Implications of Research on Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood

How can effective and legitimate governance be made sustainable in areas of limited statehood? Which political problems emerge under these conditions? In this section, I illuminate different aspects of current research on governance in areas of limited statehood and address the various normative issues in the context of the increasing number of international interventions. The empirical aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the diversity of existing forms of governance outside of the OECD world.

In contrast to the vast knowledge about modern forms of governance in areas of consolidated statehood, research about governance in areas of limited statehood tends to suffer from lacking theoretical concepts and empirical evidence. The systematic and rigorous study of structures and processes of governance in the absence of consolidated statehood constitutes an important desideratum of the academic discipline of International Relations. This is all the more remarkable as modern forms of governance like the Western nation-state are the exception rather than the rule (Leibfried and Zurn 2005). Historically and geographically much more common are “traditional” forms of governance. Furthermore, processes of globalization and denationalization attach an ever greater importance to political structures and processes in the non-OECD world with respect to consequences for the international community. While the political importance of this part of the world increases significantly, the knowledge about actors, forms and objectives of governance remains marginal.

The resulting consequences for international politics toward areas of limited statehood have so far not been sufficiently addressed. The available evidence suggests that local and regional forms of governance are considerably more persistent than presumed by modernization and development theories (Menzel 1992). A brief glance at the history of decolonization supports this point: some fifty years ago the independence of Ghana initiated a phase of accelerated decolonization. Many observers expected that decolonization would lead to the universal modernization of traditional forms of governance. Essentially, two political alternatives were available during the East- West confrontation. Both represented modern, nontraditional forms of political rule: liberalism and democracy on the one side, socialist, state-directed economies on the other. The assumption of many modernization theorists was that regardless of which camp the new members of the international community would adhere to, a modernization process of their political as well as economic and social systems would inevitably follow.

Today, it is obvious that political modernization did not occur as expected (Berman 2007; Fukuyama 2004). Not only do traditional forms of governance continue to exist, but quite often attempts at modernization resulted in dead ends, leading sometimes to territorial disintegration instead of better governance. In extreme cases even a return to seemingly outdated forms of political authority occurred, such as the establishment of a theocratic regime in Iran after 1979. Breaking with the modernization policies of the shah’s regime, the new theocratic elite proclaimed a programmatic shift away from secular models of society and politics. This dual development—no comprehensive political modernization and no universal convergence of the forms of governance (which for a brief moment after the end of the East-West confrontation was expected again by some observers; cf. Fukuyama 1989) on the one hand, occasional relapses into (even pre-) traditional forms of political authority on the other—clarifies the importance of analyzing governance in areas of limited statehood both for political science as well as practical politics.

The question of normative standards for governance in failing and failed states is highly relevant for the debate on the right—or the duty—to intervene in cases of flagrant human rights violations (RTP or Responsibility to Protect; see the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty 2001). When are interventions justifiable? What is their goal? Who should consider intervention? Ladwig (2007) examines the principles of legitimate international interventions in areas of limited statehood and discusses seven moral preconditions (see also chapter by Ladwig and Rudolf in this volume). He claims that only the protection of basic human rights can justify an external intervention. It is important to note that only states that are willing to invest the necessary efforts and resources should consider interventions. They have to be committed strictly to international law. The aim of the operation can only be the (re-) construction of local democratic authorities.5 Once this is achieved, the intervention must end because of the people’s right to self-determination: “The assumption that it would be possible to leave ruins of statehood quickly after a military intervention is normatively and de facto erroneous. The responsibility to provide immediate relief is instantly followed by the responsibility for the development of a viable order. If possible this should be a legitimate order which has to be supported by the people living in it” (Ladwig 2007, 371).

Another interesting aspect of Ladwig’s remarks concerns the need for a positive correlation between the extent of the human rights violations and the scale of the international intervention that inevitably results in at least transitional heteronomy. Thus, only massive and continuing human rights violations can justify a full-scale international intervention. Minor violations should of course not be ignored, but cannot be used as an excuse for a lasting occupation.

A lot can be learned about governance in areas of limited statehood by historical comparisons since striking similarities exist regarding fundamental structures and processes: the absence of effective domestic sovereignty, the blurred distinction between public and private spheres, and the participation of both private and public actors in governance. Analyzing governance under these conditions points to the microtechniques of power. It can deepen our understanding of current forms of governance in areas of limited statehood. For instance, the participation of private actors in the provision of governance services in colonial North America seems to have been the rule rather than the exception: “In many cases where the local administration neglected its duties, other institutions and actors who were not a part of the official colonial administration took over responsibilities or were entrusted directly by the crown with these tasks” (Lehmkuhl 2007, 114; see chapter by Conrad and Stange in this volume).

Research conducted by Chojnacki and Branovic (2007) illustrates how important historical research can be for current debates (see also chapter by Chojnacki and Branovic in this volume). They investigate areas of “strategic (in-) security” These areas are characterized by two features:

  • (1) Security is not a public good but rather a privatized and scarce commodity.
  • (2) Instead of a state monopoly on legitimate force, a “force oligopoly” (Debiel et al. 2005, 6) exists in which several actors compete with each other, often using violence.

These two features are also characteristic of the colonial past of North America. Given the weakness of the colonial authorities, citizens repeatedly resorted to self-help measures to enhance their security, such as sending out punitive expeditions against pirates. In some cases, which were probably not intentional, these actions helped to shape a political community that could enter into political competition with the colonial authorities and even the home country.

Chojnacki and Branovic make two more points: first, force oligopolists in areas of limited statehood act according to perceived opportunity structures; and second, local forms of security provision such as village militias tend to be temporary phenomena. This has implications for state-building strategies in areas of limited statehood: If “changing geographical and economic opportunity structures [can influence] force oligopolists to prefer the provision of security over the use of violence against the population” (Chojnacki and Branovic 2007, 199), it seems obvious that intervening actors should try to influence these opportunity calculations thereby meeting Ladwig’s postulate for intervention (protection of basic human rights). This could include, for example, offering less compromised force oligopolists political and material incentives if they enter into nonviolent political competition.6

Besides constraining political authority and supplying basic security, another fundamental governance service is the provision of public goods in the policy area of welfare. Borzel et al. (2007) investigate companies that provide governance services in health care by financing HIV/AIDS programs in South Africa. No effective state regulation used to exist in this policy area, thus putting at risk the trained workforce of multinational companies, for example in the automotive industry. State regulation was finally initiated because of the initiative of these companies. So contrary to common assumptions, under certain conditions companies may participate in the production of public goods, even if state regulation does not require them to do so (see also the chapter by Borzel at el. in this volume, focusing on environmental protection). Therefore, the conditions under which companies are willing to take on corresponding commitments are an important factor for the provision of governance services. According to Borzel et al. (2007), universally accepted international standards played a crucial role in this respect in South Africa. Correspondingly, multilateral frameworks seem better suited than bilateral agreements to have an impact on state regulation. Apart from the participation of companies in the provision of public goods in the health sector, this has further implications:

If it is indeed so that there was a spill-over of entrepreneurial selfregulation into state regulation leading to the establishment of government regulatory capacity, then the role of multinational corporations in the globalization process appears in a slightly different light. Their transnational economic activities need not necessarily lead to a race to the bottom, but given certain conditions may also result in a race to the top.

(Borzel et al. 2007, 289)

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