Writing The History Of The Future: Securing Stability through Peace Agreements

There is an emerging consensus among policy-makers that effective states are the key to global security and prosperity. The UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, for instance, argues that “States are still the front-line responders to today’s threats. Successful international actions to battle poverty, fight infectious disease, stop transnational crime, rebuild after civil war, reduce terrorism and halt the spread of dangerous materials all require capable, responsible States as partners. It follows that greater effort must be made to enhance the capacity of States to exercise their sovereignty responsibly. For all those in a position to help others build that capacity, it should be part of their responsibility to do so”. The Commission for Africa is equally clear on this point: “one thing underlies all the difficulties caused by the interactions of Africa’s history over the past 40 years. It is the weakness of governance and the absence of an effective state”.Following the pioneering work of de Soto3, the World Bank’s Cost of Doing Business documents the positive or negative impact of state institutions on creation of wealth and possibility of participation in the current wave of globalization.

This consensus, however, is yet to be translated into a consistent approach embraced by a community of practice. Several constraints prevent the emergence of such a community of practice. Conceptually, the state is still viewed in terms of a single function: its claim to legitimate monopoly of force. Global institutions
mandated with the responsibility for security and peace, development, monetary, trade, and political processes operate in silos, having developed distinctive organizational cultures that have become obstacles to coordination in the face of new threats and opportunities. There is a global multi-billion yearly industry, amounting to an estimated $4 billion in Africa alone , in technical assistance that substitutes for state functions. As there are no agreed international standards on the skills required for building effective states, the currently unregulated technical assistance industry may be as much of an obstacle as an asset to achieving this goal. As a result, there has been little attention to investing in national institutions that would produce the men and women with the vision, understanding and commitment to lead and manage the process of building effective states in their countries. Such a formation, in turn, requires the discipline of context and immersion in the recent attempts at building inclusive polities.

This paper is a contribution to overcoming some of the above constraints. We will first offer a multifunctional concept of the state, grounding it in history of social thought. We will then examine the issue of state-building as a dominant theme in a number of peace agreements concluded during the last twenty years. Viewing the peace agreements from an implementation perspective, we will delineate the set of skills that are required for facilitation of the process of agreement and realization of the goals of building effective states. We will conclude by making the case for taking the long–term view of state-building rather than the short term view of peace-making as the focus of a renewed international agenda.