Fragile situations: Executive summary

All states but the most developed and institutionalized have some elements of fragility but the most fragile  situations are characterized by weak capacity to carry out the basic functions of governing the population, low trust between the state and the population and limited political will. This Note looks at how capacity unfolds under such conditions and how the approach to capacity development needs to be modified over that used in other developing countries. 

The Note draws heavily on the work done by the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), a subsidiary body of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, and the joint work on capacity development and fragile states being done by the UNDP’s Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Recovery and the World Bank Institute.  Other documentation has also been consulted.  There is considerable agreement on some issues among the different organizations and individuals doing research, although these do not lend themselves to easy solutions and tradeoffs are often necessary.

The general thrust of the material reviewed is that current approaches to capacity development have not been very effective in most fragile and post-conflict states and have even been detrimental in some cases (EuropeAid p 6).  Part of the reason for this is that fragile and post-conflict states are rife with dilemmas where no solution will accommodate all concerns and solutions may be far from ideal. Careful analysis of the context such as through political economy and dilemma analyses is important to understand the entry points for action and the implications of various choices.

In addition, there needs to be a better understanding between country partners and donors of what capacity is to be developed and for whom and how this links with higher-order goals such as increasing the legitimacy of the state.  This may take considerable time and may require exchanges and dialogue among stakeholders with disparate views. Donors can encourage the formation of networks and platforms to bring together leaders who want to promote capacity to exchange ideas on how.  

Linear methods of planning and implementation are often problematic in fragile situations. Adaptation to their complex and changing contexts may require the greater flexibility inherent in emergent or incremental approaches.  These approaches require much more attention to on-going learning from experience so that activities can be adapted accordingly. In general, monitoring and evaluation systems for capacity need to take into account both tangible and intangible results, including resilience, sustainability, and legitimacy, and how they interact. 

International TA should be used sparingly and diasporas should be tapped where possible. Regional advisers seem to be more appropriate for coaching and mentoring than other internationals because of better cultural understanding(Osmani, slide 6).  All TA, national and international, should be given clear direction on expectations in reference to capacity development.  It is also important to ensure that country partners have a role in the management of TA from the beginning of the program and to increase this in phases as national capacity is built and demonstrated. 

Topping up of the salaries of national public servants should only take place when there is broad agreement among the main donors working in the country on how it should be done.  In fragile situations, it is especially important to have a code of conduct specifying how to avoid undermining the limited capacity of the public service.

The role of donors may need to expand or change to include new activities, such as insulating or protecting partner organizations from political pressures so as to give them space to develop their capacity, including their legitimacy.  One way of doing this is to ensure that the management frameworks for projects and programs provide room for experimentation with and testing of new ideas and approaches and that monitoring criteria focus on processes of learning rather than specific tangible results.