The Institute for Effective Governance and Stabilization (IEGS) works at the intersection of accountable governance and stabilization in fragile and conflict affected countries, with particular focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. These are the world’s most fragile countries where poor governance and marginalization drive the protracted ongoing crisis.
Over the last few months, we have worked to exchange our experience, engaging our Board Members and partners and counterparts in the governments, business and civil society to discuss the ‘gaps and missing links’ in the areas of governance and stabilization domains. We have discussed stabilizations initiatives by the international community, donors and UN Organizations in countries such as Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan to explore the missing links and the ways forward for future interventions in other fragile and conflict affected countries.
These discussions and knowledge exchange between our Board and partners is part of the institute’s ‘know-how and how-to’ series, covering governance domains ranging from services delivery to stewardship of state resources and political moderation and accountability. This short policy brief is the first in the know-how and how-to series. In the coming few weeks, we will convene a number of online knowledge exchange discussions, resulting in producing a number of more know-how and how-to products in the said domains.
Why public services underpin sustainable peace and security?
There is a direct link between effective and inclusive public services and durable peace and stability. Governments that provide effective, inclusive and accountable public services win the hearts and minds of their citizens, thereby forging lasting social contract with the society and increasing their political legitimacy. In fragile, conflict affected and post-conflict situations, provision of essential services such as security, rule of law, economic governance and primary human rights such as access to health and education in inclusive and accountable manner stabilize critical situation and facilitate public trust on the state, leading to long term stability and peace. Avoiding countries from relapsing into chaos and conflict depends mainly how governments are treating and serving their publics.
There is no on-size-fit approach to every fragile and conflict affected situations, as every context is shaped by different drivers and actors. However, our combined practical experience from discussing the stabilization and governance interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen recommends that international assistance efforts integrate the following policy actions in their programming and interventions:
Ideally, political settlements are required to end violent conflict before governance reform can advance. Political frameworks, regardless of how they are achieved, set the parameters for good governance issues and are essentially the first step on the governance path. It is important to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the political economy and mobilize the will at the onset rather than to wait until we experience the challenges associated with lack of political will. It is recognized that political situation changes quickly in fragile and conflict affected situations, but even that could be a great strategy to mitigate potential risks with the programmes and interventions.
Avoid short-term measures continuously derail long term change:
During conflict and post-conflict situations the main focus is to put together an administrative mechanism of the state to deliver core state functions such as the rule of law, economic governance, health and education. While it is important to facilitate immediate delivery of core state functions, it is equally crucial to link short-term measures to long-term institutional transformation. In other words, the immediate needs of fragile and conflict affected contexts should not result in perpetuating chronic humanitarian assistance. Instead, Efforts should be made to transit from immediate technical assistance to long term public sector development that is self-sustaining and not chronically dependent on donors for resources and technical assistance. A key focus in this regard should be on the establishment and development of institutions particularly in relation to education and recruitment of public officers such as the Public-Sector Training Academy and Public-Sector Recruitment Commission. Establishing these kinds of competent institutions may result in addressing the drivers of nepotism in the recruitment of public officials and corruption in service delivery.
In conflict and fragile situations, public administrations face many fundamental challenges, ranging from weak capacity to lack of infrastructure and resources. International assistance in this area is largely limited to provision of trainings and capacity building support with aim to enable the administrations to deliver effective and efficient services. The missing link however, seems to be lack of focus on establishing and promoting the internal rule of law within the public administrations. The quality of public services by any public administrations should be governed by the rule of law. International assistance efforts should in combination with improving effectiveness and efficiency focus on advancing the principles of duty bearers and right holders of the human rights based approach. Making public administrations bound by law helps improve accountability and transparency towards rights holders, resulting in improved trust between the citizen and government and leads to long term stability and peace.
In many conflict and post-conflict situations, humanitarian and development initiatives by the international community are delivered through international and local NGOs. The reason is simple, government is weak and that there is a risk of corruption and misuse of resources. While it is recognized that international NGOs and development organizations have played a very crucial role in delivering humanitarian aid and development to the people affected by conflicts and other disasters, it is very important not to ignore the important position governments hold. The governments are the primary duty-bearers responsible for our rights and needs. It is important that international donor community channel their resources through on-budget support of the state, even if there are perceived corruption risks. In the meantime, it is important to advance the watch-dog role of NGOs and CSOs to hold governments to account. We have seen situations where the government administrations deliver nothing due to lack of resources and programmes, while we have seen many NGOs and consulting firms spending millions of dollars on health, education and other programmes. It is understood that when the governments lack the capacity to spend resources effectively, donors should revert to consulting firms and NGOs, but there are well-established concerns in relations to sustainability and ownership. Furthermore, continuous spending through consulting firms and NGOs may promote chronic aid mentality, limiting the possibilities for the governments to gain legitimacy and trust of the citizens.