A New Deal for Fragile States

A Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise (VBIED) after exploding on a street
A Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise (VBIED) after exploding on a street in Iraq. Photo: Eli J. Medellin/Wikimedia Commons.

PARIS – Today, roughly one-quarter of the world’s population lives in conflict-affected and fragile states. Despite vast sums of money spent aiding such states over the last 50 years, armed conflict and violence continue to blight the lives of millions of people around the world. International and national partners must radically change the way they engage such states.

I experienced firsthand the need for a new approach in 2004 in Sri Lanka. Within the first two months of the devastating tsunami that struck that December, close to 50 heads of state and foreign ministers visited the island. Each came with their own programs, their own civil-society organizations, and their own television crews. Few came with any deep understanding of the dynamics of the political conflict between militant Tamils and the Sri Lankan state. Big mistakes were made, fueling further violence.

Political Economy and Development

Cars with megaphones to educate the public: the best fit for Timor-Leste, photo Valerie Sticher/ISN

Next Tuesday, October 25th, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is hosting a free evening event examining the interplay of politics and development aid from a political economy perspective. Called “Putting Politics into Practice? Political Economy Analysis and the Practice of Development”, the event is being held at ODI’s London headquarters. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

What is political economy analysis? According to the DfID, it is the bridging of the traditional concerns of politics and economics, focusing “on how power and resources are distributed and contested in different contexts, and the implications for development outcomes. It gets beneath the formal structures to reveal the underlying interests, incentives and institutions that enable or frustrate change.”

“Putting Politics into Practice?” builds upon a previous dialogue convened by ODI in 2010 on how development actors might go about incorporating political insights into their work. While there has been growing recognition that aid effectiveness is intertwined with political context and culture, translating these insights into real changes in development practice has not been easy. This would mean, for example, that instead of working to rigid guidelines of ‘best practice’, development programs and projects should instead be based on models of ‘best fit’.

Development Possibilities in the DPRK

Informal markets – pointing the way forward?
Informal markets – pointing the way forward? Image: fresh888/flickr

Next Tuesday, July 19th, ISN partner organization the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will be hosting a one-day conference in Washington, DC exploring various transformations inside North Korea that will have significant implications for the regime, as well as for US policy toward North Korea. Speakers at the event include a group of Seoul-based North Korean defectors, as well as various USIP experts.

Informal Markets and Peacebuilding in North Korea” is part of a multi-stage USIP research project on informal markets in North Korea, drawing upon key findings from ongoing interviews with defectors, as well as the Northeast Asia Track 1.5 dialogues. With regard to North Korea, the role of informal markets is largely understudied: most research either focuses or speculates on nuclear weapons development, or troubled relations with South Korea, the US and other Asian states. This conference breaks new ground in examining the remarkable transformations that have been taking place at the local level: Informal markets constitute important coping mechanisms and survival strategies for members of diverse socioeconomic groups close to the Sino-North Korean border.

Misguided Priorities for Internet Governance

Server room, courtesy of Torkild Retvedt/flickr
Server room, courtesy of Torkild Retvedt/flickr

This is a cross-post from the Lowy Institute’s blog, The Interpreter.

If you had to choose between human rights and governance, which one would you pick? Most might go for human rights, but when it comes to the internet, that would be the wrong answer.

In February, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held its last preparatory meeting before the 2011 annual meeting, due to take place in Nairobi. The IGF was created following the UN World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunis in 2005. The summit was an attempt to internationalise internet governance and make it more open.

The summit had four principal goals: ensuring the access, openness, development and security of the internet. The WSIS attempted to shape a new form of internet governance, that would give more power to international organisations and less power to the private sector organisations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Since no agreement was reached in Tunis, UN member states agreed to mandate the IGF to continue discussions on internet governance.

Keeping Mothers Alive

Mother and child in Chadian refugee camp, photo: Physicians for Human Rights/flickr

Last week the international community convened in New York to discuss progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, with maternal mortality among those lagging furthest behind. This week the ISN takes a closer look at the unabating danger of women’s death and acute injury during childbirth – and what the international community is doing about it.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Allyn Gaestel about the impact of last week’s UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit on goal number five: maternal health.
  • A Podcast interview with Claudia Leimgruber-Neukom of Women’s Hope International about the tragedy of obstetric fistulas developed through childbirth – and how education is the key to addressing the condition.
  • Security Watch articles discussing the obstacles to achieving the MDGs by 2015.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including the Overseas Development Institute’s ‘MDG Report Card’ published earlier this month.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the UN Millennium Declaration at the dawn of a new century.
  • Links to relevant websites, like a Time video, featuring a short film on current maternal health issues in Sierra Leone.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Washington, DC-based Center for Women Policy Studies.