by Rebekah Chang, Johns Hopkins/SAIS
17 February 2011
Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), Toward Capable and Responsive States: Recommendations for International Engagement in Situations of Fragility and Conflict
Stephen Groff, Deputy Director, Development Co-operation Directorate, OECD
Mark Quarterman, Senior Adviser and Director, Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation (C3), CSIS
Susan Reichle, Assistant to the Administrator, Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, USAID
The OECD DAC’s International Network on Conflict and Fragility recently published a report, Supporting Statebuilding in Situations of Conflict and Fragility, to provide policy guidance on the challenges of statebuilding in fragile contexts. Stephen Groff provided an overview of the guidance, which was followed by a series of observations on the report from Mark Quarterman. The event concluded with a presentation by Susan Reichle on the implications of this report for USAID.
Stephen Groff began the discussion by addressing why OECD guidance was needed for statebuilding in situations of conflict and fragility. Fragile states are those that struggle to carry out basic functions of governance and lack the ability to develop mutually beneficial relations with society. There are currently around 40 countries that can be categorized as fragile states. Fragile states are the most off-track from meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and a third of Official Development Assistance is allocated to these countries, which has produced a mixed track record. The international development community has also generally recognized that working in the context of a fragile state entails different considerations and responses (e.g. complementing peacebuilding processes) than in states that are not dealing with conflict and fragility.
Stephen Groff continued by describing OECD DAC’s conceptual thinking behind statebuilding, which centers on strengthening state-society relations. There are three critical aspects of statebuilding in situations of conflict and fragility: 1) political settlements, which includes issues such as elite bargaining, balance of power, and center-periphery relations; 2) social expectations, including perceptions and responsibilities; and 3) state capability and responsiveness in issues like security, justice, economic management and service delivery. These aspects of statebuilding center on the issue of legitimacy, which is a highly contested notion in fragile states.
Given this conceptual framework, Stephen Groff concluded by providing recommendations for effective support in fragile states. These recommendations are:
• To understand the local context and dynamics, and to make context-specific judgments;
• To engage with a broad range of state and non-state actors, working outside of the capital city, in order to build effective state-society interactions throughout the country;
• To identify trade-offs and to make strategic choices;
• Recognizing that fragile states often have porous borders, to work at the regional level to address factors fueling fragility and conflict;
• To support local conflict management and resolution mechanisms;
• To align aid modalities with statebuilding, including prioritizing pooled funding and developing joint strategies to strengthen coordination among donors;
• To align the provision of technical assistance with state building objectives, recognizing that technical assistance can do harm in fragile states.
Mark Quarterman continued the event by providing a series of observations related to the report that were targeted at the donor community. He began by remarking that the field has yet to develop effective measurements of success for statebuilding, and expressed the need for stronger quantitative and qualitative metrics. He also expressed the need for the international community to better understand the drivers of instability, such as high unemployment and the youth bulge. Another challenge he raised was regarding the incentives faced by donors. While the international community has increasingly acknowledged that statebuilding is a slow process, this is at odds with development agencies’ processes which require justification of renewal support on a yearly basis. These internal requirements drive donors to engage more heavily in projects with a short-term outlook. Additionally, Mark Quarterman noted that there were often too many international actors with differing objectives involved in statebuilding processes. He called for greater donor coordination – to jointly develop strategies and pool funding. He concluded his comments by noting the importance of involving local actors, and the need to involve local actors in governance. He provided the example of South Sudan, where there is not a functioning government but where local actors are successfully engaging in traditional governance structures in some places.
Susan Reichle continued the event with a discussion on the implications of this report for USAID and on USAID’s continued engagement in statebuilding. This guidance by DAC continues to highlight the importance of building and maintaining legitimacy in fragile states, and also recognizes the importance of creating a unique approach towards work in fragile states. She also highlighted the report’s emphasis on a long-term approach, and its call for policy coherence and coordination.
USAID is continuing to engage in statebuilding in situations of fragility and conflict, focusing its efforts in several key areas:
• Talent management and human resources: to train, equip and deploy newly hired staff (approximately 700 new foreign service officers in the past 4 years) to work in these states
• Procurement reform: to review procurement procedures to allow for greater flexibility in engaging in activities like pooled funding
• Evaluation: to develop evaluation procedures that begin early in the process and that are relevant to local contexts
• Strategy: to develop coherent strategies for engagement in situations of fragility
• Science, technology and innovation: to support innovation and the use of existing science and technology in fragile environments
• Resource management: to strengthen capacity to better manage USAID’s resources
Susan Reichle concluded her presentation by briefly highlighting several challenges faced by USAID in its statebuilding efforts. She spoke of time constraints and the pressure for quick results, the challenge of training new staff, the budget environment, the need to develop systems that are consistent with objectives, and the need for fuller regional operations.