Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Global Peacebuilding I: Supporting Big Strategy in Colombia

By Markus Schultze-Kraft

President Juan Manuel Santos has taken a big political gamble. In late August he announced that his administration had been holding secret talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for more than a year, and that formal negotiations to end the armed conflict with Colombia's largest and oldest insurgent organization would be launched in Oslo in mid-October.

The course of events indicates that the Colombian government is determined to achieve one of the most remarkable feats in the country's recent history: peace with the FARC. Why did Santos take this risk and what should he and his team do to be successful in this grand endeavor, not seen since the flawed and failed talks with the FARC under President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) in the Caguán region?

Peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government: A sensible agenda

Supported by Norway, Cuba, Venezuela and Chile, delegations of the Colombian government and the insurgents officially inaugurated the talks in a small town near Oslo on 18 October. The 'general agreement' (in Spanish ‘acuerdo general’) the two parties forged in the run-up to Oslo will serve as a roadmap.
It is a sensible agenda and the two sides should stick resolutely to it during the next eight to ten months – more time they will not have, as has been signaled by President Santos. This is a promising but small window of opportunity that deserves all the goodwill and support it can get; for the incipient talks with the FARC are potentially a game-changing moment in the history of Colombia's conflict.

President Santos: Buttressing policy change

The negotiations stand to buttress President Santos's goal to move Colombia - which is among the countries of the world with the highest Gini-coefficients or most unequal distribution of wealth - toward more prosperity and well-being across all strata of society. This is so not because the FARC would legitimately represent this political agenda. The group is appreciated by few and feared and despised by a majority in Colombia for its violence, backward ideology and deep involvement in criminal activities.

Rather, finding an effective way to demobilize and reintegrate the FARC into civilian life would deal a blow to those intransigent and reactionary elites who saw their heydays during the two administrations of Santos's predecessor, Álvaro Uribe; and who have used the specter of the FARC as a pretext to further their exclusionary, conservative and neoliberal political-economic agendas. While by no means opposed to opening up Colombia's markets, especially in the natural resource extraction sector, Santos's otherwise more progressive political agenda is an anathema for these elites. Nothing would serve the president better to rein them in than reaching a peace agreement with the FARC.

The way forward for the Colombian government: Sticking to strategy

To achieve this, President Santos and his team should stick closely in the coming months to the strategy they designed for dealing with the FARC. All of the five substantial issues that are up for negotiation – rural development, the FARC's political participation, ending the conflict, resolving Colombia's illicit drug problem, and addressing the rights of victims of the armed conflict – are key to the government's overall transformative economic and socio-political agenda; though, of course, they are only part of the broader political picture.

The armed conflict is only one of Colombia's manifold problems

Santos's approach to dealing with the FARC differs fundamentally from the way his two immediate predecessors, Uribe and Pastrana, approached the issue.

Santos does not try to work naively with the FARC (Pastrana) or single-mindedly against them (Uribe). Rather, since taking office he has sought to work around and – now - through them. This is as clever as it gets, and deserves our applause and support.

It appears that the Colombian government has recognized that the conflict with the FARC is only one of Colombia's manifold problems. Hence, because a military defeat of the insurgents is not feasible in the foreseeable future it is better to 'enlist' the FARC in a broader process of political and socio-economic change.

Taking the FARC out in a 'civil' way will open up vast opportunities for Colombia

Taking the FARC out opens up opportunities to start addressing a whole range of deep-seated issues in Colombia, such as strengthening democratic politics and the rule of law and finding ways to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth and tapping into Colombia's enormous and growing human and social capital.
Santos is right to pursue the end of the FARC from the vantage point of strengthening Colombia's ailing democracy and institutions and fomenting social peace; and not from the perspective of elite vengeance, hatred and political opportunism, as was the case during the administrations of his predecessors.

Let us support Santos and his team in this exercise of 'big strategy' for peacebuilding. As a recent symposium on Colombia at the Institute of the Americas at University College London revealed, this appears to be the most promising way forward.

Keep an eye on the Governance and Development blog for more Global Peacebuilding.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Student movement leads demands for a new constitution for Chile

by Sofia Donoso Knaudt*

As in other parts of the world, in Chile the year 2011 will be remembered for the massive demonstrations that took place across the country.

What are Chilean students shouting about?

From mid-May onwards, the student movement (from universities and secondary schools) staged the largest mobilisations Chile had witnessed since the reinstatement of democracy in 1990. The students have been calling for free quality education, and a new political constitution that allows for more citizen participation.

Through novel repertoires of action such as a performance of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ to depict themselves as ‘zombies’ of the education system, and 1,800 consecutive hours of running around the presidential palace to symbolise the $1.8 billion that funding the 300,000 most vulnerable students would cost, the movement rapidly gained public support. Surveys (in Spanish) show the student demands have approval rates close to 90%, while the incumbent right-wing government’s popularity has reached historical lows.

Stressing the huge proportion of middle income families’ budgets that is spent on education, the movement has retained its momentum. In June this year, students gathered over 100,000 people on the streets of the capital Santiago.

The outcome of the ongoing protests remains to be seen, but it is evident that the terms of the debate have shifted since the movement took off in May last year. Since then, not only education policies, but also tax reform, changes to the electoral system, and the possibility of a constituent assembly have dominated public debate.

The exhaustion of the Concertación’s governance formula

Crucially, the student protests have left the opposition in disarray. In power between 1990 and 2010, the Concertación, the centre-left coalition in charge of Chile’s acclaimed negotiated transition to democracy in 1989, was lauded in both academic accounts and wider international circles for its economic, political, and social achievements.

In light of the considerable institutional constraints bequeathed by the military regime (1973-1989), and the traumatic experience of dictatorship, the Concertación’s adopted a governance formula that put political stability in the forefront. This was translated into a consensus-seeking approach, and a tendency to thwart social mobilisation that might otherwise risk the process of democratic consolidation.

In the area of education (as in other policy fields), the Concertación’s gradualist and wary approach to policymaking involved sidestepping complicated negotiations and giving continuity to the institutional architecture left by the military regime. In doing so, the Concertación concealed unequal power relations in the garb of achieving consensus. As a result, as the students have claimed with unswerving fervour, the centre-left coalition failed to fulfil its most important pledge: to bring in equity.

What will be the impact of the Chilean student movement?

As university and secondary school students have claimed, the ever more intolerable inequality in Chile requires structural reforms that surpass the underlying logic of the Concertación’s governance formula. At the same time, the student movement has exposed the detachment of the Concertación from its social base. The resultant profound distrust is detrimental to the prospects of attaining the broad agreements required for far-reaching reforms.

Ironically, the same strategy of securing political stability that motivated the Concertación’s moderate left-wing stance is now causing discontent and mistrust in the political establishment and political institutions, complicating the prospects for reaching a new ‘social contract’ that addresses the country’s pending development challenges. As Roberts and Levitsky suggest in their recent book, ‘moderate’ centre-left administrations such as the Concertación in Chile might have ‘overlearnt’ the lessons left from the democratic breakdowns of the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America, ‘thereby failing to take advantage of a historic opportunity to bring about far-reaching social change.’

While the conclusion of this debate seems far away, it is clear that education and inequality will remain on the public agenda. To what extent are the student demands a result of a rising middle class demanding socioeconomic redistribution and more responsiveness from the political establishment? And what can other moderate left-of-centre forces in Latin America such as the PT in Brazil learn from the experience of Chile?

* Sofia Donoso Knaudt is a D.Phil. Candidate in Development Studies at the University of Oxford, and a Visiting Student in the Governance Team at IDS.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Is the Governance Agenda Going Anywhere?

It is about two decades since the international community formed a consensus that ‘bad governance’ was a major development issue and a significant cause of low rates of economic growth in developing countries? The immediate trigger was the collapse of the Soviet bloc. This both undermined the credibility of the statist alternative to market-oriented liberal democracy and removed the need for the Western liberal democracies to compete with the Soviet Union for ‘client’ governments in the global South. There was a high degree of confidence that ‘West is best’ and ‘West knows best’.

Aid donors and the international community began to promote their vision of ‘good governance’ with self-assurance. That vision did not exactly fit into a ‘one size fits all’ formula. But the core elements were always liberal democratic. Better governance would follow when states became more democratic, more accountable, more transparent, and more bound by the rule of law.

‘Good Governance’ – a major change in our approach to development or just a brief interlude ‘in the history of hot air’?

I recall posing that question at the London School of Economics in the early-1990s. Twenty years later, the answer is still unclear. The emphasis on governance has lasted longer than I expected, and has taken deeper roots. However the equation of good governance with the liberal democratic model was never sufficiently plausible to stick in the long term.

What then has stuck? Arguably, it is the idea that developing countries have significant governance problems in the classic, Hobbesian sense of the term: weak capacity to organise the effective provision of collective goods and services, from roads and drug regulation through to human security and acceptable forms of dispute resolution and justice. It follows that governance is a legitimate component of development policy and development studies. What does not follow is the assumption that poor governance is particularly associated with poor countries. That did not seem an outrageous claim 20 years ago. Today it is clearly wrong.

‘Poor Governance’ and the troubled economies of the ‘old West’

One of the more prominent themes in the governance debate in the next few years is likely to be some rather energetic pointing of fingers by people from the global South at the poor quality of governance – especially economic governance – in what we used to call the West. Two decades ago, the West thought that it knew and practised the best recipes for promoting economic growth. True that parts of East Asia were also doing very well economically while using rather different recipes. But those experiences were still in dispute, and could possibly be pigeonholed as special cases. How different the world looks today.

Most of the economies of the old West are in deep trouble. They are close to stagnant. Most of the rest of the world is still growing. But rates are decelerating, dragged down in large part by mediocre performance of the old West. And that in turn owes a great deal to bad governance: to the inability of the governments of the old West to prevent pressure group and electoral politics from undermining economic performance. The governments of Europe and the United States first allowed their policies to be unduly influenced by special interests in the financial sector. Then, in trying to deal with the fiscal and economic consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, they are struggling hard to mobilise the political support needed to raise more revenue from the wealthy; to reflate without scaring the bond markets; to avoid generalised protectionism; and to cooperate to maintain confidence that there will not be a major fiscal-cum-banking collapse in Europe.

From the perspective of Europe or the United States, this hesitation and uncertainty may look like the price that has to be paid for national level sovereign democracy. From China or some parts of the old South, it looks like a serious governance failure with global consequences – and not so different from the consistent economic policy failures in Africa in the 1970s and 1980s that helped pave the way for the emergence of the governance agenda.

At that point, many African governments failed to provide an environment conducive to the foreign investment they so badly needed. Today the West badly needs Chinese investment, especially in large scale infrastructure, and the global economy really needs China to invest in the West. Is the current bidding war among American politicians to scare off potential Chinese investors any more justifiable or rational than Africa’s fears of American transnationals back in the 1970s? Was it really sensible of President Obama to block the recent attempt by wily Chinese investors to steal America’s natural resources by setting up a wind farm in Oregon?

If governance concerns do disappear from the development agenda, it will mainly be because of their roots in the Western countries that are now so conspicuously unable themselves to practice what they used to preach to others.

But let us assume that we can de-link the governance and development agenda from its embarrassing historical origins, and continue to find receptive audiences for the argument that all countries, rich and poor, North and South, face severe governance challenges? Thinking of poorer countries in particular, where will the governance agenda go? Let us start with how it has changed.

The governance agenda: my observations from the last 20 years

  • Attempts to find some wonderful new phrase, concept, or framework to define or dominate the field have failed. There are many such attempts. In a recent blog I critiqued a relatively modest one: the effort to insert the fuzzy notion of ‘political settlements’ as a useful way of thinking about problems of peacemaking and fragile states. A far less modest example is the endeavour by Douglas North and associates to reorganise our understanding of states and political power through the language of ‘closed’ and ‘open access orders’ and a relabelled version of deeply discredited modernisation theory (See North, D. C.,et al.). Equally immodest is the claim that the impartiality of government is the key to good governance – as if other things really were secondary, and the ‘impartiality’ of government were a realistic objective. (See B.Rothstein and J. Teorell). 
  • There has been real progress in appreciating the role of political elites in all political systems. That is not a fact that most of us relish. But it is reality. Many early variants of the governance agenda were imbued with a naive notion of how easy it might be to install authentic electoral democracies and other ‘advanced practices’ in countries effectively ruled by elites. I recall the enthusiasm of a staffer from a big international development bank about a decade ago as he explained to me his organisation’s planned governance targets for Bolivia. They included an annual figure for the number of prominent public figures who would be tried and found guilty of corruption.
  • The most important single contribution to the governance debate may be Dani Rodrik’ s suggestion that we need mentally to separate form (the shape of institutions and the ways in which they operate) from function (the things they do). Liberal democratic ideas focus more on governmental processes (forms) than on policy outcomes (functions).
  • Most of the enduring critiques of the original governance agenda – and there are plenty of them – have been broadly practical and oriented to its direct policy relevance. Does it accurately capture the type of governance that was practiced in the now-rich countries when they were much poorer? (See IDS Bulletin 24.1: Good Government?). Does it not lead aid donors to demand excessively wide-ranging reforms of recipient governments, with limited evidence of their likely short-term efficacy? (See Merilee Grindle). The governments of many poor countries are struggling with quite distinct problems, such as very high proportions of young people in their populations. Should their governance institutions and practices not reflect this? (See Matt Andrews). Should we not be thinking more of Working with the Grain by building on and developing existing governance institutions in poor countries, rather than trying to re-model them to fit more closely to an abstract ideal?
  • The fifth observation is that, despite the considerable resources that have been directed at developing governance indicators - especially the World Bank's World Governance Indicators - we still do not have a set that either (a) are widely accepted for their core validity or (b) are practically useful for policy purposes.

Is the governance agenda going anywhere?

It is still a little early to say. We do not have vast progress to report for two decades of work. But it is important to bear in mind that political science historically has had little data to work with, and that this is now changing. More effort is being put into collecting consistent data series on political phenomena of all kinds. Perhaps it will yield some juicy fruit. In the meantime, we cannot go too far wrong if we put our research efforts into limited, tangible policy issues. If we do not become practically more useful, we may find no one is listening.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Hybrid Security Governance in sub-Saharan Africa: A New Research Agenda

By Niagalé Bagayoko*

There is a dire need today to take a critical stance on the relationships between the various systems, actors and beneficiaries involved in the security sector on the African continent. The recently published IDS Bulletin 43.4 ‘Hybrid Security Orders in Sub-Saharan Africa’ explores this issue further.

Security governance is based on a complex amalgam of statutory and non-statutory actors and institutions which form the security sector. However Security Sector Reforms (SSR) processes usually focus on structural and formal institutional arrangements of the state. Too often, security reform processes supported by external donors tend to be driven by an administrative view of the state which emphasises its legal-institutional structure whilst glossing over its political and social character. Consequently, international actors recommend applying technocratic practices geared at building security capabilities meant to deliver western-style security and policing.

Can the concept of ‘hybridity’ improve our understanding of African security governance?

A number of scholars are using the concept of ‘hybridity’ to analyse and improve understanding of political orders in the Global South. The concept seeks to identify the interactions between formal and informal institutions, and understand the networks and processes that work alongside legally established structures. The intention is to explore the significance of different components that influence decision-making and policy implementation in complex security arenas to better understand the varying but mostly poor success rate of SSR processes to date. The Bulletin features country case studies which show that Sierra Leone is at a more progressed stage, whereas Mali, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo are showing poor progress in SSR .

It is essential to recognise that in Sub-Saharan Africa much political activity takes place according to informal norms and systems. A wide variety of informal institutions operate alongside or within formal political institutions, and are at play in the public policy arena. Decision-making processes are not exclusively nested in formal institutions.

Indeed both formal and informal institutions are seen as functional by the politico-administrative elites and are mobilised in order to legitimise their power and authority, particularly in the security sector.

Interactions between formal and informal security institutions

Studies of security reform processes have shown that informal processes are well established in many state security structures. Leadership as well as management in the security sector is structured around particularistic, personalised networks, which are embedded in formal institutions and legislation but often derive from strong customs and local traditions. There is a dire need to localise, identify and analyse such networks to provide a better understanding of power distribution in the African security sector.

‘Hybridity’: A Guide for Action?

The key question (as proposed in the IDS Bulletin 43.4) is whether or not the concept of ‘hybridity’ can be more than an analytical one and become a guide for action for policy makers. Does it offer a strategy for building effective security systems? As we learn more about hybrid security orders, we may find some networks that offer valuable checks and balances and whose mobilisation could contribute to a more effective, legitimate, democratic African security order.

You can access the Introduction (pdf) of the Bulletin online for free.

We have 10 free hard copies for interested readers

Just send an email with your postal address to to claim your free copy (on a first come first serve basis). Not available to IDS staff and students.

* Niagalé Bagayoko-Penone is a former Research Fellow of the Governance team at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Politics of Australian Aid Policy

By Andrew Rosser

At an IDS guest seminar Andrew Rosser examined how Australian aid policy is made and what impact AusAid can have, given the fact that it is now one of the OECD’s ten largest bilateral donors. You can follow Andrew’s presentation below:

Australian aid has been ramped up substantially in recent years: in absolute dollar terms, Australia is now one of the OECD’s ten largest bilateral donors. In this presentation, Andrew Rosser examines how Australian aid policy is made, the actors involved in the process, and the implications for the size, ideological orientation, and geographic distribution of Australian aid. He also examines the shifts that have taken place in Australian aid policy since the election of the Rudd-Gillard Labor government in 2007 and speculates on how it is likely to change if, as expected, the Liberal-National Coalition wins office in 2013.

Andrew Rosser is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Adelaide. His work on the political economy of development in Indonesia has appeared in World Development, Third World Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary Asia, New Political Economy, and IDS Bulletin among other outlets. His work on Australian aid policy includes ‘Neo-liberalism and the Politics of Aid Policy-Making in Australia,’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, 62 (3), 2008, pp.372-385.