Capacity Development in Fragile States

Derick Brinkerhoff
Year of publication: 

This paper clarifies key concepts, reviews selected experience, and addresses several of the issues and dilemmas that members of the international community confront in dealing with capacity and capacity development (CD) in fragile states. Assessment frameworks are provided to enable actors to begin to address some of these issues. Additional tables suggest starting points for thinking about CD interventions. The discussion draws on the author's previous and ongoing research, as well as that of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). The essay extends ECDPM's concentration on organizational capacity to consider macro-level capacity, with an application to fragile states.

The paper begins with a brief discussion of what is meant by fragile states, capacity, and capacity targets in fragile states. The ECDPM capacity model is reviewed and then discussed in the fragile-states context. Using governance as the unifying theme for categorizing core societal functions, the paper examines capacity to: provide security, manage the provision of basic public goods and services, and to govern legitimately through democratic political principles and structures. The next section addresses CD targets, and develops a model of CD intervention. The model identifies three dimensions that can be used to characterize interventions to build capacity: the amount of time required, the degree of difficulty and complexity, and the scope and depth of the change involved. The implications for CD in fragile states are identified.

Ownership and political will are the next topics of the paper. They reflect the alignment (or lack thereof) between the outsider and insider viewpoints on capacity and capacity development. Reducing fragility and promoting sustainable capacity depend upon country leadership; thus separating ownership and the will to take action from the capacity to act is important. To aid in that differentiation, the paper offers a model of ownership.

Almost any CD choice open to external interveners and their country partners involves trade-offs and dilemmas. These are the topic of the next section of the paper, where the following are explored: state versus non-state service provision, services now versus institutional strengthening, immediate security versus long-term stability, technical versus political factors, and external actors and local capacity. A final section offers concluding observations.

Source: Brinkerhoff, D.W. 2007. Capacity Development in Fragile States. (Discussion Paper 58D). Maastricht: ECDPM.