Is More Better? Evaluating External-Led State Building After 1989

Working Paper

Published By

CDDRL Working Papers

April 2006

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External-led state building is at the forefront of international security governance; it has been called "a growth industry"; and it is, against the backdrop of the US-led intervention in Iraq, more controversial than ever. Since the end of the cold war, the UN have launched more than 60 missions in 24 countries. Whilst the primary objective of all of these missions was to monitor, keep, enforce or build peace, a second objective, which is intrinsically linked to the first, was to contribute directly or indirectly to the reestablishment of functioning state-hood. Peace-building mission have become state-building missions. There are two broad reasons for this. First, fragile states are seen as a risk to both their societies and to international security. And second, it is now broadly assumed that one vital condition for sustainable peace is that the state-apparatus has the capacity to exercise core functions of state-hood in an efficient, non-violent and legitimate way. Consequently, peace-building is more and more seen as state-building, and this evolution is reflected in both UN strategy documents, and the development aid strategies of most nation states.

It is against this background that the need for a systematic evaluation of successes and failures of external-led state building emerges. This in turn requires a framework that enables a cross-case comparison of outcomes of external-led state building efforts.

This paper has two objectives: First, I propose a framework that allows for the tracing of the absolute and the relative state-building progress of countries hosting a state-building operation. I argue that "success" should be disaggregated and measured along five dimensions: the absence of war, the reestablishment of a full monopoly over the means for violence, economic development, democracy, and institutional capacities. I discuss at some length the implications for data collection and proxying these measures of success. Secondly, I evaluate the outcome of 17 UN-led peace-building operations, using a new data set. I compare the successes and failures of state-building along these five dimensions against three hypothetical scenarios: The first one is "more is better." In this scenario, it is assumed that the more intrusive the intervention, the more successful the outcome. The second scenario can be called "less-is-more" and assumes that too intrusive missions are counterproductive, because they hinder the endogenous emergence of stable statehood. The third scenario is the "trade-off-scenario." Here, it is assumed that more intrusive interventions produce better outcome in some policy fields and worse in others. This then would point to existing trade-offs between different objectives of state building. Rather than assuming that all good things go together, in the "trade-off"-scenario the success in one dimension (for example democracy) comes at the expense of less success in another dimension (for example economic development).

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