2 million
personnel in uniform, but it is only capable of deploying about 100,000 troops.
The 60,000 Rapid Reaction Force that was proposed in the late 90s that the EU
would set up has remained a paper tiger; the Battle Groups are being used to gloss
over that issue. Defense spending is very low—only five EU members spend more
than two percent which is the NATO target on defense. The financial crisis will
not help this situation, but lead to more cuts in defense budgets, as well as in multilateral
On its part, NATO is a mighty military alliance, but is currently undergoing
its own identity crisis. In the case of Afghanistan, the Secretary General
has had huge problems in generating additional forces, and the political debate
within NATO between maximalist and minimalist visions is going on fullfledged.
Meanwhile, the proposals for the OSCE to develop a global niche or
new security architecture have not led to anything so far and are on hold, in part
because the rationale of the organization is unclear to its member states. Not
surprisingly, the track record of actual cooperation among these international
organizations is very poor.
There are several fundamental obstacles to achieving multilateral coherence
and cooperation. First, an institutional obstacle has to do with reconciling the
different managerial cultures and capabilities of various operational units within
the organizations. In policy areas that are within the inter-governmental structure
under the supervision of the EU, and in humanitarian, economic, and
development policies within the supranational structure under the European
Commission, the current efforts to achieve more coherence may lead to further
incoherence. The EU prides itself as an embodiment of a comprehensive approach
that can put together civilian and military instruments, yet its institutional architecture
has not achieved that. It is even more difficult to reconcile the differing
mandates of these organizations and the ideologies animating them.
A second political obstacle has to do with issues of trust and power arising
out of the asymmetrical relations among the member states. The basic problem
the EU shares with all international organizations is that it has few capacities of
its own, but remains in the hands of member states. However, individual states
often have very little confidence that their cooperation will pay off in the long
106 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
NATO is a mighty
military alliance, but is
its own identity crisis.”
The basic problem the EU shares
with all international organizations is that
they have few capacities of their own,
but remain in the hands of member
states. Individual states often have very
little confidence that their cooperation
will pay off in the long run.’’
Chantal de Jonge Oudraat
run. All multilateral organizations face struggles over the distribution of power
where political authority lies. These organizations can make decisions to deploy
troops, for example, but the member states themselves must make the troops
available. Often, their pledges evaporate when the call comes in to actually
deliver the troops. Despite the creation of its new instruments, the European
Union is quite divided between old and new members, and there is no agreement
on policy priorities. Also, public opinion is removed from these debates.
The European Parliament elections saw dismal participation of the public and
more Euro-skeptics. In short, the EU is far from being a unitary actor.
Conceptual obstacles have to do with the aims of multilateralism. One school
of thought sees multilateral cooperation as driven by efficiency and effectiveness,
a means to reduce transaction costs. This instrumental, or effective, multilateralism
is problem-oriented. Another school of thought sees multilateralism as a way to
achieve greater representation, accountability, and interstate justice. This is representative,
or actor-oriented, multilateralism. The challenge of many international organizations
today is to reconcile these two purposes. The debates on the reform of the
UN Security Council and on humanitarian intervention reflect this tension.
Although these European-focused institutions are the best endowed institutions
with the most resources, their accomplishments so far are quite modest.
Because of the failure of the UN to deal with issues, there is a tendency to leap
to such regional organizations as a solution. However, cooperation within and
amongst international organizations is inherently very hard to achieve because it
requires agreements and trust at multiple levels among a wide variety of actors.
It would be prudent to keep expectations realistic.
108 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
As to how the US can relate to the incremental advances that have been
made, there have been some positive developments. For a long time, the US was
very ambivalent toward the EU’s defense capabilities, but more recently there
has been a shift in outlook. Even under the previous administration, there has
been a growing acceptance and recognition that it is in the US interest to have
greater military capabilities in the EU. Still, the institutional structures do not
exist yet to channel that view into a constructive relationship.
What Further Actions Are Feasible?
Besides following through on their structural and procedural reforms, certain steps
can be taken to increase strategic coherence. First, the donor community, including
the US government, should regard participation in UN-mandated missions and integrated
approaches as a default in countries where these do exist. Valid reasons should
have to be given if a decision is made not to participate. The same holds for frameworks
for rule of law, police reform, the civil service, and so on.
The US is in a good position to carry out some of the reforms in peacekeeping and
development that are needed to move away from the entrenched ways of doing things.
One example coming up is the review of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC),
in which the US is a member. The US is looking at investing more in that institution’s
work in order to bring about some useful changes. Also, the new US Civilian
Response Corps (CRC), which projects the enlistment of up to 4,000 people, will deploy
people in places that have multilateral components and presences. Currently, the
CRC is waiting on sufficient funding to allow it to become functional. Orienting the
PBC to work in tandem with the civilians deployed by other actors, needs to receive
careful attention. More generally, the US is in a position to consider much greater
engagement with the UN, such as forging more linkages between the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UN system, rather than
remaining at an arm’s length. When there is a process for engaging in these countryspecific
planning and implementation processes, they can be influenced more than
by abstaining to participate.
With regard to obtaining solid analysis of situations on the ground, more robust
and systematic mechanisms could be developed for outsourcing these tasks to third
parties. NGOs could be used to convene processes that gather information in systematic
ways, and then pass it on to UN agencies. This kind of information brokering
function would provide a buffer, so the UN does not face the political heat.
Further, the 2009 report of the Secretary General on Peacebuilding in the
Immediate Aftermath of a Conflict calls for more South-South technical coopera-
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 109
tion in capacity-building and technical assistance in these fragile state environments.
Supporting this not only could be more cost-effective, but also makes sense from a
New structures are needed for EU-US cooperation and to get around the flawed
relationship between EU and NATO. Although the resources that the EU can bring
to bear are modest, they need to be in play by having the US and the EU work
together on these issues. These other actors also face shortfalls due to the global
economic crisis. The United Nations system, in particular, has not grappled with
how that crisis will affect its work in the next few years. However, the US through
its own investments can influence the extent to which other governments support
110 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
US GOVERNMENT CAPABILITIES FOR
DEALING WITH FRAGILE STATES 26
What efforts have been made by the
US Government to focus on failed or
The main US government branches and agencies involved in
policies within failed and fragile states are: a) Department of
Defense, b) Department of State, c) US Agency for International
Development, d) National Security Council, and e) the US
Congress. Perceptions have changed within these entities, and
some notable adjustments are worth mentioning.
Since the onset of the Iraq insurgency in 2004, shifts within the Defense
Department (DOD) raised the status of stabilization and reconstruction operations
to the status of combat operations. 27 In 2005, DOD adopted Directive
3000.5, which provides guidance on stability operations 28 and establishes policy
that assigns responsibilities within the DOD for planning, training, and preparing
to conduct or support stability operations. This directive was followed by the important
Army Manual 3-24 on Counterinsurgency that was developed by General
David Petraeus in 2006. The core principles laid out in the manual were for the
US military to focus on protecting civilians over killing the enemy, assume greater
risk, and use minimum force. The new counterinsurgency doctrine represented a
clear shift in thinking on how the United States should wage war. In 2008, the
guidelines of Directive 3000.5 were integrated into US Army doctrine, specifically
the revised Army Field Manual for Stabilization.
On the ground, a reflection of DOD rethinking of the role of the military is seen
in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) being implemented in Afghanistan
and Iraq. PRTs are comprised of military officers, diplomats, and reconstruction
experts who work to support reconstruction efforts in semi-permissive environments
following open hostilities. They are intended to improve stability in a given
area by helping build the host government's legitimacy and effectiveness in providing
security to its citizens and delivering essential government services.
While DOD rethinking on post-conflict stabilization is to be expected, less
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 111
predictably defense planners have also taken an interest in how to avoid engaging
in war in the first place. In Reuben Brigety’s view, "Some of the most innovative
thinking has emerged out of the Defense Department about how the United
States structures its government to deal with failed and fragile states." A recent
example involving military strategy highlights this importance. Every year, the
Marine Corps conducts an exercise on a pressing problem of strategic national importance;
in 2009, the Marine Corps conducted a gaming exercise that was aimed
at envisioning what kinds of inter-agency and multilateral relationships would be
needed and feasible to address a possible scenario that threatened to escalate into
wider conflict in an actual failed or fragile state.
Changes have also occurred within the State Department, particularly with the
creation of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/
CRS) in 2004. The core mission of S/CRS is to lead, coordinate and institutionalize
US government civilian capacity to prevent conflicts and to help stabilize and
reconstruct societies in transition from conflict. The original purpose of S/CRS
was to grant the Secretary of State the authority to coordinate and lead all US
government agencies in reconstruction and stabilization operations after the 2003
invasion of Iraq. A year and a half after its inception, the White House signified its
approval of S/CRS with the issuance of National Security Presidential Directive
44 (NSPD-44). NSPD-44's purpose was to "promote the security of the United
States through improved coordination, planning, and implementation for [R&S]
assistance…" and designated the Secretary of State to lead and coordinate all US
agencies in these operations. A major effort of the S/CRS has been to form the
Civilian Response Corps (CRC). The CRC is a group of civilian federal employees
who are being trained and equipped to deploy rapidly to countries in crisis or
emerging from conflict in order to provide reconstruction and stabilization assistance.
Comprised of three components—active, standby and reserve units—the
CRC is addressing the operational issue about how professional diplomats deploy
the broad range of civilian expertise to the field that is required, not only to help
stabilize states, but also to partner with our military.
S/CRS also collaborated with USAID’s Bureau for Conflict Management and
Mitigation Unit (CMM) in developing and applying an inter-agency analytical
framework for analyzing the sources of conflicts in particular countries. It also
formulated the Interagency Management System (IMS) in 2005, which is a government-wide
management system that is intended to coordinate actions from
various government bodies on both civilian and military sides of strategic operations
planning. The aim is to assist policymakers, chiefs of mission and military
commanders as they manage highly complex reconstruction and stabilization engagements
among all US stakeholders, both at headquarters and in the field.
Regarding the State Department as a whole, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
112 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Some of the most innovative
thinking has emerged out of the
Defense Department about how
the United States structures its
government to deal with failed
and fragile states.”
has engaged the State Department in a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development
Review (QDDR), which will be completed by late-2010. Modeled on the Pentagon’s
Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the QDDR’s objective is to evaluate current
US priorities, organizational structure, and resource allocation within the State
Department and USAID. It will also attempt to create short-term and long-term
blueprints for advancing US foreign policy objectives and enhancing coordination
between the two agencies.
In 2002, USAID created CMM within the Bureau of Humanitarian Response
to Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs. CMM’s mandate is to lead
USAID's efforts to identify and analyze sources of conflict, support early responses
that address the causes and consequences of instability and violent conflict, and
to integrate conflict mitigation and management into USAID's analysis, strategies
and programs. Innovative products from this office that have contributed to
USAID’s efforts to prioritize failed and fragile states have been the Fragile States
Strategy, and a Conflict Assessment Framework , which later became the basis
of the joint collaboration of the Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework
(ICAF). In cooperation with S/CRS, CMM has conducted several inter-agency assessments
using the ICAF for specific countries that are deemed at risk of conflict
or instability. CMM has become the office within the United States government
most consistently focused on conflict prevention as opposed to mid-conflict resolution
and post-conflict rebuilding.
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 113
Until Congress recognizes
the different legal mechanisms and
funding mechanisms are a necessity
for civilian capacities to have a
robust enough capability to engage
in failed and fragile states, the
advancement of US national interests
will continue to be hindered.”
What obstacles face US Government
efforts in implementing failed or fragile
Despite these steps, structural changes within the US government have been slow.
A leading issue is determining which agency within US executive branch is the
most appropriate to take the lead responsibility for inter-agency strategy development.
At the highest level, the National Security Council (NSC) has not developed
a coordination mechanism among the various civilian agencies that are
required to deal with failed and fragile states. NSC allotted sole responsibility of
inter-agency coordination to the Secretary of State through the creation of S/CRS.
However, NSPD-44 weakened that role by instructing the secretary to coordinate
stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) activities with the Secretary of Defense to
ensure harmonization with military operations, as well as integrate S&R contingency
plans with military contingency plans in order to develop an overall framework
at all levels. Even if this were not the case, the State Department, although
well known for policymaking and diplomacy-building, suffers from issues of sufficient
organization, fundraising, and responsiveness that continue to hinder its
overall effectiveness. For example, the IMS developed by S/CRS is a relatively
114 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
sophisticated tool that is expected to manage responses to crisis situations, but it
has yet to be put into practice.
The second main obstacle is the imbalance of resources between DOD and
civilian agencies. The military has been seeking civilian partnerships to help plan
engagement strategies for stabilization operations, but these efforts have been
limited due to the severe resource constraints of civilian agencies. Consequently,
in order to support Department of State programs in security, reconstruction or
stabilization, Section 1207 of the FY 2006 National Defense Authorization Act
authorized the Secretary of Defense to support the transfer of up to $100 million
per year for two years for these purposes. It was renewed for an additional
$100 million in 2008. Until Congress recognizes that different legal and funding
mechanisms are a necessity for civilian capacities to have a robust enough capability
to engage in failed and fragile states, the advancement of US national interests
will continue to be hindered. Though progress is being made, Congress and its
committee structures continue to affect the development of S/CRS, which has
suffered from anemic financing. It was not until fiscal year 2009 that $250 million
were proposed to expand the CRC and create the reserve unit. Through two
supplemental appropriations, Congress has only provided about half that amount.
The only project money for S/CRS during this time came from the DOD of about
$100 million per year via the “1207” funds. In the view of many, Congress still
brings a Cold War mentality to matters of how the United States should approach
national security. Thus, Congress has not recognized that dramatically increasing
funding to USAID is possibly as relevant to protecting US security interests as
is promoting missile defense or building additional aircraft carrier battle groups.
This outlook needs to change if the US executive architecture is going to be restructured
to make its civilian agencies equivalent partners with the assets and
resources of the DOD.
A related problem is the continued tendency to militarize US foreign policy.
In recent history, the number of successful US stabilization and reconstruction
operations has been relatively weak, most often when the responsibility of formulating
them lies heavily in hands of US military forces. During the Bush administration,
the State Department developed a blueprint for reconstruction in
Iraq that was intended for use after the invasion. Even though it was never used,
the conceptual framework that the blueprint stemmed from provides insight into
the perspective of many who work in the agencies of the US government. The
US Army's Sustainable Range Program (SRP) was seen as a main source of funding
for immediate stabilization within Iraq. The SRP is a purely military delivery
capability with virtually no formal role for US diplomatic institutions to play,
yet it continues to be a rapidly growing source of funding for stabilization activi-
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 115
ties. This leads to the overall SRP program competing with bilateral donor agency
funds from USAID. Stemming directly from the security mindset, if the objective
is governance in fragile, failed or post-conflict states, the use of this tool should be
closely monitored in order to ensure that civilian capabilities are incorporated into
strategic S&R planning as well.
Before any of the above issues can be tackled, another problem that keeps US
government agencies from streamlining their priorities and objectives for prevention,
stabilization, and reconstruction, is to reach agreement on what the goal in
addressing state failure or fragility actually is. Words matter. According to Gordon
Adams, each agency’s view of the most effective solutions is heavily influenced by
how they define the problem in a failed or fragile states, which then impacts strategic
planning and sources of funding for reconstruction and stabilization projects.
Different agencies use language from post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction,
counterinsurgency operations, conflict prevention, and so on. It is evident
that most of the reconstruction in Iraq, for example, emerged out of a military
outlook and vernacular rather than a civilian perspective. Whatever the goal there
should be, coming in and building a capacity based around the uses of military
instruments and then trying to import governance capability on a civilian basis
from the United States may not render the most effective results.
What actions can address these problems?
Areas for improvement can be found within the major US agency structures and
are interlinked. The State Department focuses on analyzing regions, countries, and
the potential security problems that they pose to the US government in terms of
American foreign policy objectives. While continuing to do so, one view is that State
should also be thinking about how to address the problem of fragility and weak governance,
in particular, with the instruments utilized by the US government, as well
as in cooperation with others. The Secretary of State should retain the lead in coordinating
post-conflict reconstruction programming, and S/CRS personnel should
be his or her staff for that role. S/CRS's planning capabilities, its expeditionary work
and its projects now provide a basis on which to play a larger role. Complementarity
between the S/CRS and the geographic bureaus is also greatly needed. The bureaus
typically hesitate to welcome participation of new actors in local crises, resulting in
S/CRS being largely blocked by the geographic bureaus. If the geographic bureaus
are left out of the equation, S/CRS runs the risk of alienating the country missions
and not fully taking into account specific country situations.
There is also an opportunity to establish inter-agency collaboration between
116 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
the State Department and USAID. In the opinion of Dane Smith, S/CRS should
become a fully integrated State Department-USAID operation. S/CRS has had
one coordinator and one deputy coordinator who had both previously been with
USAID, but no one else from that agency has since occupied similar posts. In his
view, up to a third of high-level S/CRS positions should be USAID officers in
order to inject their operational depth into programmatic planning and convey a
message of commitment to operational capability. But the delivery potential capabilities
on the civilian side of government with respect to near-term governance
intervention are located at USAID. This capability should be exploited, built and
developed in order to become stronger and more adept. Operations on the ground
should also integrate CMM to take on conflict prevention operations, while also
integrating the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) to serve as the foundation for
the active component of CRC.
NSC should focus on the oversight of operations, a function that must be more
institutionalized within the US government architecture. Contingency funding
is another area that falls under the responsibility of this agency. The Foreign
Relations Authorization Act tries to address contingency funds in section 841
when it states “The Secretary of State is authorized to conduct a program to respond
to contingencies in foreign countries or regions by providing training, procurement,
and capacity-building of a foreign country’s national military forces
and dedicated counter-terrorism forces.” At this juncture, 841 is underfunded and
not yet a fully designed option, which is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed
in a consultation between the executive branch and the legislature so that both are
willing to sign off on a package.
Finally, of paramount importance is the need for conflict resolution and mediation
training for all US Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). The State Department's
geographic bureaus have traditionally been responsible for most of the diplomacy
of the United States, since they are on the ground in the countries of concern
and have extensive knowledge of the local situation. That S/CRS never assumed
a significant role in Afghanistan and Iraq can be attributed in part by the lack of
conflict resolution skills by FSOs.
FSOs are trained in how to exercise tools of diplomacy, sticks and carrots. They
are experts on how to create certain kinds of incentives and pressures to achieve
US foreign policy objectives. However, a different skill set and training for FSOs
is necessary in order to prepare diplomats to actually do the kind of intra-state
diplomacy that is needed in fragile and failed states. Furthermore, the protocols
for promotion should be changed so that a political officer must serve in a fragile
or conflict-affected area in order to get promoted.
Organizing Multi-Actor Strategies | 117
How can the US
the challenges of
failed states with
With the necessary ingredients
already in place, such as policies,
knowledge, instruments and
resources, the US needs to
harness these assets more
effectively and efficiently.
118 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
Implications & Applications:
Retooling Current Policies
This report has brought forward recent research and practice on
key questions in understanding and addressing fragile and failed
states. In view of the severe strains on US domestic and international
resources, the central question has been how the US can
effectively meet the threats of failed states without expensive
new efforts. A positive overall conclusion that emerges is that
the US government actually has at its disposal the basic assets
that it needs to be more deliberate in stemming the threats
arising from fragile and failed states. These assets include:
• >> Wide recognition that vital US interests are at stake in failed
and fragile states;
• >> Explicit policy commitments that authorize US efforts to
prevent and rebuild failed states;
• >> Sophisticated data-gathering systems for global monitoring
and early warning;
• >> Abundant knowledge about how states become fragile and
fall into conflict or otherwise fail;
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 119
Analytical tools for identifying the specific drivers of conflict, fragility and
resiliencies in individual country contexts, and a number of recently completed
• >> Professional staff in several agencies who increasingly understand the sources
of state fragility and are interested in learning what can work;
• >> A wide array of funded military, development, diplomacy, and trade policy
instruments and programs that could or already operate in many fragile
states, or could, often through NGOs or contractors, and that can be geared
to address their weaknesses;
• >> Several US government and intergovernmental entities that could take on
the task of linking the activities and resources of the US and other entities
that are most appropriate for a given country context;
• >> Like-minded partner states and international organizations whose staffs and
resources are also devoted to the same general purposes.
In short, the ingredients that the US needs are largely in place. If policies, knowledge,
instruments, resources, decision-making machinery, or implementers already
exist, then what is missing? Essentially, the remaining challenge has to do with actually
utilizing the assets the US already possesses more efficiently and effectively.
The US does not need to do more regarding fragile states; rather, the US needs to
address fragile and failed states differently than how it addresses developing countries.
Indeed, spending more on current programs in these settings is often at best,
inefficient and wasteful and at worst, contributes to weakening recipient states.
The preceding sections provide a number of crucial interconnected insights
that point to ways that the US could be more strategic in using its assets and obtain
more cost-effective results within current resource parameters. The following
pages cast these insights in the form of eight guidelines for operationalizing the
US policy commitment to reducing state fragility. The result is a leaner, more realistic
US approach that runs counter to several conventional wisdoms in current
US security, development and diplomacy doctrine and practice. 29
120 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
RETOOLING CURRENT POLICIES
Addressing fragile and failed states more effectively is not just a
matter of adding resources to, or shifting resources among, the
existing development, defense, and other policies so they conduct
business as usual. The guidelines outlined below suggest
the necessary steps in developing a comprehensive and strategic
fragile or failed state policy.
1 Define the challenge as fragility rather then collapse.
Define the challenge to be addressed as state fragility, not just ultimate collapse
or imminent crisis. Currently, deciding on priority countries is driven almost exclusively
by having to react to immensely difficult crises unfolding in places where
existing analyses often have already suggested that major downturns were likely.
Instead of taking a “wait and see” attitude toward weak states, US policy should
actively avert state failure in those that are currently listed as fragile. These states
can be identified through continuous monitoring by global fragility indexes and
triangulating their findings. In 2009-10, Pakistan, Yemen and Haiti each illustrated
how quickly fragile countries on the edges of global radar screens suddenly
moved to the center. US energies and resources would go much further in reducing
the threats from failed states if policy objectives shifted towards prevention for
fragile states by taking advantage of the existing resilient capacities within these
societies that can be built upon.
Specifically, decisions about US priority countries should give more weight to
the indicators of fragility in a wider range of states—not just the already failed
countries colored red, but those in orange and yellow. These include the large
number of anocracies or illiberal democracies that are neither authoritarian nor
consolidated democracies that make them especially vulnerable to the instabilities
being aggravated by the financial crisis, globalization, and rapid communications.
This orientation also calls for more considered strategies toward current authoritarian
regimes—not to overthrow them or promote upheaval, for that would likely
lead to massive loss of life and further weakness—to foster peaceful evolution to
more effective and dynamic forms of government.
Contrary to the impression that media stories may convey, violent conflicts do
not suddenly explode; they are preceded by increasing tensions around societal
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 121
and political disputes. As Part I discussed, moments and entry points are available
for taking deliberate actions to bolster a society’s resiliencies and strengthen its
conflict-handling capacities so as to avoid the degenerating effects of increasing
polarization. If they pay close attention to the many watch lists of fragile states and
conflict early warning systems, decisionmakers have considerable time and multiple
opportunities to test the lessons from experience by acting before it is much
harder to contain crises and escalatory cycles. During this period, close analysis
can be done of each state in terms of the nature, degree, and sources of the particular
state’s fragility involved, such as distinguishing among states that are “willing
but not able,” “unwilling and unable,” and so on, as a guide to reshaping the
policies toward them.
This shift in focus requires certain changes in current perspectives and tendencies.
Policy toward fragile states should not be conceived as special or extraordinary
actions that are taken on top of the ongoing normal policies toward such
countries. The most workable approach to addressing fragile states differently is
to infuse appropriate criteria, analysis, and procedures into existing programming
by the agencies that already operate on the ground, rather than relying on special
units that enter the picture only when alarm bells go off. As developed below, making
a distinction between normal policies in these settings and special interventions
taken at particular crisis moments is misleading. The last minute responses
will often either be too late to avoid incurring huge costs from major interventions
or the awaited dramatic events may never happen because a state’s deterioration
is gradual. Rather, actions toward fragility should be woven into the fabric of and
modify current policies so that they become mainstreamed. This shift means getting
out from under the domination of media discourse about “hotspots” and
“flashpoints,” as well as corresponding notions such as “rapid response” and “civilian
surge.” Those terms frame the problem only as a matter of reacting to major
crises or cataclysms.
The shift also means less emphasis on the nearly exclusive US focus on the
costly job of repairing already failed post-conflict states. The US cannot afford
to play catch-up to recurrent problems of state failure. Redefining the problem
could also reduce the tendency to use up scarce resources on oversubscribed
"aid darlings" on the one hand, and to deprive "aid orphans" on the other. It
would help to reduce the volatility of aid by modulating it over the years more
appropriately in relation to the capacities within given countries. Finally, this
reorientation debunks a widespread fallacy that has unnecessarily inhibited preventive
approaches to conflict and state failure; namely, the assumption that acting
proactively cannot show results because if one succeeds, nothing happens. It
is then argued that few incentives exist for taking preventive action because no
122 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
credit can be claimed even if it works. However, the indicators of fragility are
documenting the status of certain conditions of fragility in the affected states.
These can be used as benchmarks against which the results of any policies taken
toward the countries can be compared. If the actions taken are shown to reduce
those conditions, that is what happens.
2 Get clear on the overriding goal:
Strengthening capacities for self-management.
Currently, a plethora of ambitious goals are expected of US policies in and toward
fragile states, as expressed in a pantheon of ideals we project onto the developing
world—democracy, economic reform, good governance, anti-corruption,
rule of law, decentralization, civil society, gender equality, and human rights.
In practice, these goals are usually sought through trying to erect facsimiles of
institutions in the West such as multi-party elections, legislatures, and independent
judiciaries, even though these institutions have taken centuries of trial and
error, mutual adjustment, and sometimes civil war to evolve into their present
forms. Although such institutions may be beneficial and effective in more stable
developing country environments, these stock elements in what has been deemed
the “liberal peace” ideology have often been found to be ill-suited and unattainable
in the short run in fragile state environments. At best, efforts to construct
such formal institutions are often subverted, and at worst, “reform” can
be divisive and conflict-inducing, thus worsening fragility. The US needs to
ratchet down its expectations to more pragmatic objectives that may be needed
in the short-term to make the loftier goals possible in the long-term. This is not
a deterministic argument to forsake the US’s ideals in such settings, but rather
an argument to focus efforts more prudently on the fundamental needs of
these societies for their own sake, which may then make those values feasible.
A more fitting and realistic agenda would concentrate on the core goal of facilitating
the capacities of fragile societies to provide for the basic needs and security
of their own populations. The overriding imperative is to ensure a society’s survival
by enabling local institutions to cope with the destabilizing effects of global
and internal change, and capitalize on opportunities for material improvement.
The international community has a legitimate interest in seeing that such societies
do not export threats, such as terrorism, violent conflicts and humanitarian crises,
to their neighbors or other states. There is also an increasing inclination of the international
community to feel obligated to save lives by intervening to stop major
massacres of citizens. Emerging norms speak of the responsibility to prevent such
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 123
atrocities from happening at all, and thus, not having to intervene militarily or
possibly substitute for the state. Those international stakes are best served by improving
the ability of these states and their societies to pursue their own interests
by mitigating their basic problems. This requires processes and methods that are
workable and grounded in local perceptions of both what is legitimate and what is
problematic—an “inside-out” approach rather than an “outside-in” approach.
In particular, this means that outside actors at a minimum “do no harm” by not
undermining the ability of indigenous practices and institutions that provide for
the populations’ basic material needs. More positively, it means improving those
capacities through assisting a society’s own efforts to ensure their needs are met,
including avoiding major humanitarian crises, such as famines. It also requires
ensuring the population’s basic security by strengthening the societies’ ability to
manage its social and political conflicts and disputes peacefully so they do not
escalate into major violent internal conflicts that destroy the remaining coping
capacities. Such processes of self-management require, in turn, that nonviolent
consultative mechanisms are fostered that operate in the society through which
its policies are decided. These channels may not be fully democratic in a Western
sense, but may take a variety of traditional and contemporary nongovernmental
and governmental forms, such as pluralist authoritarian rule, that require society’s
rulers to be indirectly accountable to the general population for results.
3 Concentrate on the weak spots.
Within each fragile state, it should not be assumed that each country should routinely
receive some portion of sectorally-defined stock programs that are taken off
the shelf from a preset menu. The allocation of development and other program
resources are based too much on criteria other than a state’s specific vulnerabilities
to failure. Fragile states often have certain pillars that are adequate and others that
need strengthening. US efforts would be more cost-effective if they were not compelled
to carry out such a wide range of discrete programs. Many of these deal with
real problems and are valid concerns, but they are often driven more by sentiment
about the symptoms of failure than by evidence about the core problem—weak
institutions. Similarly, international development policy aspires to achieve certain
general goals indiscriminately in all developing countries, such as the anti-poverty
program of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Rather than assuming that
such predefined programmatic categories deserve, in principle, an equal footing,
efforts can be more effective when concentrating on the most serious vulnerabilities
that are driving state fragility in each individual society. These need to
124 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
e identified by evidence-based fragility assessments using available analytical
frameworks, 30 and then addressed by contextualized methods.
4 Sequence priorities over time.
Rather than attempting to do a little of everything simultaneously, efficiency can
be increased by being selective as to what is done when. Appropriate sequencing
has been most studied with two phases of intrastate conflict that tend to be more
amenable to outside influence and are themselves most cost-effective for external
involvement—primary prevention in potential new conflict situations and secondary
prevention in post-conflict contexts.
In the former, assurance of mutual security among contending parties followed
by facilitated political dialogue to renegotiate the social compact, plus support to
remedy institutional deficiencies and social grievances, have characterized several
successful cases. These steps need to be complemented by measures to monitor accountability
and preempt re-escalation of disputes. These cases have been helped
by developing prior regional frameworks that establish norms for proper states’
behavior. In post-conflict contexts where war has destroyed the existing state, the
cases where no relapse into conflict has occurred have involved security and humanitarian
assistance, followed by the provision of basic public services, economic
stabilization, political agreement on institutions, and long-term development.
While security is essential, early post-war provision of public works and other economic
stimulus projects can reinforce it by creating jobs that siphon off recruits to
militant groups and can also subsidize local enterprise creation that pave the way
for private investors to expand commerce.
5 Politics is pivotal.
Politics is the constant in failed and fragile states. Stages of prevention, stabilization,
or reconstruction may change according to strategic sequencing, but politics
will always be present. A major gap exists between the uses of techniques
of international diplomacy, such as mediation and negotiation, and the workings
of the internal politics in fragile states. International actors should not assume
that domestic legal sovereignty dictates a hands-off approach, nor should they be
confined to brokering peace agreements and then putting domestic politics on
automatic pilot while implementing a variety of apolitical development programs.
A key entry point that can leverage security and other conditions in weak states
is the relationships among incumbent political elites and the processes of compe-
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 125
tition and bargaining among key leaders. Contrary to dominant thinking that
romanticizes civil society and the extent of popular influence on politics in weak
states, the reality is hierarchical and patrimonial.
In potential conflict situations, signs of impending instability are often visible
in the morphing of contentious politics from staying within agreed channels
into discord on political and policy issues that hardens into polarizing factionalism,
and then escalates to violent interaction. But international actors can try to
preempt such scenarios by peering behind the veil of state sovereignty to look
for opportunities for constructive, interest-based engagement through a kind of
“intra-national diplomacy” that forestalls political crises from escalating into polar
factionalism. The aim is to foster peaceful resolution of often ill-managed domestic
conflicts so as to retain political consensus among hegemonic elites as they
bargain over policy issues and the rules of the political game, such as codes of
conduct in the run-up to elections. Such political cohesion at whatever the political
center looks like, is the lynchpin needed for any changes to be adoptable or
enforceable. In general, such efforts should focus on: a) assuring basic security,
such as through security sector professionalization; b) facilitating and supporting
processes for bargaining among political elites; and c) providing further incentives
for achieving intra-leadership negotiated pacts, complemented by public accountability
Regarding the uncertain periods following peace agreements, post-conflict reconstruction
should not assume responsible leaders emerge once peace agreements
are mediated and elections held. Instead, the international community should
continue to stay engaged after the agreements are signed and elections occur by facilitating
and providing positive incentives for increasing intra-elite cohesion and
promoting their commitment to statebuilding. A possible concrete meaning of
the notion of “development diplomacy,” such engagement would ensure that the
political level where peace agreements are bargained and signed is tied in with
the development level where institutions can be built that are rule-based and selfgoverning
so as to sustain the peace—and vice versa. Of course, this kind of engagement
requires doing astute political-economic analysis of conflict drivers and
One way to get local buy-in for such leaders’ bargaining is to engage them
through informal, unofficial, non-intrusive workshops that employ non-directive
facilitative techniques in order to build trust and relationships among key
leaders—a vehicle for engaging host nationals in solving their own problems. A
complementary way to have leverage is to work through the quiet diplomacy of
regional organizations. Any initial relationship-building forums and venues could
evolve into substantive working groups focused on specific problems and policy
126 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
obstacles. Helping to achieve leverage as well, donors and other official international
actors in the background could offer potentially significant incentives
upon making progress on substantive issues. Such initiatives of informal engagement
could act as a catalyst of the internal bargaining and problem-solving that
is needed to remove sticking points that otherwise might deepen factionalism.
However done, such engagement can begin to generate the internal “political will”
that is otherwise simply invoked as some kind of deus ex machina.
6 Build upon existing resiliencies.
To get from such political bargains to an effective state that delivers needed services
requires contextualized policies and the modalities for carrying them out. In
poor, but more stable developing countries, it cannot be generally assumed that
institutional channels operate widely through which programs such as in health,
security and so on can be delivered, and that the main deficiencies are simply insufficient
skills or budget and residual corruption. In fragile or failed state settings,
the virtual creation of such structures in the first place is the basic challenge, for
they are absent or exist only in rudimentary forms. What are presented as government
ministries and local government administration are often hollow replicas of
the effective, professional public services they are supposed to be.
To try to compensate, current policies to promote public services tend to support
a wide array of ingredients found in the formal government bureaucracies of
the West, such as training in accounting procedures, providing computers, or advocacy
skills, the programs for which are broken into micro-projects conducted
by outside providers. But such isolated programs to provide technical capabilities
to individual personnel or NGOs often dissipate funds because they leave
largely unchanged the informal patron-client political economies that usually
pervade the daily operations of governmental entities. Provision of public services
continues to be subjected to rapacious rent-seeking, such as when teachers
receive favors for awarding good grades. Alternatively, donors endeavor to stimulate
civil society pressure on such institutions from the outside to induce them
to deliver the expected services—services that they lack the ability, however, to
provide— or they sidestep government services altogether by getting NGOs they
can supervise to do the job.
Thus, less effort should be devoted to trying to create formal institutions
through technical inputs. What does the alternative look like? Obviously, the US
cannot assume the full burdens of state-building starting from virtual scratch.
Fortunately, so-called “ungoverned areas” of failed and fragile states offer oppor-
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 127
tunities to build public interest-oriented services upon indigenous social and organizational
processes. These areas are not, in fact, total organizational wastelands,
but often witness myriad private entities seeking to fill the local vacuums in security,
welfare, and justice by providing these services themselves. Such entities
may involve traditional elders, businessmen, local warlords, armed movements, or
women’s groups; and ethnic, clan, regional, or religious associations and networks.
Some services may also be housed in minimally adequate existing government
ministries. These entities will vary greatly in formality, capacity, scope, level, participation,
and accountability. Some are committed to ulterior and narrow political
agendas rather than public-regarding values, but often built into them are certain
informal rules of reciprocity and accountability. In any case, international donors
should not automatically take on the burden of creating new state institutions top
to bottom for such areas, but rather, explore how these entities can be buttressed
and upgraded to achieve broader coverage of the public and more professionalism,
equity, and accountability.
To utilize such entities for public purposes, close exploration first has to be
done to distinguish those entities that are viable vehicles for serving wider clientele
from those that are irredeemably incapable or partisan, divisive, and antagonistic.
Rather than scattering them along functional lines, these services also need to be
built up together in the same place, area by area, in the form of local multi-sectoral
packages of activities. That way, security, economic opportunities, law, and governance
can have mutually reinforcing effects and a better chance to take hold and
endure. International donors can select and mentor certain areas to receive packages
of appropriate support and technical assistance. Once enough security is prevalent,
a civilian follow-up to the counter-insurgency strategy of “clear, hold, and
build” is “train, pay, and hold accountable,” as previously outlined. Training followed
by actual pay, along with accountability systems, would abandon “penny
wise, pound foolish” restrictions on funding salaries. But clearly, procedures for
ensuring accountability need to be in place. The local publics to be served can be
involved in the process of setting the expectations and rules for these organizations’
as well as monitoring their administration. Appropriate oversight, finance,
or other roles of higher government authorities also need to be defined. The success
of such pilots could make them into demonstration projects that encourage
128 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Two other tasks for moving forward have to do with how to
implement the advised actions.
1 Share the burden.
The US government should reach outward to engage its several major partner
governments and international bodies—who are often already pursuing like objectives
in fragile states—to undertake jointly the support of local processes of
prevention strategy development and implementation. Thousands of projects and
programs with similar goals are already being supported by these like-minded actors.
Various complementary roles could be allocated, such as one country acting
as the lead in facilitating in-country strategy formulation, providing third party
diplomatic or facilitation services, supporting particular sectoral activities that fill
gaps in the strategy, or advocating the country’s interests before donor conferences
and other international forums. Such burden-sharing might initiate dialogue with
the growing donors of China, India and the Arab League over how the common
goals of stability and growth can be achieved. In some cases, bilateral provision
of a task may be more efficient than elaborate inter-governmental consultations,
as long as a common strategy is being pursued. Collaboration need not be undertaken
ritualistically if the transaction costs outweigh effective achievement of the
2 Try pilot initiatives to test an approach to joint
analysis and strategy.
Start incrementally and learn by doing. The growing call for coordination has
become a mantra that has yet to produce a concrete procedure for taking specific
steps. A missing ingredient is how to start utilizing the US government’s assets to
address threats and opportunities presented by a particular fragile or failed state. A
procedure is needed to actually tap into the existing capacities to work together in
a more effective way. Although certain steps have been taken by certain USG government
agencies, such as S/CRS, they have been applied in very few fragile states
so far and have not persevered to the step of implementing a tailored strategy.
Rather than waiting to construct a new overall USG architecture at the headquarters
level that institutionalizes standard operating procedure for addressing
Implications and Applications: Retooling Current Policies | 129
fragile states, modest steps can be taken simply to experiment with cross-agency
exercises in acting jointly and proactively to formulate and implement prevention
strategies. These exercises could convene agency representatives, and in appropriate
combinations and sequences, host country nationals and other international
actors as well. This could be done on an informal, non-official basis as a pilot
effort. Even an ad hoc experiment might make a difference somewhere on the
ground. Through a process of feedback and learning, these procedures might
then be expanded and become a normal fixture in current US decision-making.
In conjunction with a headquarters-level exercise, the US government could
support initiatives at the other end—the country level—to engage moderate and
responsible influentials in a local process for formulating and carrying out country
priorities and strategies. Informed by external technical assistance and guided by
an assessment and planning framework, this process could be given the opportunity
and responsibility for formulating national or sub-national prevention strategies.
31 It could begin by undertaking a diagnostic assessment of the country’s risk
factors, identifying its existing capacities for making peaceful mutual adjustments
to change, and then formulating options for resolving specific issues, and ultimately
implementing them. This is when the past lessons on sequencing and effective
policies need to be plugged into decision-making. Of course, each particular
country context requires its own diagnosis as well as prescription, which should
test the extent that the generalizations from many cases actually fit its situation. At
any rate, this process will make possible both local ownership and local responsibility
for the results, augmented where needed by external support and conditional
incentives to reward the specific progress that is made.
All in all, in view of the evidence on the ubiquity and causes of fragility, and on
actions that plausibly can reverse it with sufficient concentration of joint efforts,
the burden of proof has shifted from those who urge that more focused strategy
is needed and that systematically applying what we know is worth trying. The
burden of proof now rests on those who would claim that continuing business-asusual
130 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
3Cs Coordination, Complementarity, and Coherence
3Ds Development, Diplomacy, and Defense
ARENA National Liberation Front of El Salvador
AU African Union
BCPR Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction
CDR Coalition for the Defense of the Republic
CMM Conflict Management and Mitigation Bureau
CRC Civilian Response Corps
DDRR Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation, Reintegration
DOD Department of Defense
DPKO Department of Peacekeeping Operations
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
ECOMOG Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group
ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States
ESPD European Security and Defense Policy
EU European Union
FMLN Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front
FSO Foreign Service Officer
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GNI Gross National Income
GWOT Global War on Terror
ICAF Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework
IMS Interagency Management System
MONUC United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NGO Non-Government Organization
NPFL National Patriotic Front of Liberia
NSC National Security Council
NSPD-44 National Security Presidential Directive 44
OAS Organization of American States
OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
OSCE Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
PBC Peacebuilding Commission
PBSO Peacebuilding Support Office
PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
PRT Provincial Reconstruction Team
QDDR Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
QDR Quadrennial Defense Review
RENAMO Mozambican National Resistance Movement
RUF Revolutionary United Front
SRP Sustainable Range Program
SRSG Special Representative of the Secretary-General
SSR Security Sector Reform
TPA Training, Payments and Accountability
UNDP United Nations Development Program
UNISOM United Nations Operations in Somalia
UNMIL United Nations Mission in Liberia
UNPOL United Nations Civilian Police Office
USAID United States Agency for International Aid
USG United States Government
1 The State Fragility Index at George Mason University was presented by Jack Goldstone and
Monty Marshall. Data is for 2008. The Fragile State Index of the Country Indicators for
Foreign Policy Project at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada was presented by David
Carment. The data is for 2007.
2 Failed State Index, Fund for Peace in Washington, D.C.; Peace and Security Ledger of the
Center for Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland, College
Park, Maryland; Index of State Weakness of the Brookings Institution.
3 The George Mason, Fund for Peace, Brookings, World Bank-LICUS and CIFP systems
all correlate almost close to or above .7, in some cases .8 (Carment). The Low Income
Countries Under Stress (LICUS) project out of the World Bank focuses on economic indicators
and is least correlated with the others.
4 Center for Systemic Peace
5 See for example, ICAF, Clingendael.
6 “The idea of a preventer is more active than merely the absence of a cause. If we want to
identify the factors that prevent wars, we cannot assume that they are necessarily the opposite
of the causes of wars.” Miall, p. 16
7 The session was moderated by Lawrence Woocher, Senior Program Officer of Center for
Conflict Analysis and Prevention, US Institute of Peace.
8 Based on presentation by Michael Lund, Consulting Program Manager, Project on
Leadership and Building State Capacity, Woodrow Wilson Center and Senior Specialist on
Conflict and Peacebuilding, Management Systems International, Inc.
9 Human Security Report, 2009.
10 This discussion is based on “Conflict Prevention: Theory in Pursuit of Policy and Practice,”
Chapter 13 in William Zartman, Jacob Bercovitch, and Viktor Kremenyk, eds. Handbook
of Conflict Resolution (Sage Publications, 2008).
11 Based on a presentation by Ambassador James Dobbins, Director of International Security
and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation.
12 A slightly different sequence is found in MSI, 2007.
13 Kuwait was an exception, when it was liberated and turned back over to the royal family.
But no one raised questions since it was a legitimate regime and internationally recognized.
The people of Kuwait were content with it. Such cases are rare and do not provide a model
to emulate. In most cases, the option of returning to some traditional form of authority
does not exist.
14 Although security against violence is often the most pressing priority in these settings, this
report leaves that task to the numerous studies available about security policy instruments such
as peacekeeping; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and security sector reform.
15 Based on introduction by John W. Harbeson, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, The
City University of New York and Professorial Lecturer, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University.
16 Based principally on the presentation by I. William Zartman, Jacob Blaustein Distinguished
Professor Emeritus of International Organization and Conflict Resolution, SAIS, Johns
17 Based primarily on the presentation by Terrence Lyons, Associate Professor of International
Conflict Analysis and Resolution and Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies, George
18 Based on the presentation by Howard Wolpe, Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of
Africa under President Obama.
132 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer
19 Based primarily on the presentation by Tjip Walker, Team Leader, Warning and Analysis
Unit, Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, US Agency for International
20 Three DAC-published papers came out of the effort and are available on the OECD-DAC
website: a framing paper on the key issues and two reports on principles for good international
engagement in fragile states and on the security sector, respectively (see References).
21 Based on presentation by Dr. Ken Menkhaus, Professor of Political Science, Davidson
22 Based primarily on the presentation of Tony Gambino, Independent Consultant and former
Director of the United States Agency for International Development Mission to the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
23 Based on presentations by Sarah Cliffe, Director of Strategy and Operations, East Asia and
Pacific Region, the World Bank; and Jay Smith, Independent Consultant and formerly
Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and
Trade, United States Agency for International Development.
24 Regression analysis by Paul Collier estimates the effect of having a rigorous, economic
response in post-conflict countries. Instead of a rate of about 40 percent of countries returning
to conflict within a decade after conflict, if the economics are done right, the rate of
relapse could be reduced to 25 percent.
25 Based on the presentations of Charles Call, Assistant Professor of International Peace and
Conflict Resolution, American University; and Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, Associate Vice
President, United States Institute of Peace; and of the session moderator Paul B. Stares,
Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of Center for Preventive Action,
Council on Foreign Relations.
26 Based on the presentations of Reuben Brigety, formerly Director, Sustainable Security
Program, Center for American Progress; Gordon Adams, Professor of US Foreign Policy,
American University and Distinguished Fellow, The Stimson Center; Ambassador Dane
Smith, Adjunct Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, American
University and Senior Associate, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
27 "Stability Operations" is defined by DoD as “an overarching term encompassing various
military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination
with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment,
provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction,
and humanitarian relief.”
28 Taken directly from DoD Directive 3000.5, which was later updated in 2009 and reissued
as DoD Instruction 3000.5
29 This final section draws out important threads from the preceding discussions as well
as augmenting analyses in recent policy research literatures. See OECD-DAC, Booth,
Grindle, Clements, Johnston, Menkhaus.
30 E.g., Clingendael.
31 In addition to the PLBSC at WWICS, other organizations have been seeking to catalyze
locally-driven initiatives for framing national strategies for peacebuilding and statebuilding
in such fragile polities as Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Guyana, Somaliland and others, each
using somewhat differing methodologies. These organizations include Before, UNDP’s
BCPR, and Interpeace.
Endnotes | 133
“10-Step BEFORE Approach to Consolidate Peace in Fragile States.’’ Before Project publication.
Albright, Madeleine K. and William S. Cohen. Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers.
Washington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The American Academy of
Diplomacy, and the Endowment of the United States Institute of Peace, 2008.
Binnendijk, Hans and Patrick M. Cronin. (Eds) Civilian Surge: Key to Complex Operations. Washington:
National Defense University Press, 2008.
Boege, Volker and Anne Brown, Kevin Clements and Anna Nolan. On Hybrid Political Orders
and Emerging States: State Formation in the Context of ‘Fragility.’ Berlin: Berghof Research Center
for Constructive Conflict Management, 2008.
Chalmers, Malcolm, “Spending to Save: Is Conflict Prevention Cost-effective?’’ Working Paper 1
(Washington, DC: Center for International Cooperation and Security, 2005).
Clinton, Hilary Rodham. “On Development in the 21st Century.’’ Speech, The Center for Global
Development. Washington, DC. 6 January 2010.
Country Indicators for Foreign Policy, s.v. “Country Ranking Tables,’’ C:\Documents and Settings\
primary user\Local Settings\Temp\Temporary Directory 1 for CIFP — Country Indicators for
Foreign Policy.zip\CIFP — Country Indicators for Foreign Policy.mht.
Forster, Reiner and Mark Mattner. “Civil Society and Peacebuilding: Potential, Limitations and
Critical Factors.’’ World Bank Report, No. 36445-GLB (2006).
Grindle, Merilee S. Good Enough Governance Revisited: A Report for DFID with reference to the
Governance Target Strategy Paper, 2001.Cambridge: Harvard University, 2005.
Hamblet, William P. and Jerry G. Kline. “Interagency Cooperation: PDD56 and Complex Contingency
Operations.’’ Joint Force Quarterly. Washington: National Defense University Press:
Spring, no. 24 (2000): 92-97.
Jentleson, Bruce. “Preventive Diplomacy and Ethnic Conflict: Possible, Difficult, Necessary.’’
IGCC Policy Papers. California: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (1996).
Koettl, Christoph. The Costs of State Collapse. 2007.
Lund, Michael. “Conflict Prevention: Theory in Pursuit of Policy and Practice.” William Zartman,
Jacob Bercovitch, and Viktor Kremenyk. (Eds.) Handbook of Conflict Resolution. London:
Sage Publications, 2008.
Lund, Michael. “What Kind of Peace is Being Built? Taking Stock of Post-Conflict Peacebuilding
and Charting Future Directions." Discussion Paper. Ottawa, CAN: International Development
Research Centre (2003).
134 | Engaging Fragile States:An International Policy Primer
Menkhaus, Ken. “The Rise of a Mediated State in Northern Kenya: The Wajir Story and its Implications
for State-building.’’ Afrika Focus. Vol 21, no. 2 (2008): 23-38.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Framing Paper on Concepts and Dilemmas
of State Building in Fragile States, from Fragility to Resilience. Paris: OECD, 2008.
Patrick, Stewart. “Weak States and Global Threats: Fact or Fiction?’’ The Washington Quarterly.
Spring, vol. 29, no. 2 (2006): 27–53.
Patrick, Stewart and Kaysie Brown. Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts? Assessing Whole of Government
Approaches to Fragile States. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2007.
Smith Jr., Dane F. An Expanded Mandate for Peacebuilding: The State Department Role in Peace
Diplomacy, Reconstruction, and Stabilization. Washington: CSIS Press, 2009.
Stares, Paul B. and Micah Zenko. “Enhancing U.S. Preventive Action." Council on Foreign Relations
Center for Preventive Action, Special report, no. 48 (2009).
United Nations Development Programme and United States Agency for International
Development. First Steps in Post-Conflict State-Building: A UNDP-USAID Study. Final report,
Washington: Management Systems International, 2007.
US Agency for International Development. Fragile States Strategy. Washington, DC, 2005.
US Agency for International Development. Conflict Management and Mitigation Department.
US Civilian Response Corps. www.state.gov/s/crs/civilianresponsecorps/index.htm.
US Department of the Army. Army Field Manual 3.07: Stability Operations. Washington, DC,
US Department of Defense Directive 3000.5. Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition,
and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations. Washington, DC, 2005.
US Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. www.state.gov/s/crs/.
Woocher, Lawrence. “Preventing Violent Conflict: Assessing Progress, Meeting Challenges.’’
United States Institute of Peace, Special report, no. 231 (2009).
Bibliography | 135