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From ‘Statebuilding’ to ‘Stakebuilding’

The Stockholm Forum on Security and Development last week was a resounding success. If you are not familiar with the event, more than 200 senior policymakers, practitioners, academics and civil society representatives from around the world met at the Forum, co-hosted with Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss ‘Promoting Sustainable Peace’.

During two days of intensive roundtable exchanges a variety of topics were discussed, including the political economy of climate change, financing for development in fragile situations, the Syrian crisis, security dynamics and development in Afghanistan and lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, among others. While the scope and the depth of the discussions make it hard to boil down the richness of the dialogues into a few simple points, there was one clear takeaway—on inclusivity and ownership—which struck me as a key message, demonstrating in its complexity how far the conversation on security and development has come.

Inclusivity and ownership

The concepts of Inclusivity and ownership are not new; they have been promoted in a number of fora, including the New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States and the OECD Principles.  What struck me about the conversation was how the two principles were joined up by so many of the speakers.  A number of the participants reminded us of two key fundamentals. First, that development would not be effective and sustainable, particularly in fragile situations, unless it is inclusive, bringing together diverse constituents of a society. And second, that such inclusivity would not be real to those diverse constituencies unless they felt some kind of ownership of the process.  This goes beyond simply national ownership at the state level, but real individual ownership by the people. Inclusivity means involving all genders, minorities and representatives of the vulnerable and poor, not just giving them a seat at the table or even token representation in Parliament (or, as one participant noted: a thick-headed senior official offering to bring his wife to the next planning meeting to increase gender participation), but empowering them with real voice and engagement.  This conception of ownership goes beyond sovereignty and simple national ownership at the state level; it is about involving  people in building real individual stake in their joint future.

Reflections on inclusivity and ownership were apparent in a number of interventions.  One participant reminded us that simply building capacity in ‘weak states’ was insufficient, as ‘fragility cuts very deep’, and overcoming it would require decades of dialogue to bring actors around to a common vision.  In a discussion on informality, another participant noted that most of what we would consider as illicit financial flows is simply people avoiding systems that are inconvenient or burdensome. Since they feel no stake in those systems they simply remain outside of them.   On a related point, another participant noted that many would-be entrepreneurs in fragile developing countries lack the incentives to start or grow a business. So the discussion group was challenged to come up with new approaches that would help to build a shared future with a nascent private sector.  A diversified economy would be good evidence of an environment where there was inclusive ownership, with a shared vision for a common future. 

From statebuilding and peacebuilding…..

Inclusivity and ownership were also at the forefront of broader discussions about statebuilding and peacebuilding. These are big concepts that were enshrined in the New Deal and through the peacebuilding and statebuilding goals adopted by the International Dialogue and the g7+. As these are broad concepts, they are still being defined by the international community and often have different meanings for different actors. Helpfully, one participant (Chatham House Rules) characterized statebuilding as a vertical process, largely consisting of building the institutions and the mechanisms that serve as independent and neutral arbiters (a la North), while peacebuilding can be thought of as a horizontal enterprise, between groups, intended to bridge divides and resolve differences and grievances. I found this conceptualization useful, as it helps to explain much of the unease many have with statebuilding, which often manifests only in the ‘capacity-building’ enterprises of development aid, while ignoring other equally important components of the state-society relationship and peacebuilding, that we know are necessary if the peace and the development are to be sustainable.  In this sense, peacebuilding is essential to promoting the kind of inclusivity described above.  In such a framework, statebuilding is simply an instrumental means to achieving efficient and effective mediation between parties. 

What I really liked about the pairing of inclusivity and ownership in the Forum discussions was how it complemented good practice in fragile developing countries. Consider the three lenses of development policy that Minister Löwin mentioned in her opening address, those of “peace, gender and climate” which she noted are all interconnected and mutually reinforcing. These three lenses are all reminders to promote thinking about inclusivity and ownership in development practice. Peace between actors must, by definition, involve inclusion; gender asks where the women are in a development process and encourages inclusion; and climate considerations promote thinking about the future, which is related to ownership (to be sustainable, development must bridge the demands and needs of the present to a solution that will hold in the future for all involved). 

….to stakebuilding

Finally, that left me wondering where ownership fits into peacebuilding and statebuilding, neither of which currently reflect how diverse elements of society ‘buy in’ to a common future.  In my notes, I have the term ‘stakebuilding’ in the margin in a number of places. This is a financial term for acquisition of shares in a target company during a takeover bid, so the term, unfortunately, has a rather predatory nature.  But it is still an interesting term, as it captures the process of building a stake, an interest or a shared future in an endeavor.  If peacebuilding is a process for promoting inclusivity, is stakebuilding a process for creating joint ownership? 



Dr Gary Milante is an Associate Senior Researcher.