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Do no harm: international support for statebuilding

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How can donor interventions hinder or assist statebuilding processes? This report from the OECD's Development Assistance Committee draws on country case-studies to examine five key areas of statebuilding. Donors operating in fragile states need to analyse where their own countries’ strategic objectives contradict statebuilding objectives and where statebuilding objectives are themselves at odds. Donors can assist statebuilding by promoting: (1) inclusive political processes; (2) state legitimacy; (3) constructive state-society relations; (4) social expectations that are realistic but push states to do more; and (5) the development of sustainable capacities to carry out state functions. Donors can inadvertently undermine statebuilding processes in a number of ways, such as by: Supporting electoral processes when conditions for achieving a more inclusive political settlement and elite buy-in to statebuilding are not present; it is essential that donors understand the history and power dynamics of the partner country Weakening rather than strengthening the state’s decision- and policy-making functions Creating a brain drain away from state organisations – for instance, by hiring the most qualified civil servants Delivering aid in a way that discourages states from consolidating their own revenue base, thereby hindering the development of state capacity Supporting administrative decentralisation when central political power is fragmented or local power is misunderstood. Failing to prioritise the consolidation of state security, or by providing piecemeal military assistance to fragile states where there is no functioning national army or police. Donors should undertake a statebuilding impact assessment based on an analysis of how their programmes may affect the key dimensions of statebuilding. They should avoid creating a “dual public sector” and instead promote a “virtual public sector” by supporting joint donor-development partner mechanisms to manage public finances and monitor expenditure. Among other measures, donors also need to: Provide partner countries with complete, accurate, detailed and timely information on their aid disbursements, particularly off-budget support. They also need to work with partner country officials to get an increasing proportion of aid reported on budget, and strengthen accountability mechanisms and political processes that underpin budgetary bargaining. Make decisions to support systemic governance reform based on analysis of the existing political settlement and pattern of state-society relations. Combine any support for administrative decentralisation with support for the organisations of the central state required to assist local administration. Provide assistance and pressure for a political settlement and for the implementation of a plan to construct accountable military and police forces if a country has not established a monopoly over the means of violence. Build capacity to implement law in ways that deal with local dispute resolution mechanisms and contradictions between formal and informal legal institutions. Consider the impact on the informal economy of efforts to eradicate illicit trade – including on the livelihoods of the poor and the profit-making activities of the better-off.

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