Addressing State Fragility: A need to challenge conventional wisdom?

Kutsutilaisuus

Ti 4.5.2010 klo 12:00-15:00
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Kruunuvuorenkatu 4, Helsinki

Western donor policies directed toward ‘peace as state-building’ in Africa have not had the desired impact in terms of creating stability, development and human prosperity. It is evident that the gap between donor rhetoric and empirical realities is widening. Hence, there is a need for critically rethinking approaches to state and peace building. How can donors better contribute to addressing the legitimacy dimension of state fragility? Which types of capacities are critical in addressing state fragility? Is state building an appropriate means for consolidating peace?

This seminar will mark the launch of a joint CMI-FIIA Report on state fragility discussing issues of political legitimacy; the significance of non-state capacities to impact state-building and development processes and; tentative ideas to alternative approaches to external support. The report has been produced as part of a joint CMI-FIIA research programme on post-conflict challenges. The aim of the programme has been to jointly produce policy analysis and recommendations to key policy makers.
 
PROGRAMME

Session 1:
Opportunities and Challenges of Addressing State Fragility

12.00 -12.05 Opening and Chair: Mika Aaltola, Academy Fellow, FIIA

12.05-12.25 Introduction to key themes and policy recommendations in the joint CMI-FIIA report:
A grounded perspective on capacities and legitimacies
Louise Wiuff Moe, Researcher, FIIA-CMI

12.25-12.45 Comments on the joint CMI-FIIA report from a Liberian perspective: Cross-comparison on the thematic issues
Morten Bøås, Head of Research, Institute for Applied International Studies (FAFO)

12.45-13.15 Discussion
With key comment: Kirsi Joenpolvi, Head of Africa, CMI

13.15-13.45 Coffee Break

Session 2: State-building: A Means to Peace?

13.45-13.50 Opening and Chair: Kirsi Joenpolvi, Head of Africa, CMI

13. 50-14.10 State-building and peacebuilding in Somaliland
Mohamed Fadal, Director, Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI)

14.10-14.30 State-building: a means to consolidate peace or an obstacle to peace?
A perspective from Somalia 
Christian Balslev-Olesen, Senior Manager, Nordic Consulting Group

14.30- 15.00 Discussion
With key comment: Mika Aaltola, FIIA

End of Seminar

SPEAKERS

Morten Bøås
Head of Research, Institute for Applied International Studies, Oslo (Norway)
Areas of Expertise: Central and West Africa; Southeast Asia; Conflict, Security and Development; Regions and Regionalisation; Multilateral Institutions and Development

Louise Wiuff Moe
Junior Researcher, Finnish Institute of International Affairs and Crisis Management Initiative, Helsinki (Finland)
Areas of Expertise: Peace-processes, political legitimacy and state capacities in fragile settings. The interface between state and non-state forms of authority and governance.

Mohamed Fadal
Director of the Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI), Hargeisa (Somaliland).
Areas of Expertise: Democratization, development. Extensive experience of politics, state-building and peacebuilding in Somaliland.

Christian Balslev-Olesen
Senior Manager, Nordic Consulting Group
Areas of Expertise: Humanitarian aid, Post-Crisis and Fragile States. Extensive country experience in sub-Sahara Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Summary of the Seminar

Session 1: Opportunities and Challenges of Addressing State Fragility

Dr Mika Aaltola opened the seminar by welcoming the expert speakers and the audience to the seminar on state fragility and state-building. Dr Aaltola noted in his opening remarks that, while the expert speakers make particular reference to Somalia, Somaliland and Liberia in their presentations, unresolved, complex and simmering internal crisis around the world become interconnected and nested in ways in which no country can insulate itself from wider international implications. There is in fact a rising number of poly-crisis in the world that reinforce one another, making them as global as they are local.

Ms Louise Wiuff Moe, researcher at Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) and FIIA, introduced the key themes and policy recommendations in the joint CMI-FIIA report launched at the seminar. The report titled A Grounded Perspective on Capacities and Legitimacies centers around questions related to state-building, which as a process has to tackle the key challenges present in Africa and the global South, for example. Those challenges include creating a space for peace, development and security. Ms Wiuff Moe began by pointing out that usually attention is drawn to what is lacking in a situation of state-building, and then that is addressed. But such a diagnosis & solution approach is problematic, and the actors involved should abandon this type of an “outsider’s” view. Also, the actors should move away from an overly state-centric approach, peppered with preconceived notions of what a state should look like in the first place, and rather take more into account the local dynamics of a situation. An overly state-centric approach risks partnering with regional elites and strong men who don’t represent the broader population and can lead to overlooking locally relevant ideas of statehood. The political nature of state-building cannot be left unaddressed, Ms Wiuff Moe noted, in part because of a Western idealization of the state.

One of the main arguments put forward in the report is that non-state authorities need to be taken on board much more; often the positive opportunities of such engagement are underexplored, while the negative sides are overly highlighted. Interacting with existing norms leads to much more socially valid and recognizable state structures. Also, the “failed state” label works to legitimize outside management of state-building. State fragility is indeed not just a question of the state being weak, but in these situations also constructive bonds between state and society are lacking, and to reduce fragility those bonds need attention. In particular Somaliland has challenged the image of a “failed state” as a place of anarchy and instability, in its own process of recovery and institution building.

The final part of the CMI-FIIA joint report puts forward some policy suggestions for actors involved in state-building. Underlining most of the suggestions is the question of capacities; donors might pay attention to legitimacy, but forget capacity-building, which in turn would work to further also legitimacy issues. In addition, capacity-identification should be prioritized as a pre-exercise to capacity-building; donors should reorient themselves to building upon existing capacities and not start from scratch, and here the knowledge of the contexts is crucial. Too often it is also taken as a given what the relevant capacities are – in fact they also include such things as collaborative capacities, conflict management, and flexibility as capacity. Finally, donors should consider legitimacies rather than legitimacy, and move towards expanding the space for state-society negotiations. These and further policy suggestions aim to provide some tools for actors involved in state-building in the contexts of fragile states.

Mr. Morten Bøås, Head of Research at the Institute for Applied International Studies (FAFO) in Norway, responded to the themes put forward in the joint CMI-FIIA report with a very relevant and engaging account on Liberia’s experiences in state-building. Mr Bøås said that the recommendations put forward in the report were “music to his ears”, as they signal a return to placing a greater importance on local realities. This represents for him a partial revision of international interventions and the core thinking behind them.

Mr Bøås noted that the UN returned to Liberia with its peacekeeping operation in 2003 against the recommendations of many experts. It was thought, Mr Bøås said, that war equals criminal enterprise, and with the former leader out of the picture, building peace should be simple. But for example the question of to whom capacity should be built in Liberia - the youth, ex-combatants, women and so on - was never raised. As interventions have to happen very quickly, understanding the larger historical picture even beyond colonial experiences is also not easy. Mr Bøås criticized a certain “gung-ho” mentality in the UN in 2003 when it was re-establishing its peacekeeping efforts with external partners to aid in the transitional government; this mentality by 2005 turned to a cynical resignation over the extent of corruption in Liberia at the time. Such rampant corruption was however, as Mr Bøås sees it, unavoidable with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in place: with two years to achieve something, the transitional government put in place saw this as its last chance to gain something from the war, leading to an environment of corruption.

At the moment the international community has written off the Liberian transition experience as a success story and is eager to leave the country. However, Mr Bøås stated, the question was never about re-building Liberia after war, Liberia was already broken long before the war started, and this should have been the initial realization of the international community. A more pragmatic approach relying on a wider participation of actors would have been needed, rather than a half-hearted approach.

Ms. Kirsi Joenpolvi, Head of Africa at CMI, ended this first session with some words from the point of view of CMI on the topic. CMI is one of the Finnish actors doing the work on the ground, supporting peace processes and state-building efforts. With the joint report bringing out crucial issues that can help the work of CMI, Ms Joenpolvi expressed her hope that such cooperation with researchers and FIIA could continue in the future also. Some of the questions that come up in CMI’s work and should be discussed further are for example: how do you ensure sufficiently deep understanding of especially the local political climate? What is the role of the state in a locale? The different applications that a state can have need to be understood in order to find the applications that are rooted into society. And finally: what is the length of a peace process? Certainly it should continue much after the initial peace settlements, though very few actors involved seem to see beyond them.

The discussion on the topics of this first session was vibrant, with participants who are involved in these issues through very different roles giving their views. Some pointed out that “state” and “society” are not singular units, and in order to be more grounded in reality a matrix view should not be forgotten. Others touched upon the concept of “nation building” and its role here - though it was agreed that in order for “nation building” to be possible, a space where peaceful contestations can take place needs to be created. Many comments from a donor perspective brought valuable additions to the discussion. One such comment was that it is often not just a question of not knowing the realities on the ground, or what kind of actors the donors choose to engage with, but whom they can engage with and which groups are willing to take part in the process. Also, as a comment to the policy recommendations of the report, it was noted that, when coming from a liberal democracy, the norms of the local authorities simply do not always fit, no matter how much legitimacy they enjoy on the local level. Mr Morten Bøås suggested that one reason to why the local realities might “not be understood”, relate to geopolitical reasons, and here small states such as Finland and Norway that do not have such interests could do much more in not letting this go on in Africa for example; in this sense the knowledge of these small states is under-used. Finally from a donor perspective, it was noted that if the loyalties of a person or a group has been with a family, tribe, ethnic group and so on for as long as they can remember, a donor body cannot gain that loyalty over night – nor are these other loyalties always a matter of corruption, but rather a matter of preferring to stick with the older, still functioning reference groups.

Session 2: State-Building: A Means to Peace?

Mr. Mohamed Fadal, Director of the Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI), opened the second session with a detailed account on the experiences of Somaliland in its process of state-building and peace-building. Mr Fadal stressed that unlike is often the case, state-building in Somaliland has been a dominantly homegrown experience. The issues shaping the Somaliland peace process and state-building has among others been: the hasty initial union with Somalia; going through a period of dictatorship, and the various interests of influential families and the fears of clans. The legacy of these issues is still felt today.

The first stage in the process, says Mr Fadal, was to focus on reconciliation. A first clan conference was held in 1991, and after that the idea was for the leaders to go back to their regions and continue the reconciliation efforts there, dealing with such long-standing issues as claims to land by neighboring groups. Peace-building by traditional leadership was successful, but state-building failed at this point with too many political differences left unsettled. The second stage in the process made a concentrated effort in focusing on state-building. Again the main actors were the clans, and the conferences were locally financed, not internationally. The elders were successful in transferring the power away from the guerilla movement, and the National Charter gave parity shares to the different clans, but leaving the big clans unsatisfied. Over time the role of the traditional leadership has transformed, and become formalized as part of the government. The final stage in the Somaliland experience is to turn state-building into a process of democratization. At present, conflicts still remain, not in the clan vs. clan manner, but revolving around, for example, the organizing of state elections and the incompetence of state institutions. During elections, instances of violence have erupted which could have seriously undermined them; the challenge now is in how to handle elections. Also questions such as how to allow new parties to come into the scene, and how to engage more women and minorities in politics are still open.

Mr. Christian Balslev-Olesen, Senior Manager at the Nordic Consulting Group in Denmark, addressed state-building from the point of view of Somalia, in particular giving a practitioner’s view to it. Mediation and national reconciliation efforts have been ongoing since 1991, and peace- and state-building efforts with the UN have also been in progress for several years. However, these international interventions for peace and state-building have failed, and much of it can be described as artificial, Mr Balslev-Olesen stated. The international community, including the UN, has been taken by surprise every time there is a new turn in the conflict, for example a change of leadership. Meanwhile, the humanitarian needs of Somalis and the radicalization of different factions have increased during the intervention efforts. The priorities of the international community, Mr Balslev-Olesen continued, have been in safety and security, rule of law, governance and human rights – but the priorities that Somalis repeatedly express are education, health and water. The international community has, in his view, become convinced that state-building must be a priority in order to achieve peace and basic social services - so much so that this position has become something of a doctrine. Certain state-building efforts might even work to fuel the conflict.

Mr Balslev-Olesen also recounted some of the lessons drawn from the involvement of UNICEF in Somalia. Central here is the need to listen to the priorities of the people and what they need, and to build trust with the communities by entering into negotiations even with non-state entities. Also, local expertise should be sought when making decisions. One of the obstacles that an organization such as UNICEF faced in Somalia was indeed a political UN and international framework that could for example hinder negotiations with non-state actors. There exist clear conflicts between a humanitarian agenda and an internationally-backed political Road map. In the analysis of Mr Balslev-Olesen, neither state-building nor peace-building took the Somalis themselves onboard, but the processes were rather enforced upon them; the lack of ownership to the efforts by the various Somali actors was perhaps the biggest mistake made. Also, the processes were driven mostly by headquarter decisions and policy guidelines, and a regime that was quite distant from reality. However, with minimal international assistance, Somalis have achieved a lot for themselves, for example in the form of rebuilding towns and improving medical facilities, as well as developing the competitiveness of their business sectors – and this kind of talent and capacity is what the international community should be focusing on, Mr Balslev-Olesen says. In Somalia local communities are indeed succeeding in the peace process, but as those developments are almost fully de-linked from the central process the impact also stays local.

In the discussion, the pull-out of the World Food Program (WFP) from Somalia came up. One claim that has been made is that the WFP was fuelling the conflict through the choice of its food providers. The take of Mr Balslev-Olesen on this was that the WFP tried to do what it could, but the UN in general should also admit to being part of the problem, not just the solution. The fact that UN involvement is expensive and risky should not be a reason to leave, but to be even more on top of its task. The question “who should get the revenue” does not have a straightforward answer, and the possible actors might all be tied into the conflict in one way or another.