Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rules for Re-Building A Post Conflict Nation

Long conflict can wreck a country, leaving behind poverty and chaos. But what's the right way to help war-torn countries rebuild? In a 2009 TED talk at the US State department, Paul Collier explains the problems with current post-conflict aid plans, and suggests 3 ideas for a better approach.

Paul Collier is certainly persuasive in his arguments. His focus on the triangle of the interdependence between security, donor aid, and post-conflict government coordination is critical. 
What is interesting is the primary focus on economic reform and inclusion. As he mentions, the traditional approach is first get a political settlement, meanwhile get the security situation under control so peacekeepers can be withdrawn as quickly possible, and move immediately to elections. From this it is hoped that economic growth will follow. Generally this strategy has not been successful.

His prescription to reverse these elements is striking. His consideration to only put energy into a few critical arenas strike home in all development efforts. His argument that the first priority should be jobs, especially infrastructure construction is telling. First get people working, then move to basic service provision especially health care and sanitation. His criticism that donors often bypass corrupt governments to go directly to NGOs does not solve the problem. His innovative suggestion of "independent service authorities" is a form of compromise - however, it is not clear whether any of these have been established (and worked) in practice.

Only after these two areas are in place (jobs and health services), should the energy shift to creating what he calls "clean government" - by using donor technical assistance as a means to both provide funds and track their use closely. This implies that security forces and donor's need to have a decade long agenda. Elections, which always imply winners and losers, follow the success in the first two initiatives.

Certainly food for thought, both with post-conflict development as well as with support for transitioning societies.

Further information about Dr. Collier is linked here.

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