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, Grenoble, July 2010

State Development

Introduction Part 4 of the book « Rethinking the foundations of the State, an analysis of post-crisis situation ».

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The approach to State development is an alternative to the naturalisation and reification of the State. It is also an evolutionary approach to State transformation, as opposed to the teleological mainstream one.

This new research direction has two components.

  • The first is to draw a continuum from the failed State to the developed State, which should not be understood as a linear and deterministic evolution: the way of State development is marked by bifurcations and deadlocks. This continuum drives the attention to the process itself of improving State efficiency instead of looking at a final end. In other words, it is a functional approach of the State rather than a normative one. In that respect one will identify the main functions of the State and monitor the degrees and the ways they are implemented: to ensure sovereignty, to grant the implementation of the rule of law, to gain legitimacy, to enable the building of citizenships, to ensure fiscal and redistributive functions, to provide frames for identity and symbolic systems etc. Once the palette of State functions is mapped, research will focus on assessing the success and the obstacles to their implementation in practice. One should pay attention to the issue of reification of the State: For a State to carry out its main functions, it does not only rely on the Weberian way of building institutions and bureaucratic bodies for better embracing society. To some extent it is exactly the opposite: it is the decrease of the distance and the distinction between State and society, it is the diminishing exteriority of the State to society.

  • The second component of State development is its adaptation to our changing world, to the new economic context, to the new technological paradigms, to new set of values adopted by its populations. This could be planetary issues such as the economic globalisation, the numeric tools and Internet or climate and biodiversity issues. This could also be regional or local contexts characterised by particular features such as the domination of the Confucian philosophy or the Muslim ethic, or the very low and very high population densities, or historically low or high demands of democracy, sometimes present in the same country. In that sense, State development deals with the questions of the ability of the State to adapt to these environments and the ways to increase its efficiency and to ensure or to modify its functions given the situations.

The focus on the implementation of States functions drives research towards empirical quantitative analyses. Analytical tools to measure State performance are becoming new topics of State research. What is the scope of current measures and what are current needs to develop and/or refine measures? Some examples of existing analytical models (combining qualitative and quantitative data) are the worldwide governance indicators developed by the Worldbank, the Failed States index developed by the Fund for Peace and a regional one, the Afrobarometer, fruit of a cooperation between the University of Cape Town, Michigan state University and the University of Ghana. How to assure though that analytical tools will be able to measure aspects like legitimacy, rule of law, effectiveness of public administration, public opinion, aspects that in the end might be more important to predict a State’s stability than the strength of its institutions. The approach of State development opens new and fascinating challenges to research devoted to the measurement of social processes.

In the nineteenth chapter, Ivan Samson attempts to clarify the territorial bases of state building and development. The analysis starts with a description of the modern territorial State, born between the 16th and 19th centuries, that led to the Westphalian-Weberian paradigm of State territoriality. The main aspects of the paradigm are: naturalisation and reification of the Nation State, container metaphor, national exclusive territoriality (unitary spatio-temporal concept of sovereignty and its exclusive institutional location in the national State) and a lack of discussion about territoriality. For launching this discussion, the author distinguishes two types of operational closure of territories. The delineation of municipalities is based on the principle of exclusivity, where each citizen should belong to one commune and only one, whereas the definition of market areas follows the principle of centrality. This leads to two approaches of territories, formal and functional. The author then stresses the historicity of the Nation State, using the analysis of Michael Biggs on the basis of historical maps that showed that stable and exclusive borders were stabilised in the 18th and 19th centuries for military reasons first, and then associated to the modern Nation State.

The author identifies the changing bases of State territoriality appearing on the eve of the 21th century: globalisation, metropolisation, virtualisation of activities and the development of clusters and innovative places as new functional territories. These changing territories seriously trouble State efficiency by producing a denationalisation of sovereignty (Sassen) and a weakening of political and economic legitimacy. Even in the countries where it was functional, national identity suffers from globalisation, metropolisation and new territoriality: political identities become increasingly larger or smaller than the Nation State and make the territorial bases of the State more complex.

The paper subsequently attempts to draw on new territories of the State, taking into consideration the role of functional territories and the existence of multi-scale and non-exclusive territories. The Westphalian-Weberian system of State territoriality should be understood as a parenthesis in the long history of State formation. A drawing of the new political geographies emerging from these evolutions is proposed, combining empty places and crowded places, the theories of global western State conglomerate, the shift of capitalism as the centre of gravity back towards East Asia, and a kind of pre-modern political geography well described by the coexistence of quasi-States, quasi-empires and global non-State organisations. The conclusion of the paper takes position on three important debates. The first is concerned with the virtualisation of activities that paradoxically strengthens the territoriality. The second deals with the way new territories do reduce the ability of control by States in the whole regulatory system because when new spaces of governance appear, the markets take over these spaces at the place of States. The third is about the risk of major civic crises accompanied with State decline: at stake is the definition of new legitimacies of States that are less based on the territorial exercise of sovereignty, in order to prevent the democracy to become a theatre of shadows.

John Igué in chapter twenty discusses how the relations between State and territory are relevant for peace, democracy and the reconstruction of the African State. In geography, space is defined as the land area used and occupied by societies for their reproduction. Territory can be defined as a space appropriated by power. From the two definitions above, there is the problem in the relationship between space and territory as entities of command and actions.

These relations between space and territory are often confusing in West Africa due to the superimposition of many domains of command and action. There are domains of regional integration that often qualifies some regions as spaces simply because these domains are not part of the zones of command of these regional institutions. It can be deduced that the issues of peace are more relevant for spaces than for territories, the latter being more appropriate to assure democracy.

The question of the scale of spatial command will affect the future of Nation States as a result of the various levels of command and authorities. It can be said that the question of space belongs to large regional integration structures like ECOWAS which remains strongly involved in the resolution of conflicts and the promotion of peace. On the contrary, democratic preoccupations are more related to Nation States, collectivities and traditional chiefdoms. In these three territories the problems of the organisation of elections and their transparency can be managed better.

Understandably, space here relates to the framework for large regional constructions like ECOWAS and WAEMU as well as those of regional cooperation organisations. Even if the conflicts which affect the sub-region originated from within the States like is frequently the case for some years, their resolutions have been beyond the national framework. These relate to an arbitrage which involves many nations at the same time and principally the regional and continental institutions like ECOWAS and the African Union. Despite the efforts of regional consultations, there appears some resistance which weakens the achievement of regional mediations. The prevailing crises in Mauritania, in Guinea Bissau and Conakry as well as in Nigeria show the limits of this regional approach and also the continued need for the State.

Can “fragile/post-conflict” (F/PC) state reconstruction work from the bottom-up? Christel Alvergne and Daniel Latouche answer this question related to State development in chapter twenty-one. This model is an alternative to the State-centred paradigm: fragility has come to describe those situations where State structures lack sufficient administrative capacities, political will and institutional legitimacy. After analysing the strength and shortcomings of this model, the authors ask whether this model can be improved based on the example of UNCDF (United Nations Capital Development Fund) intervention in West-Africa. It is the only UN agency that actually invests “real” money in developing countries: this approach could be described as a form of municipal or local budget aid.

The UNCDF has been involved in post-conflict situations since the late 1990s and approximately 25 % of its portfolio now goes into post-conflict areas.In Africa alone, nine countries are concerned. Many problems need to be addressed before the “local road” to reconstruction can provide a significant added-value to the present State-centred approach: difficulty to intervene locally; difficulty to identify the local anyway; the need to understand local level conflicts; the need to build in conflict prevention and early warning strategies; decentralisation should be supported from both ends; basic services, local and economic development are needed together. The difficulties can be summarised in three development traps: the local incapacity trap, the local bad governance trap and the local natural resources trap.

In order to break out of these traps, the UNCDF has had to adapt its traditional approach to local development. One major adaptation has been to move from a strict local investment approach to a more basic services one, where services are provided through local governments. The new approach focuses more on involving local governments in natural resource management, climate change and food security, especially in F/PC situations where these issues have the potential of reigniting the dynamics of violent conflict. Finally, local economic development needs to be reframed to take into account the specificities of F/PC situations.

In chapter twenty-two, Sebastian Ziaja and Javier Fabra Mata address the issue of the measurement of fragility. A reliable measurement of fragility would provide valuable macro-level information for conducting evidence-based policy making. On the basis of 10 indices, the most fragile countries are Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Chad, DRC, Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

The ten fragility indices investigated in this paper are successful in drawing attention to the problem of fragility in specific countries, turning – with every new edition released – the spotlight on fragile States worldwide. This is especially true in the case of the Failed States Index, by far the most well-known index and a source of controversy. Generating visibility of and interest in the neediest countries is the greatest achievement of these indices. The only application that is valid for all of these indices, however, is demonstrating drastic – but unspecific – changes: If any of these indices shows windfall drops in the scores of a certain country, it is worth taking a closer look.

Obstacles to validity and reliability of fragility indices prevent a more sophisticated application in, for example, resource allocation, evaluation and research. Due to multidimensional concepts and unreliable data, fragility indices are not reliably capable of distinguishing countries except the extreme cases, providing only little new information. Therefore, a call for prudence regarding its use is necessary, especially when results from these indices are likely to have a direct or indirect impact on aid allocation and governance decisions. At the very least, users should critically read the scores and ranks and inquire about the index’s methodology, definition of concept and data sources.

What can be done to improve fragility indices? Authors argue that, as their most important ‘client’ and (formal or informal) instigator, the development policy community, can make a major contribution by: clarifying the definition and avoiding all-encompassing and rather imprecise compromise formulas; freeing up relevant data; encouraging critical dialogue between producers, researchers and users, and finally; supporting the development of national initiatives aimed to produce scientifically-sounded quantitative fragility evidence. Many of these recommendations include collective-action problems, however, and will only fulfil expectations if jointly pursued by major donors.