Background papers on fragile situations
DIIS report offers discussions of four central issues
The chapters in this DIIS report were commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as background papers in the context of a study on current debates and central dilemmas in relation to fragile situations. The background papers discuss the emergence of the concern with fragility, the attempts to define and categorise fragile situations, the available historical experience with state building and state formation, and issues in international support to fragile situations. The papers constitute a collection of reflexions and views on central themes in relation to fragile situations and do not seek to provide one coherent argument about fragility.
By Louise Andersen
The first paper looks at the international context and explores how the concern with fragile states has emerged. The paper argues that two themes have merged in the debate on fragile states; one being the increasing interest in states and state functions both from a conflict and security perspective and within the development discourse, and the other being that no region, country or locality is irrelevant to the international community. This security-development nexus has produced three significant claims guiding international discussions: First, that state fragility is a source of transnational threats; secondly, that ‘bad’ governance is a root cause of state fragility;
|and, thirdly, that there is a need for ‘integrated approaches’ to address both the causes and consequences of state fragility. The paper goes on to discuss the commonly supplied answer to fragility, namely state building, and notes that there is little agreement neither of the precise content of this notion, nor of what external actors can and should do in that context.
Finn Stepputat and Lars Engberg-Pedersen
The second paper deals with types and processes of fragility and seeks to provide an overview of the variety of definitions, measurements and typologies of state fragility. The two authors are generally sceptical as to the endeavours to standardise and categorise fragile states as a basis for organised external interventions. While the concern to support people and societies in great difficulty is imperative, much of the debate on fragility suffers from three interlinked weaknesses: (i) it assumes that different fragile situations share sufficient characteristics to allow for similar types of support; (ii) it is based on the technocratic approach of conventional aid interventions assuming that social change can be engineered through careful planning; and (iii) it presupposes that a Weberian ideal of what a state should look like is a relevant goal in all societies struggling with fragility.
By Dietrich Jung
In the third paper, a historical and sociological perspective on state formation and state building is presented. The paper begins by summarising the views in historical sociology on the creation of modern statehood in Europe. It emphasises the typically violent and protracted process through which, first, a monopoly of physical violence has been established and, secondly, how the control of this monopoly has moved from private to public spheres. Charles Tilly’s description of the early European state-builders as ‘criminal’ racketeers is recalled. The paper continues by emphasising that the modern state as an institution, as an image and as social practice is far from always a coherent entity. Particularly the post-colonial state has typically suffered from incoherent demands from social actors with very different perspectives and backgrounds. Basically, the paper argues that there is very little basis for turning the particular European experience of state formation into a blue-print model for present day attempts to build fragile states.
By Lars Engberg-Pedersen
Tentative suggestions as to international support are presented in the fourth paper, given the diversity of fragile situations, the different possible domains of intervention, and the differing nature of international actors. After a presentation of what appears to have contributed to ‘turnaround’ in different specific settings, the paper proposes a particular conceptualisation of fragility as well as a number of themes of significant importance when analysing fragile situations. Two general conclusions emerge from this discussion: First, fragility is not only a state problem and state building is not necessarily the adequate response, and secondly, there is a strong need to look for causes of fragility in the interaction of national and international processes. The paper ends by listing five issues that should be thoroughly analysed when organising international support to fragile situations.