Multilevel Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood: The Role of External Actors

Governance in areas of limited statehood regularly involves international and transnational actors in providing basic services and supplying governance. This includes foreign governments, international organizations (such as the United Nations and its suborganizations), as well as transnational nonstate actors, such as multinational corporations, NGOs, or transnational PPPs. The involvement of inter- and transnational actors in governance results from necessity given the state weakness in these countries. In many cases, inter- and transnational actors directly interfere with the “Westphalian sovereignty” in areas of limited statehood, that is, they authoritatively rule in the absence of a consolidated state (see chapters by Schneckener and Bro- zus; Krasner 2004; Fearon and Laitin 2004). In other words, shared sovereignty is an empirical reality in many states that lack the ability to enforce central decisions.

However, shared sovereignty—the division and distribution of political authority across transnational, national, and local levels—is precisely what constitutes “multilevel governance.” It prevails in areas of limited statehood in the sense that external actors directly participate in governance. It is remarkable that the enormous literature on multilevel governance that predominantly deals with the European Union (E.U.) has not yet realized that similar phenomena are all too common in the global South (on multilevel governance in the Western context see, e.g., Hooghe and Marks 2001; Hooghe and Marks 2003; Kohler-Koch and Eising 1999; Benz 2004b).

Three chapters in this book tackle the multilevel dimension of governance in areas limited statehood. Bernd Ladwig and Beate Rudolf argue that rather ambitious standards of good governance, including human rights, the rule of law, responsiveness, and public participation, are already part of positive international law and that they can also be justified by a rights-based approach of political morality. These standards interfere by definition in the “Westphalian sovereignty” of states insofar as they constitute an interest of the international community as a whole in the internal affairs of states and are preemptory norms (ius cogens) that are obligatory for any country in the contemporary system. At the same time, however, international law assumes fully consolidated states that are both willing and capable of complying with these norms. International law also presupposes the existence of a collectivity for which decisions can be made and the existence of a political authority that has the ultimate responsibility for such decisions. However, both elements are missing in areas of limited statehood as a result of which a completely state-centric approach to ensure compliance with international law misses the mark.

Ladwig and Rudolf then explore the question of who bears a subsidiary responsibility for guaranteeing minimum standards of good governance in areas of limited statehood. First, the international community as a whole has accepted its “responsibility to protect” in cases of severe violations of governance standards as part of its commitment to international peace and security. But this responsibility by other states is severely circumscribed by procedural considerations such as, for example, authorization by the U.N. Security Council as a result of which a discrepancy between international law and moral obligations remains (see the case of Kosovo in 1999). Second, Ladwig and Rudolf use the principle of “agency of necessity” (negotiorum gestio) to argue that even nonstate actors engaged in governance in areas of limited statehood are bound by international law if they exercise subsidiary responsibility. They argue, however, that this subsidiary responsibility can only be justified if the international community aims at reestablishing the material, structural, and societal preconditions for consolidated statehood. In other words, serious intrusions in the “Westphalian sovereignty” of states that lack domestic sovereignty have to engage in state building.

However, state-building efforts, particularly in postconflict situations, face their own problems, as Ulrich Schneckener argues in his chapter. He analyzes various state-building strategies, such as “liberalization first,” “security first,” “institutionalization first,” and “civil society first” Each of these strategies inevitably produces unintended consequences. “Liberalization first” often underestimates the destabilizing effects of rapid democratization and market liberalization. In contrast, “security first” risks strengthening the status quo, including the stabilization of authoritarian rule. While an emphasis on institution building tends to empower those elites who profit from the status quo, focusing on civil society leads to the opposite pitfalls by undermining local social structures. Schneckener then argues that what all these strategies have in common is to overlook the multilevel governance character of external efforts at state building. As a result, incompatibilities between the goals and time-horizons of external actors, on the one hand, and local communities, on the other hand, are inevitable. Schneckener concludes that the key issue for external actors is not how to avoid counterproductive effects and unintended consequences of their interference in the domestic sovereignty of states, but how to cope with them. First and foremost, they have to understand that they are not external to local developments, but part of the process and its dynamics. Since external efforts at stabilizing postconflict situations result in multilevel governance structures, the “internationals” have to realize too that they are bound up with the political, social, economic, and cultural developments on the ground. “Exit strategies” amount in self-betrayal. Rather, external actors have to understand that interventions in the governance arrangements of areas of limited statehood change both those being interfered with and the intervenors. In other words, governance travels back.

The concluding chapter by Lars Brozus takes up these challenges and discusses the consequences of the book’s findings for international foreign and security policy. Current international foreign and security policy debates picture areas of limited statehood as presenting security challenges to the so- called developed world. Most of the scenarios discussed refer to challenges resulting from international destabilization because of conflicts spilling-over from areas of limited statehood. Terrorism, organized crime, and mass movements of people are noted frequently as consequences. To confront these challenges powerful actors such as the United States or the European Union have developed security strategies with a specific focus on areas of limited statehood. International interventions differ widely with respect to their degree of intensity. While most interventions are mandated restrictively, some aim at establishing new institutions and sometimes even new forms of governance, as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Thus, governance becomes an important part of state-building strategies.

However, the adverse implications of applying a Western governance concept to areas of limited statehood are often overlooked in these strategies. Brozus joins in Schneckener’s criticism of Western efforts at state building and argues that detailed knowledge of existing modes of governance in areas of limited statehood is essential for the effectiveness of efforts by the international community. This implies that the “modernization package” that external actors try to “sell” in areas of limited statehood, is not only highly problematic, but bound to fail. Moreover, the provision of governance by external actors might actually weaken already limited statehood further and thus undermine the “state-building” goal of establishing self-supporting governance structures. Brozus concludes that the aim of the international community in areas of limited statehood should be “governance-shaping” rather than state building.

In sum, the final three chapters make the following points.

  • • The international legal order has established standards of good governance, which includes human rights, the rule of law, and the right to participate in governance. These standards deeply circumscribe the “Westphalian” sovereignty of states and include the subsidiary responsibility of the international commu- nity—be it states, international organizations, or nonstate actors—to help in the governance of areas of limited statehood.
  • • The “state-building” efforts by external actors in postconflict situations have rarely resulted in establishing fully consolidated states, but have institutionalized multilevel governance structures in which external actors become part and parcel of “local” governance and in which shared sovereignty is the rule.

At this point, however, we have come full circle: Ladwig and Rudolf argue in their chapter that the only moral and legal justification for external interventions in areas of limited statehood can be to foster effective and self-sustained governance, that is, state building. Schneckener and Brozus demonstrate in their chapters that such efforts inevitably result in the deep involvement of external actors in multilevel governance structures and that “quick impact” strategies are illusionary. If we accept their point that governance in areas of limited statehood is multilevel governance by definition that also involves nonstate actors in a systematic fashion (see the chapters in the second part of this volume), we may actually witness the emergence of new political and social orders in areas of limited statehood.

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