Thinking about reconstruction

I heard a speech the other day on post-conflict reconstruction and state building by an analyst from a prominent NGO, and it made me do a lot of thinking about the best ways to provide assistance during a crisis and afterward. I’m not sure it was on the record, so I can’t give you details, but I’ll pull out some of the salient points:

1. Contemporary conflicts cross borders. It’s almost their defining characteristic. We cannot afford to ignore small, obscure conflicts because they do not stay small or obscure for long.

2. The development of a competent, professional police force is key to rebuilding a post-conflict state. It is a strong police force, more than a strong military, that supports peace in a country.

3. If you build up the presidency and the military as the only strong and credible national institutions, you are pretty much just asking for a coup to take place.

4. The responsibility to protect is intended to prevent state failure, not trigger or respond to it.

5. Rwanda and Congo (Zaire) are examples of the devastating consequences of allowing state failure.

6. East Timor is a prime example of the challenges of state-building. It’s a small, ethnically homogeneous state, but is still constantly on the verge of failure.

7. Regime collapse and state failure are not the same thing. Regime collapse can actually prevent state failure by allowing for change.

What does this mean to us with regard to international development?

I think the big thing is that we have to think very carefully about the impact of any aid we give. Are we supporting a healthy government, or encouraging NGOs to take over government functions?

Photo by Yewenyi