Fragile States and State-Building
By admin August 4, 2015


Around the world, state-building activities take place in fragile countries. Although there is no globally agreed definition of a fragile country, it is generally accepted these are countries that fail to function normally and development is often abandoned due to severe shortages of social, economic, and human capacities. In this context, the international community tries to establish a functioning state by intervening with a combination of state building and peace-building. For these activities, the international community comes with more foreign aid – mostly with diplomatic purposes, economic reform, and more peace-keeping forces.


According to the report from Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), the international community does not consider root causes and fundamental cures for fragile states but only considers them as a ‘state’ that needs to be fixed and overturned. Regarding this, Seth Kaplan, a professional lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, argues that fractured societies need a new approach, beyond political approaches, considering indigenous institutions and their capacities.


Development is not accomplished by infusing a panacea imported from wealthy countries, but by an ‘organic process’ that is performed, adjusted, and improved according to indigenous values, systems, and people. In this regard, social cohesion and social capital is important for sustainable development in all countries. For example, the countries that are assessed as successful cases for development – China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan – all had social capitals playing some roles as a driving force for national modernization mission.


The problem is fragile countries are usually born with disaggregated cultural, religious, political, or social groups and often times have illegitimate leadership that hardly draws cohesive national agreement on development mission. On the contrary, development projects in fragile countries are still based on generic models for state building, not giving enough attention to local social, political, and cultural context. Accordingly, development projects with a top-down model give tacit concession to the illegitimate authorities as well as a power for a national development agenda.


Therefore, as far as development for fragile countries, rethinking is required. For locally-driven development, some insist that foreign aid needs to be away from corrupt governments and towards local governments with appropriate consideration on its capacities and local contexts. In addition, Kaplan requires attitudinal changes from Western aid agencies. He suggests that aid practitioners need to approach development in these states with a humble and long-term perspective and spend substantial time understanding the local contexts, ideally living in the area.


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