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Capacity Development in Fragile States

Discussion Paper 58d

May 2007

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

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State fragility is directly related to capacity deficits. Fragile states have governments that are incapable of assuring basic security for their citizens, fail to provide basic services and economic opportunities, and are unable to garner sufficient legitimacy to maintain citizen confidence and trust. Due to these facts the citizens lack the capacity to cooperate, compromise, and trust. When these capacity deficits are large, states move toward failure, collapse, crisis, and conflict.

Key Messages

Capacity deals with the aptitudes, resources, relationships, and facilitating conditions necessary to act effectively to achieve some intended purpose. The multi-country ECDPM study of capacity and capacity development adopts a systems view and identifies five core capabilities associated with capacity. The five capabilities alert us to several important implications in thinking about capacity and capacity development.

Weaknesses in, or absence of, the five capabilities at the societal level can be drivers of the fragility factors.At the macro level in fragile states, the capability to self-organize and act is limited, leading to systems that are unresponsive, unwilling, and “stuck.” Similarly, a weak capability to generate development results is connected to state fragility not simply because it contributes to poor economic performance and low human development, but because of the distributional issues.

Targets for Capacity Development (CD) can be categorized according to these levels: individuals, organizations, and/or the enabling environment in which they function. These levels are interconnected.

In societies that have been fragmented by deteriorating or conflict conditions, people’s trust and tolerance levels tend to lower and their suspicion levels are heightened. They are likely to be less willing to cooperate across societal groups and less willing to give others the “benefit of the doubt.” Thus CD efforts that fail to yield quick results or that deliver benefits to one societal group and not another risk being perceived as intentionally unfair or demonstrating favoritism.

A key feature of politics and survival in many fragile situations is that some country actors benefit from fragility, especially in deteriorating and post-conflict states.

In fragile situations, demand-driven influences on ownership and political will are often underdeveloped and embryonic, given that citizens may not have opportunities to engage with, or provide input to, public officials regarding their interests and needs beyond informal and clientelist relationships.

In fragile states, there is a trade-off between the exercise of capacity and building it. Initially little or only weak capacity may exist, yet there is an immediate need for action and results requiring some capacity.

Background

The study consists of about 20 field cases carried out according to a methodological framework with seven components, as follows: Capabilities, Endogenous change and adaption, Performance, External context, Stakeholders, External interventions and Internal feature and key resources.

The outputs of the study include about 20 case study reports, an annotated review of the literature, a set of assessment tools, and various thematic papers to stimulate new thinking and practices about capacity development. The synthesis report summarizing the results of the case studies was published in 2007.

The Author is Derick W. Brinkerhoff. He is a Senior Fellow in International Public Management with Research Triangle Institute (RTI International), and has a faculty associate appointment at George Washington University’s School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

Conclusion  

The practical requirements for external intervention in fragile states pose challenges for enacting ownership-enhancing, country-led CD. Key drivers that shape international intervention efforts include the exigencies of preparedness, quick deployment and action, coordination among external actors, and the mandate under which external actors intervene.

In the ideal, when country governments have primary responsibility for managing donor assistance, setting aid agendas, and organizing stakeholder consultations, these processes contribute to building the capabilities to act, generate development results, adapt and self renew, and establish supportive relationships.

Further complicating the trade-offs that fragile-state interventions face between national ownership and capacity building is the need to achieve short-term results and to assure financial accountability for use of donor funds.

In summary, there is no one “right” way to develop capacity. Yet this does not mean that there are no signposts.

 

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European external affairsSecurity and ResilienceDiscussion Papers (series)ResearchCapacity developmentFragile states

External authors

Derick W. Brinkerhoff