Pragmatism and comprehensiveness are essential
Six new DIIS Policy Briefs discuss governance support in fragile situations
The last release from the study of fragile situations includes six policy briefs on governance issues: Democratisation, local governance, state building in hostile post-conflict areas, taxation, corruption, and judicial systems. Two cross-cutting issues seem to emerge from the briefs. First, donors need to be pragmatic when they engage with governance issues in fragile situations. Though this point is no great revelation, a pragmatic, context-dependent and flexible approach still constitutes a significant challenge to many donors. The briefs argue that blue-print approaches and fixed ideas about what constitutes a governance agenda can have dangerous consequences, and they demonstrate how pragmatic initiatives that do not necessarily reflect widespread ideas about ‘good governance’ can bring about positive results.
Secondly, and slightly more complicated, the briefs call for comprehensiveness when dealing with governance in fragile situations. One aspect of this is to constantly weigh short-term possibilities in the light of long-term needs and objectives. Short-term results are often needed in fragile situations to cover basic needs and build a feeling of progress, but these results should be achieved in a manner that do not undermine long-term objectives. Another aspect is that the fragility of states and situations does not justify deferring difficult problems to a later moment. Deferring problems implicitly legitimises the current setting thereby further entrenching the problems. Thus, a wide variety of governance problems should be addressed from the outset. Though some may be more important than others, there is a need to take a broad look in governance support to fragile situations.
This argument is, however, challenged by the widespread experience that when donors pursue many different concerns, none of them is realised. Moreover, donor coordination appears to be particularly difficult and important in fragile situations. Thus, a comprehensive approach is needed, but cannot be implemented. The solution will have to be a balancing act based on a comprehensive analysis and vision coupled with pragmatic, feasible actions.