Escaping the fragility trap: don’t rush democracy, coax it


Democracy should be coaxed, not rushed, Bloomberg suggests, citing a new report which argues that developed nations trying to help fragile states have been doing it wrong:

They have pushed the “best practices” of wealthy nations, demanding quick multi-party elections and often unpopular, harsh economic policies backed by global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This has resulted in deeply flawed and easily subverted or overturned democracies in countries such as post-Saddam Iraq, post-Mubarak Egypt and post-Gaddafi Libya. In Yemen, according to the report, the program proposed by the international financial institutions demanded a radical transformation of the country within two years.

“The reform program was aborted because the state collapsed through rebellion triggered by one of the reforms,” adds the report from the LSE-Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development.

Weak state capacity, lack of legitimacy, and oppositional identities compound a fourth problem: inadequate security manifested in sporadic outbreaks of violence, the report states:

All four of these problems then compound a fifth: the private sector is under-developed so that incomes are low, and the economy narrowly-based. Not only does this feed back onto weak government revenues and a lack of jobs, but it compounds a final problem: the society is exposed to shocks, both political and economic, and these periodically set the society back even when some progress has been made.

“Elections matter,” said former British prime minister David Cameron, who chaired the commission. “But before we rush to multi-party elections, we need to do more to resolve conflicts, achieve power-sharing, and put in place the checks and balances that can help prevent another slide into conflict and failure.”’


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