engaging fragile states - Woodrow Wilson International Center for ...


engaging fragile states - Woodrow Wilson International Center for ...


Fragile States

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

written product.

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

Acronyms 131

Endnotes 132

Bibliography 134

Contents | 1

Why are failed

states relevant

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

humanitarian crises.


Threats Amid Overload

Michael Lund

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

humanitarian crises.

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

military involvement.

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


largely non-military

equivalents of the

“clear, hold and build”

formula that emerged

out of experience in


but with regard to the

stages and types of

fragile states.”

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

presenters were

charged with seeking

some closure about

the best analyses of

state failure and most

plausible options.”

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

fragile states.

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

from reaching

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

Part I

Understanding State

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

(Population >500,000)





© 2009


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

State Failure?

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

completely collapse."

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

other groups.

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

accommodative strategies.

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.”

Jack Goldstone

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

former Zaire;

3 Ongoing guerrilla rebellions or acts of terrorism disrupt overall order, such as

in Chechnya;

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

difficult institutional

settings, hinges on

whether opposition

leaders can achieve

some kind of agreements

or compromises…”

Jack Goldstone

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

the two.

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...”

Monty Marshall

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

conventional processes.”

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

international actors

benefit from a

prevention strategy?

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

Part II

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

Post-Conflict Reconstruction

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


Peace Enforcement

Crisis Management


of violence








Peacetime Politics

rising tension



Post Conflict



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

engagement to

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

policy priority.

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



Seizing the














Deterring Activities


Shaping Activities

Theater Shaping

Global Shaping



Seize the




Enable Civil



Phase 0

Phase I

Phase II

Phase III

Phase III

Phase V

Phase 0

OPLAN activation


OPLAN termination

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

“deterring” activities,

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

are advisable:

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

political dialogue.

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

economic development

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:

1 Security

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

environment, the

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

considerable advantages.

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.

Sector-Level Policies:

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.”

Terrence Lyons

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

very slowly.

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

security-enhancing instrument?

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

be unraveled.

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

as well.

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.”

Howard Wolpe

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

other participants.”

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

other services.

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

services directly.

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

perceived needs.

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

without government.

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

fragile states?

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

order exists.

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.’’

Ken Menkhaus

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

warlord fiefdom.

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

alternative model.

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

of Congo.

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.”

Tony Gambino

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

command structure.

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

motivations... ”

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 Priorities?

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

private sector.”

Sarah Cliffe

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

have occurred.

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

local businesses.

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

most effective

strategy for


fragile or failed

state policies?

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

Part III

Organizing Multi-Actor


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?

United Nations

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

C's: complementarity,

coordination, and coherence.’’

Charles Call

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

is positive.

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

nation’s troops.

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

be expected.

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

their actions?

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?

United Nations

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,

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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.


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

currently undergoing

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

legitimacy perspective.

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

these institutions.

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What efforts have been made by the

US Government to focus on failed or

fragile states?

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.”

Reuben Brigety

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.”

Dane Smith

What obstacles face US Government

efforts in implementing failed or fragile

state strategies?

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

effectively meet

the challenges of

failed states with

current resource


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

Part IV

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

country assessments;

• >> 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


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

stakeholder interests.

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

wider emulation.

128 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer


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

is cost-effective.

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

Hopkins University.

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

Mason University.

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


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