Public Administration, Local Governance & Participation: Public Administration, Local Governance, Participation & Peacebuilding Processes

Issues of public administration, local governance, and participation play important roles in overarching issues of peacebuilding. During the 1970s and 1980s a process of neo-liberalism instituted programs that imagined a diminished role of government and administrators. This made the process of governance particularly difficult given the lack of financial capacity allocated to these sectors. At times, this intensified conflict by limiting the states ability to reign in patronage networks. As a consequence, a new focus has been placed on institutions, and the essential role of the state in building peace. This system images not only a tradition perspective on sovereignty, but notes that legitimacy of states also rests in their capacity to deliver on their political promises, and perform specific functions. Local governance structures and public administration are essential facilitators of this responsibility. The mechanisms enacted at local levels and the administrators that comprise these systems are the channel through which policy becomes action, and by which functions and services of the state are allocated. Another vital notion of sovereignty also depends on its popular nature its representative quality of the population at large. Thus, participation is vital to facilitating a deliberative relationship between the state and citizenry.

Public administration, neo-liberalism, and conflict

The process of neo-liberal reform largely influenced public sector reform and the move toward a New Public Management (NPM) approach. These neo-liberal policies were instituted by the international financial institutions funding mechanisms from the 1970s forward. During the first-generation reforms, lending encouraged a roll-back of state administration through a double process of deregulation and privatization.1 Though there are various perspectives on these issues, most analysts have shown that in the period following these programs, many developing states experienced the evolution of a 'governance gap,' where a disparity exists between the governance needed, and the ability of the government to fulfill that need. This gap left public administration limited and unaccountable to the state apparatus, allowing local governance structures to be largely controlled by corrupt patrons, undermining the local political balance and contributing to the eruption of violent conflicts.2 As a result, in the aftermath of conflict, any intervention attempting to reform the public administration and install mechanisms of local governance faces situations in which most institutions, governance mechanisms, and processes have been disintegrated or degraded. The most challenging situations are those in which conflict has loosened further the states ability to control territory, and where the public administration and security apparatus has been significantly corrupted by rent-seeking activities, as has been the case in the DRC, Iraq, Afghanistan, Liberia, Colombia, and many other states.

Most practitioners and analysts now consider it important to move away from this NPM approach, which mirrors structural adjustment and encourages outsourcing (contract-out or privatization) on state functions ranging from healthcare to military service.3  This corresponds to a broader shift in the recent years: the state is now seen as an integral component to any solution.4

Yet this modern approach introduces a significant challenge as well, and complete reliance on the state may not be possible in the immediate post-conflict period, nor is it advised. Where administrative legitimacy does not exist, bolstering those networks can actually exacerbate societal tensions, undermining the very consolidation of peace in post-conflict societies. Even assuming political will exists and administrative channels would be used for legitimate purposes, this method also takes little consideration of the reality of government capacities after a conflict.5 As emphasized by scholar Roland Paris, offering a synthesis of these debates, most literature as well as interventions assumes "the existence of functioning states as a given...But this methodology offers few insights into the challenges of peacebuilding, because war-shattered states typically lack even the most rudimentary governmental institutions."6

Thus, an intermediate solution may be offered by the alternative posited by Paris, which suggests: "Institutionalization before Liberalization." This approach involves constructing the foundations of effective political and economic institutions, and then taking gradual steps to build democracies and market economies. More specifically, it could involve delaying reforms until political conditions are less fragile, drawing out reforms over a longer period of time, and generally ensuring sound legal and governance frameworks in place as a starting point.7 This meets other recommendations for contextualizing decisions in accordance with an appropriate sequencing and prioritization of reforms.

Go to governance and administration as facilitators of peacebuilding institutions
Go to Peacebuilding as liberal peace and its critics and Economic Recovery Strategies subsection
Link to Statebuilding subsection (cross-cutting issues; forthcoming

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Governance and administration as facilitators of peacebuilding institutions

The structure and capacity of local institutions is broadly considered as a key factor in any successful peacebuilding process. "Rebuilding the capacities of the state and the (re-) establishment of credible, transparent, participatory and efficient governance and public administration institutions in fragile post-conflict settings is the key ingredient to achieving peace, stability and sustainable development. A solid governance infrastructure, based on well-articulated horizontal and vertical divisions of power, is crucial to delivering political promises along with the needed public goods such as security, health care, education and infrastructure. State- or nation-building is the central objective of every peace building operation and is dependent upon the reconstitution of sustainable governance structures. Post-conflict nation-building comprises, at minimum: the rule of law, judicial, constitutional and security sector reform, the establishment of mechanisms of political participation and inclusive policies, the effective provision of basic services and goods, fighting corruption, fostering a democratic culture, free and transparent elections, and the promotion of local governance."8
Go to public finance and economic governance and electoral processes and political parties

Indeed, there is increasing acceptance of the idea that modern states must perform a variety of functions beyond holding the legitimate monopoly on use of force in a given territory (which was originally postulated as the defining criteria for sovereign statehood by political philosopher Max Weber).9 The capability to perform these functions enhances either stability or instability. "Where functions are performed optimally and in an integrated manner, conflict is channeled through inclusive institutional channels, and tensions can be mediated through peaceful processes. However, fragility arises from weakness in the dynamic political process which matches citizen expectations with the states capacity to deliver services."10 Failure to perform state functions can lead to loss of trust and legitimacy between citizens and the state, perpetuating a further weakening of state functionality (which cyclically then erodes the social contract and trust between citizen and state, and so on). "Stabilization and structural reform as well as institutional and capacity building activities" are also considered as "necessary to reactivate the economy and bring it to a sustainable development path."11

Perhaps the centerpiece of an effective governance model is a well-functioning public administration, which is the channel through which policies are actuated. "At the center of credible governance and public administration is an effective public service [...]. Therefore, a capable public service, based on a merit- and incentive based system, has a greater bearing on recovery than is generally recognized, both in terms of delivering aid and basic services and in rebuilding national cohesion and the credibility, legitimacy, and trust in government."12 Of course, public administration mechanisms may have been significantly eroded by conflict. Yet those that make up this sector are central actors in putting in place public policy, and therefore, where legitimate, are paramount agents of statebuilding. On this basis, "the public service is called upon to be an agent of change and to ensure that it undergoes self-transformation to adapt to and manage the changed and changing overall socio-politico-economic and social governance terrain."13
Go to Statebuilding subsection (cross-cutting issues; forthcoming)

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Participation and social capital

Increasingly, international organizations have encouraged participation as central to entrenching systems of 'good governance.' Notions of participation have become so interlaced with paradigms of 'good governance,' that they have infiltrated the very definition of governance. Empirically, evidence does point to a somewhat intuitive connection between civic engagement and good governance, as civic groups and representative of constituencies, would more readily be able to check for community needs in government.14

The call for greater participation also comes from the urge to enhance the deliberative quality of policy-making, help generate politic consensus and also a sense of ownership for state reforms, and activate the endogenous potential of local communities all elements that are often lacking in post-conflict reform processes.15 Conversely, the state must organize specific, demonstrable initiatives to regenerate social cohesion through policies and programs that promote participation, equity and inclusion. 16 At a more fundamental level, peacebuilding deals with societies in which violence and tensions have eroded social capital and community in many ways, breaking down trust in local spaces. This is even more evident in the ways citizens and civil society actors perceive the state apparatus.

Hence, in reforming or reconstructing a public administration or local government apparatus, many peacebuilding actors focus on different methods to rebuild that trust. In this respect, different participatory processes such as forums for dialogue may play a vital role. "Stable networks of mutual acknowledgment and recognition allow individuals and groups to secure access to other forms of capital and resources. (The socially marginalized therefore lack this kind of capital)."17

1. Reginald Herbert Green, "The IMF and the World Bank in Africa: How Much Learning?" (In Thomas Callaghy and John Ravenhill, eds., 54-89, Hemmed In: global responses to Africas economic decline, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
2. Tony Addison and S. Mansoob Murshed, UNU/WIDER Special Issue on Conflict. Explaining Violence Conflict: Going Beyond Greed and Grievance, Journal of Development: 15 no. 2 (2003), 393; Janine Aron, "Building Institutions in Post-Conflict African Economies," Journal of Development 15 (2003): 471-472.
3. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Unlocking the Human Potential for Public Sector Performance: World Public Sector Report 2005 (New York: United Nations, 2005), 58.
4. James K. Boyce and Madalene ODonnell, Peace and the Public Purse: Economic Policies for Postwar Statebuilding (Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers2007).
5. See for example, Roland Paris, At Wars End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Michael Barnett, "Building a Republic Peace: Stabilizing States after War," International Security 30 no. 4 (2006): 87-112; Michael Pugh, "The Political Economy of Peacebuilding: A Critical Theory Perspective," International Journal of Peace Studies 10 no. 2 (2005): 23-42.
6. Paris, At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict, 46.
7. Ibid., 199.
8. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Governance Strategies for Post Conflict Reconstruction, Sustainable Peace and Development (New York: United Nations, 2007), 9.
9. See A. Ghani, C. Lockhart and M. Carnahan, Closing the Sovereignty Gap: An Approach to State-Building (London: Overseas Development Institute, 2005).
10. The Institute for State Effectiveness, Development Effectiveness in Situations of Fragility and Conflict (forthcoming). See also From Fragility to Resilience: Concepts and Dilemmas of Statebuilding in Fragile States, A Research Paper for the OECD Fragile States Group (2007).
11. Graciana del Castillo, Economic Reconstruction in Post-conflict Transitions: Lessons for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), (Paris: OECD, 2003), 5.
12. UNDESA, Governance Strategies for Post Conflict Reconstruction, Sustainable Peace, and Development, 11.
13. Ibid.
14. Aron, "Building Institutions in Post-Conflict African Economies," 476.
15. Keng-Ming Hsu and Chun-Yuan Wang, "The Institutional Design and Citizen Participation in Local Governance," (In Jak Jabes (ed). Selected Papers from the Launching Conference of the Network of Asia-Pacific Schools and Institutes of Public Administration and Governance, The Role of Public Administration in Alleviating Poverty and Improving Governance, Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia, December 6-8, 2004, 338; International Monetary Fund, "The Funds Engagement in Fragile States and Post-Conflict Countries- A Review of Experience- Issues and Options," IMF Policy Development and Review Department, 2008), 14.
16. UNDESA, Governance Strategies for Post Conflict Reconstruction, Sustainable Peace and Development, 5.
17. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Participatory Dialogue: Towards a Stable, Safe and Just Society for All (New York: United Nations, 2007).

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