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Modus Operandi


, Grenoble, julio 2010

Top down State transformation

Introduction Part 3 of the book « Rethinking the foundations of the State, an analysis of post-crisis situation ».

Keywords: Reconstruir el Estado | Reconstruir nuevas relaciones políticas

The voluntary action of State transformation from the top down is its core model. It becomes an agenda in all the situations identified as “fragile” States, where the usual and historical process of self-enforcing State formation cannot take place. This refers to post-crisis situations in developing countries, where the crisis revealed the weakness of the social contract. The crises may be open armed conflicts and civil wars, or internal important social movements or even natural disasters like in Haiti beginning 2010. This refers also to situations where new States emerge from the dismantling of communist empires like in the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, which have to be built or rebuilt and where the challenges of State transformation derive from the quantity of the political, economic and social problems that need to be solves simultaneously and immediately.

Mainstream models of State-building assume that State legitimacy can be established and collapse avoided through international intervention and military presence, huge amounts of aid and democratic local elections. Realities on the ground are different. At the same time local or regional formation of new governance structures has received little attention. The authorities taking over when States fail, and ultimately collapse, include the actors of war, such as military faction leaders; but they also include remnants of the former State administration, revitalized traditional authorities, religious courts, local businessmen, etc., who continue or begin to exercise authority as « functional equivalents » of the former State, at times aspiring to replace it.

Many different actors influence the shape of the State, each with their own values, history and motivations. Internal and external forces are not two distinct categories since external actors work through local organisations and internal actors function with international financial support.

  • External players are firstly the international donors that partly impose Western (French, British, American) models of democracy and/or market reform through aid conditionality. In addition, other international actors appear, like China, that do not share democratic values and favour economic development. In Africa’s economic development crisis, this model is becoming attractive. Moreover, the presence of cross-border identities (be it of ethnic, religious, language, or other nature) may represent a competition for the State and may increase interference in State affairs (military interference, diaspora support).

  • Internal players are political, social, military, ethnic and religious forces which are more or less organised. They are the “natural” actors of State transformation that will impose themselves or to which power should be given in the process.

State actors undertaking State-building efforts in other States defy the principle of sovereignty. Under what mandate are their actions justified? International regimes (in the sense of standards required to guide appropriate action) play an important role in offering legitimacy or creating a legal framework for intervention. Which international regimes offer a framework for action in failing States and where are they lacking? Should the principle of sovereignty still guide our international relations or has the concept of human security changed our international relations and has it replaced our responsibility?

In opposition to the notion of legality (conform to a pre-established juridical, constitutional or legislative order) the concept of legitimacy can be put forward as the state of what is generally accepted by a people. This opposition brings up multiple issues: the recognition and the acceptability of different forms of power, the different types of legitimacy that oppose each other within a political order, the methods of the construction of collective adhesion to the State and the construction of a consensus. What are the types of legitimacy that exist within and exterior to the formal framework of the State? How can you conceive of the legitimacy of a democratic system within specific political cultures? In what sense can legitimacy be linked to the question of the ‘accountability’ of political actors in power? Here again the critical issue in the process of State transformation is to find efficient forms of combining external and internal actors, external and internal legitimacy.

The top-down models of State transformation also raise a teleological challenge: what is the final goal of these State models, development, democracy or stability? A system of democracy might exist outside of the Nation State model. Stable states are not necessarily democratic just as the process of development can also take place under an autocratic regime. Moreover, consensus is growing that the application of the western model of the Nation State in these contexts poses many problems. This particular State model which forms the basis of the current international system has its roots in the specific socio-historic context of Europe while conditions in which recent Dtates (after colonisation and the end of the Soviet Union) are formed, differ substantially. Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Eritrea, South Africa and Bosnia are but some of many examples. The combination of Nation and State that has emerged in Europe is not necessarily a model that is adapted to other economic, political and social contexts where a national identity is hardly present. How to create a national army when other loyalties are prioritised, why pay taxes if the State lacks legitimacy, how to apply the rule of law when a part of the population still functions by custom law, to mention just a few of the challenges that this model meets.

The Justice Sector Reform is a major aspect of State building analysed by Nana Mjavanadze in chapter twelve. The creation of an efficient and independent judiciary constitutes one of the cornerstones of the rule of law. She structures the analysis around the independence, competence and impartiality of the judiciary with a focus on three post-soviet countries: Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. Characteristics of the Soviet legacy were that the prosecutor and not a judge was the key figure of the judiciary; the role of the advocate was to negotiate a more lenient sentence, but not to prove the innocence of his client; rampant corruption, together with the phenomenon of “telephone justice” reflecting the instructions given to judges; the judiciary as a tool at the service of the ruling party and not as an independent branch of the State power. The fundamental problem of the reform strategies is that the goals sought are very complex and there is no internationally agreed way of achieving them.

The solutions adopted in order to strengthen their judiciary systems often had positive effects on separate branches of the judiciary, but without creating an overall positive result as could have been expected. It has to be mentioned that the number of reforms is indeed impressive and marks the desire for change. The experience shows that judicial reforms were motivated more by external pressure on the countries than by an internal demand to reform, and as a result, the adopted strategies were aimed more at meeting the international criteria than resolving the inherent domestic problems. Consequently, many reforms proved to be successful with a certain sector of the judiciary, but the lack of public confidence in the judiciary system as a means for peaceful dispute settlement shows that these systems are still searching for legitimacy and that further reforms need to be enhanced. Based on lessons learned, and the unique nature of the judicial system, the lack of knowledge about the means of how to bring about the legal reform in developing countries should involve more studies about how institutions evolve and can become self-enforcing.

The reconstruction of failed States is a prerequisite to international security and the EU has an extensive experience in helping to build new States like Kosovo and other Balkan States. Constance Chevallier-Govers shows in chapter thirteen that the reconstruction of the State by the European Union is based on a collaboration with the State, while democratisation is in some respects imposed by the European Union. In the former case, the author analyses the reconstruction of the police in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the reconstruction of justice in Georgia, the reform of the security sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the reconstruction of the police, justice and customs in Kosovo. The European Union’s specificity lies in the fact that it sets a framework for the implementation of a comprehensive approach to crisis management and it provides a continuum between military and civilian crisis management. This coordination also creates a risk of mixing genres, as manifested by the militarisation of humanitarian action and privatisation of the military.

Democratisation of the State imposed by the European Union is an essential element of any cooperation between the European Union and third countries. On the one hand it uses political conditionality to haggle over democratisation. On the other hand it works with civil society to bring the State to respect the values underpinning the European Union: democracy and respect for human rights. The author examines political conditionality, used in enlargement policy and development policy, where the reconstructed State benefits greatly from this development aid and must therefore comply with the European Union’s requirements in terms of democratisation. However, democratisation is in some cases perceived a process undermining the State insofar as the European Union uses civil society to promote the values on which it is based. The European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights is an instrument with a billion Euro budget for the promotion of democracy and human rights in all external policies of the European Union. This technique results in some way in dismissing the State as an interlocutor, when it fails, by directly addressing civil society. It is worth asking whether such a circumvention of the State contributes to its consolidation. The author concludes that European thinking in terms of reconstruction of the State cannot be limited to procedural issues, the European Union must question the legitimacy of exporting its own political model.

The case of the Sultanate of Oman after 1970 is a success-story of legitimacy-building in a post-civil war context, as Marc Valéri explains in chapter fourteen. July 2009 marked the beginning of the fortieth year of Sultan Qaboos’s rule in Oman. Only three other current heads of State have stayed in power longer. After World War II, the intrusion into the game of new players, attracted by the smell of oil, generated armed conflicts. These conflicts are explanations of the overthrow in 1970 of Sultan Sa‘id, who was unable to extend the pact that had granted the political stability until the 1950s, by his son Qaboos. The approach of Sultan Qaboos has been to naturalise the new rule by destroying political alternatives and unifying the territory by building a Nation, and to encapsulate “traditional” references into the “modern” State by the co-optation of old influential groups and the instrumentalisation of a mythified political tradition.

Sultan Qaboos has worked to co-opt the country’s traditional elites, that is, the capital’s merchants and the tribal political leaders, into the State system because he could not rely on his small family. Thus he has managed to turn potential outsiders into his most loyal defenders. This strategy could not have been successful without a national ideology that united all factions of Oman’s diverse society under a single new order. Sultan Qaboos’s legitimacy rests fundamentally on the reinvention of traditional references of identity, which link the country’s economic and social development inextricably to the modernising State (as the administrator of rent) on the one hand, and to the paternalist ruler who embodies that State on the other. The same applies to traditional solidarity groups, which the central authorities have tried to “de-autonomise,” rendering them fully dependent on the central State.

To sum up, Sultan Qaboos has succeeded in establishing his own legitimacy since the mid-1970s by building both an Omani State and an Omani nation. With the remarkable achievements in technical, economic and social development, there has been a rewriting of identity frames of reference around the person of Qaboos, identified in the new historiography with the contemporary welfare State and consequently with Oman itself. This political work on history, which has consisted among other things in banishing many of the twentieth century’s events from collective memory, has aimed at “naturalising” the special pantheon – the contemporary Sultanate of Oman, the welfare State, and the institution and person of the current Sultan – which has been the basis for the current regime’s legitimacy.

The post-crisis economic transformation in Kyrgyzstan is an interesting case of building a new State born from the dismantling of the former Soviet empire. As analysed by Dzharkinai Musaeva in chapter fifteen, the most difficult problem on the way of transformation from planned to market economy was that theory was not able to identify the structure and sequence of the transformation process while taking into consideration the specific background of each country.

At the heart of transformations is the fact that a gradual formation of new economic entities and market mechanisms’ management is taking place in the course of the reforms. Newly formed economic entities are laying the road for themselves. And this road is rough, as the experience of post-socialist countries shows. Duration and complexity of this phase are directly connected to the fact that this or that country has or has not acquired knowledge and experience of the market economy. Those countries, which were situated closely to the countries with developed market economics and had an experience of the market stage of development in the past, go through this stage less sensitively and during relatively short period. As to those countries, which had no market stage of development in the past, they experience great difficulties in formation of new organisational forms and market mechanisms. Kyrgyzstan relates to these countries.

Peculiarities of the cultural-historic and social-economic development of the country lie in the fact that Kyrgyzstan belongs to a number of countries having democratic aspirations, which is why it chose the path of cardinal transformations. The formation of democratic aspirations is explained by social-economic and cultural-historic peculiarities of Kyrgyz people’s development. First of all, it is nomadism, a habit to always change habitat, and to encounter new traditions and customs along the path. Kyrgyz women never closed their faces with yashmak. It impeded their nomadic live. These peculiarities of Kyrgyz mentality predetermined the choice of liberal economic reforms to the market economy. Absence of necessary prerequisites which could ensure success for large-scale and cardinal economic transformations, lack of experience and knowledge led the country to its collapse.

Post-soviet countries are in front of a dilemma: either they continue to centralize the economic system in order to “accumulate resources for further growth” (these processes now are on the way in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia etc.), giving more economic power to the oligarchs and to the State, or they decentralize the governance, increase the role of small and medium size companies, support middle class and with this, accelerate the innovation cycles (ICs). On the basis of his own experience as Prime Minister of Armenia at the beginning of the reforms since 1990, Hrant Bagratyan tackles in chapter sixteen the debate: to centralise or to decentralise? After having presented the importance of innovation cycles in economic development as revealed by the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, the author connects this approach with ICs. His argument is that the more the societies are involved in ICs, the bigger the chances of success of the evolutionary development and the less the need to radically change modes of public management of the economy from decentralised and liberal methods to centralised and totalitarian ones.

The recent global crisis of 2008-2009 is reinterpreted within the IC theory or explaining the severe situation in post-Soviet countries. The global sources of crises are: the world’s inadequacy of distribution of resources and consumption, insufficient innovations - the lack of resources has not been compensated by creativity and the failure in financial institutions. It appears, that in Russia, Ukraine and Armenia and other post-Soviet countries there is a total multilateral crisis not fully connected with the global financial and structural crisis. The issue is that during the pre-crisis period of development and reforms these countries have not had enough efforts on the quality of growth. IC was not creative enough to be able to compensate the growing scarcity of resources. Moreover, as far as Armenia, Ukraine or Russia are concerned, we see a tremendous concentration of political power, resources and decisions. In Armenia, the ten wealthiest families represent 54.7 % of GDP, 28.9 % in Ukraine, 3.9% in Russia and 1.9 % in USA. In post-soviet area the economic deconcentration is a key issue for further developments including the building of a modern State.

Hervé Hutin questions in chapter seventeen whether and how external aid may help State legitimization in post-2001 Afghanistan. To answer, he analyses to what degree this aid reinforces the institutional capacity of the State and which are the determining factors for an increasing aid efficiency. The author identifies three paradoxes of aid and State legitimization. In a fragile State, the lack of legitimacy makes tax collection more difficult, which in turn it weakens the State’s role and further undermines its legitimacy. The consequential need for external aid and the fact that a State is structured by an inner dynamic represents the first paradox. The problem of the reconstruction of a failed State is that it has not the capacity to deal with aid supporting its development. The paradox is that the less a State is structured, the more it needs aid and the less it is able to use it. The third paradox is linked to time: external aid cannot be transitory when the construction of the State is a long term process.

The conditions of aid cannot be changed so long as they are determined by a logic that is not that of reconstruction, but that of international security. The author argues that decision with regard to the allocation of resources are made according to political and security choices rather than based on a needs analysis of the population. It can be assumes that the first two paradoxes of aid and legitimacy can partly be solved by an improved allocation of resources and the application of better methods. Even external, aid can be appropriated by internal actors, especially the government, with more involvement and delegation, which does not exclude an a posteriori control from donor countries. So the State can find in aid a source of legitimacy by its action. But the time paradox remains. The impatience among the Western public opinion and the growing irritation of the Afghan population against foreign presence imposes a time limit. It appears that this resource is going to be cruelly missing.

William Reno tackles in chapter eighteen the whole issue of the project of building other people’s states, which is expensive and labour intensive. The American conduct of war in Iraq has seen the broadest application of this strategy of leveraging the interests and agendas of indigenous groups to redesign governments and to build States. While international standards are not jettisoned completely, this approach actively promotes ad hoc adjustments and flexible arrangements between foreigners who execute policies and local political actors who benefit from them. This approach appears to offer the promise that outsiders will enable local people to build more or less the kind of State that they want.

The argument of the author is that the new American style of counterinsurgency approach to State-building overlaps in significant ways with the “bottom-up” critiques of intensive State-building efforts that import a wide array of externally defined organisational and behavioural standards. This is an easy position for academics, also more surprisingly shared by some officers and their advisers in the US military. The side deals and ad hoc bargains that are made in the field can support local centres of power that eventually clash with politicians’ aims to promote the creation of stable central governments. A conceptual limitation in American style counterinsurgency strategy may lie in the assumption that people will tolerate outsiders who come to interfere in their local politics. This assumption is questionable in contexts where insurgencies combine their own intensive State-building project with the cultivation of a social movement against the existing State. They devise their own “counter-counterinsurgency” understanding of local authority networks and use this knowledge to effectively recruit, discipline and control populations.

The more typical counterinsurgency “State-building” situation is likely to involve outsider alliances with incumbent elite groups in the capital and influential notables who have the support of an existing government. In these situations, it is harder for the outsiders to “escape” the framework of the State and inhibit efforts to seek out “parallel structures” wherever they are found. To do so may be seen as subversion in the capital, and be taken as a signal that the foreign patron is intent on removing the corrupt and ineffective government. Building other people’s States in this context thus comes to resemble the model that American style counterinsurgency critiques. Foreigners come in with their elaborate plans and manage to recruit some local people to their project. Everything that goes wrong and every dissatisfaction becomes the problem of the intervening forces who also must be responsible for the solution.

This critique of the critique of intensive State-building projects follows a possible evolution of an American style of counterinsurgency, which suggests the more durable conclusion that State-building in the great majority of cases is an intensive and disruptive project, regardless of the intent of the participants. This is particularly true when powerful actors in the rest of the world set conditions on those States in terms of internal organisation, behaviour and levels of control, where indigenous State-building projects are more apt to be regarded by outsiders as insurgents to be defeated.