Building Local Capacity and Institutions Key to Reversing Fragility | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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Building Local Capacity and Institutions Key to Reversing Fragility

A special issue of the World Bank Institute’s magazine, Development Outreach, devoted to the theme of fragility and conflict, draws lessons from the experiences of the World Bank and other organizations in tackling capacity-building and other challenges in conflict-affected settings.

At a September 30 launch, an audience of more than a hundred Bank staff and experts from Development Solutions Group, Center for Global Development, Urban Institute, Sudanese Association for Youth Development, World Food Program, Academy for Educational Development, and African Outreach Foundation, gathered to hear a panel that included some of the magazine’s contributors discuss what outsiders can do to support development in fragile situations (watch video).
The high priority position  of fragile and conflict-afflicted states on the development agenda creates an urgency for capacity-building in these situations, said Sanjay Pradhan, World Bank Institute Vice President. But the sudden influx of technical assistance often seen in such situations must be complemented by an effort to build local institutions, he said.
While the capacity-building agenda must be driven from within fragile states, outsiders can provide valuable support, said Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, a former telecoms minister and adviser to Afghan President Karzai, speaking from Kabul via satellite. He pointed to dramatic progress on many fronts, given Afghanistan’s conditions when the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001. Cell phone coverage now extends across the country, for example, and a cadre of skilled administrators has been formed in key ministries. But he also said that the positive effects of donors’ investments had fallen short of expectations, in many cases due to “layers of contracting” across multiple levels of government, and involving a variety of local and foreign contractors, giving rise to abuses within the system. Stanekzai said capacity building programs to strengthen institutions are needed, along with mechanisms to control corruption and ensure accountability.
Sarah Cliffe, Director of the upcoming World Development Report 2011 on Conflict, Security and Development, drew a distinction between short-term actions to ensure security and development, and medium-term efforts to build the capacity of local institutions. In the latter case, she noted, some organizations, such as armies and health care establishments, respond better to support from outside than others, such as teachers and police, who tend to be bound by local cultural norms and practices that present barriers to effective external cooperation.
Sexual violence is another dimension of fragility, said Elisabeth Roesch, Gender-Based Violence Advocacy Officer for the International Rescue Committee. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she said, sexual violence not only escalated during the conflict, but continued at high levels even after relative stability was re-established. A long-term, comprehensive commitment by local governments and donors is needed to reduce and end it, she said.
Experience in countries such as Mozambique and Rwanda shows that fragility can be overcome, said Alastair McKechnie, Director of the World Bank’s Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group, and Guest Editor of this issue of Development Outreach. He noted that, even in the most fragile of situations, some capacity exists, and local and outside actors must build on it. A legitimate state, he said, depends on the government’s ability to deliver services, as well as on the state’s alignment with a country’s national values.