Ten years after President Bush attempted to reduce U.S. involvement in statebuilding, America and its allies are more heavily involved in it than ever before. There simply are no viable alternatives to stabilizing fragile states. And yet the tremendous sacrifices we make to rebuild states too often produce regimes where corruption and other abuses of power prevail. In turn these undermine the legitimacy of the regimes and render stability ever more elusive.
The international community may share responsibility for creating this accountability gap. In Afghanistan, the rush to build up the power of the government and to respect its sovereignty have weakened constraints that would subject that power to the will of the Afghan people.
Amid struggles over flawed elections and corruption these past two years, practitioners on the ground have experimented with new approaches to close the accountability gap in Afghanistan. NATO military approaches to governance-led operations have been matched by parallel civilian efforts to work from the bottom-up in engaging Afghan communities and helping them seek solutions through the nascent institutions of the Afghan government.
These efforts face an uphill challenge, but represent the best hope for closing an accountability gap that threatens all statebuilding efforts. This symposium at Stanford University will bring together practitioners and experts to share experiences and explore options to improve the contemporary practice of statebuilding.
The symposium will be hosted by Larry Diamond, Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Founded in 2002, CDDRL engages in research, training, and teaching, organizing policy dialogues aimed at increasing public understanding of governance and political development. In addition, CDDRL collaborates with scholars, policymakers, and practitioners around the world to advance collective knowledge about the linkages between democracy, sustainable economic development, human rights, and the rule of law.
The research team supporting the symposium is led by Ben Rowswell, a Visiting Scholar who is in residence at CDDRL during the 2010-2011 academic year to carry out the project entitled, Promoting Popular Sovereignty in Statebuilding. Rowswell is a Canadian diplomat on leave, who has recently served both as Director of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team and as Deputy Head of Mission for the Canadian Embassy in Kabul. Promoting Popular Sovereignty in Statebuilding and the associated symposium have been made possible by a generous contribution from the Global Peace and Security Fund of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.