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Research Report

The Political Economy of State-building in Situations of Fragility and Conflict:: from Analysis to Strategy

Louise Anten
Ivan Briscoe
Marco Mezzera
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 66

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[iii])
  2. (pp. [iv]-[iv])
  3. (pp. 1-2)
  4. (pp. 3-6)
  5. (pp. 7-10)

    Fragile states have loomed large in the concerns of the international community over the past decade. Despite ongoing debate over whether the label of ‘fragility’ is a valid, appropriate or fair description for these states, the concept of a group of poor countries where the structures of power and authority fail to deliver basic public goods is one that has proved extremely resonant.

    Aid agencies, multilateral donors, security organizations, military forces and civil society bodies have all responded, in one way or another, to what they perceive to be the causes and effects of fragile and failing states. Although each...

  6. (pp. 11-14)

    The study of economic development has focused to an ever greater extent over the past two decades on the obstacles to growth posed by institutional and political structures, and how these structures may themselves be grounded deep in a nation’s history or geography, such as its natural resources endowments or colonial legacies. While part of this resulting literature has been devoted to understanding the success stories of the fastest-growing economies of the developing world – such as the 13 countries identified by the World Bank’s Growth Commission (World Bank 2008) – substantial effort has also been directed at explaining the...

  7. (pp. 15-18)

    Foundational factors shape the conditions for state-building in a particular country context. These are deeply entrenched, rooted in the distant past, and include, as explained below, geographical and historical factors, as well as recurrent patterns of external intervention, which tend to be particularly relevant for a number of small states.

    A number of geographical factors are statistically correlated with greater incidence of civil war or state fragility: the size of a country, a large population, a landlocked position, and mountainous areas. For example, there are now 44 landlocked countries in the world, and the effect of their lack of coastal...

  8. (pp. 19-26)

    If flawed governance and poorly performing institutions are a central component of state fragility – as almost all scholars and experts now agree – then it becomes important to identify the types of governance systems and practices that are more prone to create public institutions that are manifestly ineffective, to determine the reasons why they do so, and to understand why such patterns of governance continue to exist.

    This last question is acutely important, since it seeks to explain what makes these political orders so enduring, even as they give rise to states that are weak and subject to frequent...

  9. (pp. 27-36)

    The resilience of the political order in fragile states can be explained by reference to historical conditions as well to a number of other structures in political economy. Drawing extensively on the case studies, this chapter looks in depth at some of these structures, including the existence and entrenchment of inequality, the existence of hybrid forms of governance, and the nature of a country’s productive structure and sources of income. In combination these various factors shape the rules of the political and economic game, and are fundamental to moulding the expectations and perception of power-holders and social groups at the...

  10. (pp. 37-50)

    A further layer of analysis through which to understand the state fragility is that of much more recent and dynamic phenomena. These polices and processes are more liable to change than foundational factors, political orders or deep-seated political and economic structures, and are likely to involve alterations to both formal and informal rules. This makes them the most interesting in strategic terms, since they offer entry points for any attempt to intervene, in the short or medium term, in support of state-building processes.

    We have already seen how the ideal of a common-interest state informs the most significant recent contributions...

  11. (pp. 51-56)

    This paper has attempted to build a bridge between the current knowledge of state fragility and state-building, and the way that these concepts have assumed concrete shape in five case studies included in the research project. Building upon that effort, it has then tried to pinpoint and elaborate on those processes deemed conducive to sound and sustainable state-building.

    By taking a political economy perspective, it has identified the outstanding characteristics and causes of fragility and ordered them according to a number of analytical dimensions: foundational factors, types of fragility and political order, political and economic structures, and policies and processes....

  12. (pp. 57-62)