Working in fragile and conflict-affected states has become a priority area for the international community. A large proportion of the world’s poorest individuals live in fragile and conflict-affected states that have largely been left behind by the global economic takeoff of developing countries over the past two decades.
Control of lucrative natural resources has been a factor in – and often a direct cause of – scores of conflicts. But as a state tries to rebuild, those same resources will often play a vital part in its economic future, whilst simultaneously being a potential catalyst for further conflict. The issue isn’t simply who controls the resources, but also who is seen to control them, and benefit from them.
It goes almost without saying that in a fragile state, the normal levers and apparatus of government are not functioning effectively – and one of the underlying goals of any donor intervention should be to help strengthen the state and state institutions. But in a post-conflict situation, there is often a complex web of powers and influences, some overt, some covert, that directly affect an administration’s ability to act coherently and collectively. Understanding these influences is critical to the success of any donor programme.
In a post-conflict state, it typically feels as if everything is and should be a priority: humanitarian aid, infrastructure, institution-building, peacekeeping. What’s more, the arrival of multiple NGOs, backed by large volumes of donor resource and international aid, can often mean there’s plenty of funding available for a wealth of projects. The problem is where to begin.