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Working Effectively in Fragile States Seth D. Kaplan Author, Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development Managing Partner, Alpha International.

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Presentation on theme: "Working Effectively in Fragile States Seth D. Kaplan Author, Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development Managing Partner, Alpha International."— Presentation transcript:

1 Working Effectively in Fragile States Seth D. Kaplan Author, Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development Managing Partner, Alpha International Consulting, Ltd.

2 © Seth D. Kaplan My Perspective A businessman who has spent 15 years working in developing countries. Someone with great faith in local people’s capacity to enhance their own lives—if only their states could be partners with them Someone with great skepticism of international efforts to impose stability and development on conflict-prone societies

3 © Seth D. Kaplan Key Elements of Successful States Social cohesion is necessary to create a development- oriented state State institutions must be representative of underlying sociopolitical, geographical, human resource, economic, and informal institutional reality State must be structured so as to take advantage of local governance capacities and identities Security is a prerequisite for progress Business environment must sustain and support private investment, low-cost transactions, and low-cost property rights (and these depend on high levels of social capital)

4 © Seth D. Kaplan Development Although usually equated with economic growth, development is really a process of transforming the system of how the members of a society work together A country’s ability to advance is crucially tied to its citizens’ ability to cooperate—both among themselves and in partnership with the state—in increasingly sophisticated ways Development is fundamentally about a society’s capacity to nurture productive risk-taking, which in turn depends on providing an environment in which private assets are secure and private transactions inexpensive It is a country’s system of institutions—especially its system of informal institutions—that shapes its citizens’ behavior and defines how its political, economic, and societal life evolves

5 © Seth D. Kaplan A More Balanced International Aid Agenda International development agencies often have a narrow and inflexible agenda for fragile states, focusing on some issues but ignoring others. A more balanced agenda would have better results. Specifically, agencies should:  Empower cohesive communities while strengthening the state’s central organs  Bridge ethnic and religious divides while introducing democracy  Ensure security while promoting individual rights  Leverage traditional social structures and networks while building a Western-style governing and economic system  Foster cohesive communities while introducing economic and political reforms  Integrate local institutions into the state while modernizing the governance system  Build capacity at the bottom tiers of government while using NGOs to deliver services  Energetically promote all kinds of private investment while trying to reduce poverty

6 © Seth D. Kaplan © Seth D. Kaplan Understand the Context before You Act; Tailor Projects to Fit that Context Before deciding what project to undertake in a fragile state, an outside actor must fully grasp the local socioeconomic, political, and cultural contexts. Policy, programming selection, and implementation strategies must all be tailored to the local context; generic models do not work It is particularly important to understand the form and nature of local fragility and the root causes of conflict and insecurity To compensate for our lack of knowledge, seek extensive input from local communities, as well as from experts such as anthropologists and historians. Having a team member deeply immersed in the local context could help enormously The more difficult the environment, the more valuable it will be to have local human resources (both on the project team and within the target community) that can manage the inevitable problems

7 © Seth D. Kaplan © Seth D. Kaplan Recognize and Utilize Institutional Multiplicity State building in fragile contexts involves multiple institutions at the national and subnational levels, inside and outside of government. Traditional, private-sector, civil-sector, and religious entities—both formal and informal—can all play important roles depending on the circumstances As is widely recognized, fostering good governance requires going beyond the state; but the most important non-state institutions in many fragile states are outside the Western paradigm of civil society Models of state building are only models—artificial, unreal creations. Assistance to institutions should be rendered pragmatically, based on what is possible, not on what outsiders consider ideal Accept that some functions must be handled by the central state, and that its legitimacy and capacity should thus be enhanced. But remember that the most effective way to improve lives is often by empowering local communities via local governments, non-state actors, customary courts, etc. But do not romanticize traditional structures nor seek to recreate institutions that were responsible for conflict

8 © Seth D. Kaplan © Seth D. Kaplan Look for Pockets of Opportunity Be ready to seize opportunities to work productively in new areas, in new sectors, and with new partners. Some locations, spheres, and actors will be readier to move forward than others Build up clusters of gains in particular geographic or functional areas; these clusters will offer demonstration effects to other, wider areas Be highly pragmatic when deciding how to divide roles and responsibilities among institutions and actors Wherever possible, work with existing local assets (e.g., a cohesive group of people, a robust set of indigenous institutions, a dynamic industry or business association, a strong regional government, an active religious organization); doing so will enable progress to be made in some sectors/areas even if other ones are beset by problems Focus on such assets, not liabilities, and aim to grow these in ways that build a better overall “balance sheet” for the country Where there is a clash of interests and values (e.g., Western vs. local attitudes toward the role of women), do not disengage; instead, work with local actors in pursuit of certain common goals while trying to create a framework that will deal with broader issues over time

9 © Seth D. Kaplan © Seth D. Kaplan Engagement Must Be Long-term, Coherent, and Sustainable The problems of fragile states are so deep-seated and interwoven that only coherent, long-term policies have any hope of achieving lasting impact Policy needs to encompass political, economic, and security issues simultaneously to have the greatest effect Coordination among foreign actors (both across countries and across sectors) is even more vital in fragile states than elsewhere; understanding each other and having a clear division of roles and responsibilities are prerequisites to effectiveness Projects must be chosen and implemented with an eye to their long-term sustainability; only by embedding them within local sociopolitical contexts, by building systems that integrate with existing institutional structures, and by providing for a transition to local management will donors be able to make a lasting contribution that outlives their presence

10 © Seth D. Kaplan © Seth D. Kaplan Some Final Thoughts Be ambitious in goals but humble in attitude Be both creative and pragmatic Work with existing assets; don’t obsess over what is lacking Societies with weak rule of law fall back on “rule of man”: make sure you know which people and networks matter and how to use them You must take risks, which means you will sometimes fail. Be ready to create positives that outlast project failures: spread lessons learned, recycle valuable elements of failed programs, train lots of people, etc. Benchmarks can be useful, but make sure you use ones appropriate to the place—generic markers such as the MDGs and corruption tables may have limited practical relevance in fragile states In everything you do, try to build on what already works, create sustainability, and empower locals Lastly, remember that success does not mean winning plaudits from our colleagues or even from the political elites of fragile states; if our job is to fix fragile states, then our success depends on designing and implementing projects that actually impact the lives of local people


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