Hybrid Political Orders and Fragile States: Lessons from Lebanon

Intervention in fragile states will increasingly form the centre of the discourse on aid effectiveness, humanitarian relief and regional and international governance. Since the start of the Arab Spring and following on from the global economic crisis, we have seen various strategies of intervention in various fragile states – from Cote D’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia, DRC and more recently the question of how to design and execute intervention in Mali.

In Syria, where UN Security Council support for intervention, even for creating a no-fly zone over Syria for Assad’s air force, is absent, the model of intervention has been to isolate the regime financially and politically – as was the case in Libya and Cote D’Ivoire. But whereas in these cases military intervention was sanctioned by the UN, in Syria the absence of a UN sanction has lead to intervention strategies, at least at the time of writing, limited to supporting the creation of a more unified  (and pro-Western) opposition.

In this photo taken by a UN observer, a shell lays in the middle of the street in Homs, Syria, a remnant of the heavy attack levelled on the city.

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Do We All Now Live in Fragile States?

Guinea-Bissau is a small country in West Africa, which rarely catches the eye of the global media. But it is a classic ‘fragile state’, presenting many of the problems of state fragility that so bedevils development. It is a coup-prone country. According to the New York Times, “In the last three years alone, there have been at least six political assassinations, including of the president and the army chief of staff in 2009, and three attempted coups”.

Despite its small size, and apparent insignificance, the troubles in Guinea-Bissau do not end at its borders. As with most fragile states neighbours and the rest of world pay a price. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, it is one of Africa’s most notorious narco-states. It is estimated that at least 50 tons of cocaine is shipped through Guinea-Bissau each year from Latin America to Europe, and that the military-led government is the main beneficiary.

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How much of a Consumerist are you?

Some people still believe that, to be happy, we need to accumulate things. Shopping malls have become the destination of choice for human entertainment, in turn making our regions economically dependent on department stores.

Have you ever wondered where so Coltan from DRCmuch of what we buy, mostly needlessly, comes from and goes? The system of production and consumption on our planet begins with extraction. You get the necessary natural resources (minerals, water, wood, etc.) from all over the world taken to manufacturing centres. There they are combined with synthetic products, and energy is invested to produce anything from clothing to appliances. So far, so clear.

Yet there are two basic problems with this system. First, there are not enough natural resources in the world to meet the current demand of Western consumption. The USA, with only 5 per cent of the global population, uses about 30 per cent of the world’s resources. Clearly, if other countries follow these rates of consumption – and there are several that threaten to do so including India and China – our resources will run out much sooner than we think.

Second, the world’s largest corporations have amassed so much power that they’re increasingly difficult to regulate. According to the consultancy Global Trends, of the world’s 150 largest economies only 41 per cent are countries; the rest are corporations.

There are various drawbacks to this situation, from the terrible working conditions for employees in developing countries, to the destruction of valuable  natural resources without compensation. All this to produce shoes, watches and tablets as quickly and cheaply as possible to satisfy the  demand of global consumers.

Although consumption trends are high in many countries (Germany leads in  Europe, while the growth in some Persian Gulf countries is astounding), the USA has topped the list since the times of Victor Lebow. This analyst theorized that for the large US economy to maintain its robustness, it would need to make consumption a permanent part of the US lifestyle.

It is seriously difficult to understand prices in US malls. How  can a buyer know how much was earned by the Chinese boy who assembled the product by hand? If he was offered social security and health benefits? How much did the fuel cost to bring it from China to Rotterdam to Florida? If it is an electronic device, where did the Coltan come from? And how much was paid to farmers who extracted it? If this mineral – vital for cell phones and games consoles – came from D.R. Congo, did it come stained with blood?

We do not have sufficient space to address the last link in this consumer system: the inevitably gigantic quantities of waste generated. But the message is clear, responsible citizenship requires us, at the very least, to ask ourselves again and again if we really need that new item that we are about to buy.

Although modern advertising may suggest the opposite, and those who call us  ‘ecocentric’ are everywhere, it is worth pursuing sustainable lifestyles. Ultimately, parks and fellow humans are worth more than shopping malls and corporations. Because our quality of life doesn’t depend on our level of consumption!

by Carlos Cadena Gaitán, PhD fellow at Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and UNU-MERIT. First published in El Mundo, 9 April 2012. Translated from the Spanish by Howard Hudson. Image: Flickr / Enoughproject

Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Austerity Pandemic

Dumdum fever (or visceral leishmaniasis) is caused by a parasite (leishmania) and kills more than half a million people every year. After malaria it’s the world’s deadliest parasitic infection, but little has been done to combat it until very recently.

Dumdum fever is what is known as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). Other NTDs include buruli ulcer, chagas disease, cysticercosis, dengue, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, endemic reponematoses, helminthiases, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, rabies, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, and trematode infections.

More than a billion people UN Photo / Sophia Paris are affected by NTDs, yet treatments are rare. On the one hand this is because they are ‘diseases of poverty’, i.e. they mainly affect poor people who can afford neither vaccines nor medical treatments. So there is little incentive for profit-oriented pharmaceutical firms to invest in R&D for treatments.

On the other hand poor-country governments are often fragile states which lack the resources (and often the commitment) to invest in basic amenities which would limit the spread and impact of NTDs, or to provide access to existing medicines. For instance 2.5 billion people still lack proper sanitation and safe water, and 1.5 billion live without electricity.

Continued growth and economic development, coupled with appropriate policies and government investment, is clearly a necessary condition for reducing and eventually eliminating the impact of these diseases. But development takes time, and the benefits of growth are often slow to ‘trickle down’ to the poorest in society.

Moreover, the debilitating effects of these diseases are a contributing factor to poverty. Global intervention is needed to (i) provide access to existing treatments and best practices, but also to (ii) generate, diffuse and use new and more affordable vaccines and other treatments – for many NTDs existing treatments are ‘old, cumbersome to administer, or toxic’ (WHO, 2012:iv).

The World Health WHO NTDsOrganization (WHO) recently announced a Roadmap to deal with NTDs, which is an encouraging step as far as the former (i) is concerned. It aims to control or eradicate most of these NTDs by 2020. The report notes a growing number of contributions by multinational pharmaceutical firms to contribute resources– e.g. donating free medicines – but also notes that more than US$ 2 billion is still needed.

The WHO’s Roadmap also calls for increased R&D for treatments, but doesn’t go into much detail. Hence the question remains, how can we stimulate innovation to control and eradicate NTDs?

In a recent MSM-MGSoG-MERIT Joint Seminar presentation on 16 February 2012, Professor Nicola Dimitri from Maastricht School of Management and the University of Siena argued that from a R&D perspective NTDs are now less neglected than they were before the 2000s.

However much more needs to be done, particularly if the Roadmap’s goals are to be achieved and maintained. Dimitri discussed a number of recent initiatives to stimulate private sector innovation for better treatments.

These initiatives are at the forefront of thinking about public policies, procurement and innovation for socially desirable outcomes, and include push (such as public private partnerships), pull (such as advanced market commitments and priority review vouchers) and hybrid forms of incentives.

Thus (hopefully) in a few years’ time there may be no more ‘neglected’ tropical diseases. The only discordant note was sounded in December 2011 by a G-Finder (Global Funding for Innovation for Neglected Diseases) report which asked ‘is innovation under threat?’ With many rich countries facing high debt burdens and implementing fiscal austerity measures, funding for innovation has been declining.

The report documents that funding for innovation on neglected diseases was slashed by over US$ 100 million in 2010, mostly in European countries. For instance Sweden cut its funding for NTD innovation by 43 per cent, the Netherlands by 39 per cent, Denmark 49 per cent, Spain 30 per cent, Germany 12 per cent and Norway by 20 per cent.  A neglected consequence of the austerity pandemic in Europe is thus the further neglect of NTDs.

Wim Naudé, Professorial Fellow at UNU-MERIT and the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance

Working to Boost Social Protection in Cambodia

Cambodia has come a long way since the UN sponsored elections of 1993. Much remains to be done however in terms of social protection and poverty reduction. Although per capita GDP rose 5 per cent per year between 1993 and 2010, Cambodians still face precarious employment, low quality healthcare, and poor basic infrastructure. Plus chronic malnutrition and a high risk of natural disasters.

To address these issues the UN Photo / Pernaca SudhakaranCambodian Government launched a National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable in late 2011. This is part of the country’s plan to rebuild its social services and raise living standards for all its citizens.

The Cambodian Government and UNICEF-Cambodia contracted the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance to help in this work. Our role is to estimate the rates of return on social protection investments in Cambodia, and so help design social protection instruments.

Our study focuses on non-contributory social transfers and their role in socio-economic development. In this context, we find that social transfers reduce income poverty and inequality but also affect household behaviour. For example they increase consumption and the resources available for investment in health, education, livelihoods and productive activities.

The study started in January 2012 with a period of fieldwork to collect data and connect with various governmental institutions and development partners. Overall the study analyses four social protection instruments: cash transfers, scholarships, public works and social pensions.

For this work we are using various UN Photo / Kibae Parkquantitative techniques to generate a comprehensive analysis of the potential benefits of social transfers in Cambodia. These draw on national surveys from 2004 and 2009, as well as static and dynamic micro-simulations. The results will be presented at the end of summer 2012 during a workshop in Phnom Penh.

Andrés Mideros Mora, PhD fellow, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance

Fragile States: Critical Questions

What states do, or do not do, matters for development and the wellbeing of their citizens. States have the responsibility to protect their citizens and to progressively promote their material and non-material welfare. Many states cannot or will not live up to this responsibility.

States like these have been labelled ‘fragile’ states, suggesting that the essence of statehood, such as the provision of leadership, public services and infrastructure, safety and security and justice are close to breaking point.

Kate Holt / IRIN: Zimbabwe IDPsWhen it breaks, states fail. For instance, at the time of writing ‘Children have been killed by beating, sniper fire and shelling from Government’ in Syria; while in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s government (whose Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s have been classified as genocide by Genocide Watch) has been preying on its own citizens while concluding a ‘defence’ co-operation agreement with Iran.

There are unfortunately many more fragile and failed states than Syria and Zimbabwe. The OECD identifies 45 fragile states. These include Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Iraq – countries that like Syria and Zimbabwe are characterized by conflict, civil strife, poverty, and hunger. These are four countries receiving the most foreign aid in the world – almost US$ 18 billion in 2010.

The OECD list also includes small island states such as the Solomon Islands and Kiribati – who receive little aid, have not fortunately seen much mass conflict, but nevertheless struggle to protect their citizens from external threats.

The government of Kiribati is reportedly considering purchasing 20 square kilometers of land on the nearby island of Fiji (another fragile state where a military government is in charge) to relocate its 113,000 citizens in light of climate-induced sea-level rise.

In another fragile small island state, Haiti, only 5 per cent of the rubble from the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people has been cleared after one year; more than a million people are still homeless, and thousands have died from cholera.

A positive trend in the development discourse over the past decade has been the recognition that state fragility and state failure is at the heart of many global development dilemmas – including conflict, poverty, terrorism, crime, food insecurity, adaptation to climate change and vulnerability in the face of natural hazards.

The scholarly debate on fragile states has similarly progressed – at the beginning of the 2000s the term was hardly known outside security circles – today many hundreds of documents are available. Many donors are now prioritizing fragile states – for instance the Dutch government reduced its development partnership countries from over 30 to 15, the latter consisting almost exclusively of fragile states – and increasing efforts to harmonize aid to these states.

Furthermore, in November 2011 a group of 19 fragile states (the g7+) and partner countries announced a ‘new deal’ to further state-building and peace-building. In light of the challenges that fragile states pose for global development the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER) launched in 2006 a project on Fragility and Development that I co-directed.

Naude / Fragile States

This project has resulted in a number of scholarly outputs – the most recent a book I co-edited with Amelia Santos-Paulino and Mark McGillivray entitled ‘Fragile States: Causes Costs and Responses’ (published by Oxford University Press, Aug. 2011).  The book was formally launched at a function at the University of Oxford on 19 March 2012.

In my presentation (watch it here), I summarized the essence of the book: (i) the identification – and prediction – of fragile states are important (for instance the OECD did not include Egypt or Syria in its 2011 list of fragile states); (ii) state fragility is a cause but also a consequence of conflict, and it is characterized by a loss of authority, legitimacy and/or capacity of a state; (iii) fragile states cast significant external costs on their neighbours and the rest of the world, often to the extent that outside intervention is required – not only in ending conflict but also in making peace agreements stick; (iv) in addition to direct international intervention, aid is required in fragile states and can make a difference – but the right aid modalities are important, and more is needed to be learned and done in terms of private sector development in fragile states.

Yet despite the forward step granting fragile states their due attention, one may ask whether or not two steps have been taken backward over the same period – especially since the 2008 global financial crisis? Consider for instance that the share of people living in extreme poverty in fragile states doubled from 20 to 40 per cent between 2005 and 2010.

The number of fragile states has not noticeably shrunk – there were UN peacekeepers in the DRC in the 1960s, they are still there. The World Bank asks in its 2011 World Development Report ‘How is it that almost a decade after renewed international engagement with Afghanistan the prospects of peace seem distant?’ Despite economic growth between 2001 and 2008, and a commodity boom that saw historically high growth rates in Africa and other developing countries, many states remain fragile – even some middle income states.

The global financial crisis, the recession in the USA and some European countries, and the ‘Arab Spring’ has turned the attention away from Sub-Saharan Africa, the location of most fragile states. There, crises in Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kenya, Senegal, Central African Republic, Madagascar and most recently Mali, have flared up. The practical failure to make progress against fragile states, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, may be seen as a step backward.Aubrey Graham / IRIN: IDP camp in DRC

Another setback is the position adopted recently by some BRIC countries – particularly Russia and China – complicating adherence to the UN’s responsibility to protect (R2P) principle. For example these countries vetoed a UN Security Resolution against Syria on 4 February 2012.

China remains one of the staunchest supporters of the Mugabe regime, supplying it with weapons (including a recent shipment of 21,000 handcuffs) and cash; and Russia remains one of the world’s major arms exporters. If the international community is to make progress in overcoming state fragility in the near future, getting the all the BRICS on board, and dealing with their own fragilities, much of which stems from economic challenges, may be essential.

In an earlier blog I wrote that ‘while the international community may be slow to assist the people of Syria due to the obstructive behaviour of China and Russia, international intervention was important in 2011 to protect civilians in fragile states including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Somalia,  Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire’.

At the Oxford book launch of ‘Fragile States’, Paul Collier discussed the lessons from the international interventions in 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. One lesson is that a combination of financial pressure and moderate military resistance can topple a regime, even one with a strong army, quite quickly. Economics can unlock a political mess.

In the case of Côte d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to accept defeat in his country’s 2010 presidential elections, a financial embargo meant for his army that they may not get paid. As Paul Collier pointed out, Gbagbo’s opponent Alassane Ouattara is after all an economist, and as a former deputy head of the IMF was very aware of how constricting financial sanctions could be. He was right – the Gbagbo army consequently refused to put up strong resistance; in April 2011 Gbagbo was captured. He now faces four charges of crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

A broadly similar pattern repeated itself in Libya. In both cases the fact that the UN Security Council was not blocked by China or Russia or any other nation (the Security Council was quick to recognize Ouattara as winner of the presidential elections in December 2010) may have been important.

Will the pattern repeat itself in the case of Syria or in other countries where dictatorial regimes fail in their responsibility to protect? Can financial and military pressures be effectively applied without support or consent from China and Russia? And can economic conditions be created in China and Russia, both elite-dominated societies, so that the R2P principle is perhaps not seen as a threat to them?

Along with the need to create jobs and develop the private sector in fragile states, these are among the critical questions facing the international community.

Wim Naudé, Professorial Fellow at UNU-MERIT and the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance