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    Building Capacity in Fragile States

    Available in: Français, Español, العربية
    • Developing leadership and building multistakeholder coalitions are critical to building capacity in fragile states. 
    • Leveraging the existing capacity of many stakeholders, including civil society organizations and the diaspora, is important. 
    • Analyzing the political economy dynamics in the country helps shape strategies for leadership development and institution strengthening. 
    • Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing across countries, including south-south exchange of ideas, is particularly effective. 

    “Capacity building for fragile states is one of WBI’s top priorities,” said Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute (WBI) at a consultation on Capacity Building in Fragile States, on July 16, 2009. But in fragile and conflict-affected states everything is a priority, existing capacity needs strengthening, and there is only a limited window to show results. So we need your guidance on strategies and approaches, Pradhan added.

    Leading experts from the World Bank Group and the broader development community exchanged experiences and highlighted critical considerations in this day-long workshop.

    Sanjay and Claire

    Sanjay Pradhan, WBI Vice President presented the WBI's perspective on capacity development in fragile states, and Clare Lockhart outlined the experience of the Institute on State Effectiveness.

    Critical Importance of Knowledge and Learning

    Several seasoned development practitioners stressed the need for a systematic body of knowledge including case studies, hard data, and expertise on the “how, where, and why” of successful and unsuccessful reform. “There have been many successes over the past 30 years,” said Clare Lockhart of the Institute on State Effectiveness. Part of this knowledge can be tapped through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, which also addresses expressed demand by fragile state actors to be connected with those who have had similar experiences. The most convincing knowledge comes from those who have ‘shared the agony,’ said one participant.

    Capacity always exists in some form in fragile states, variously demonstrated, for example, by the ability to organize troops and ordnance or managing the congestion of multiple donor agencies on the ground. Capacity development often requires redirecting this existing capacity as well as adding new skills. More broadly, it means helping to unleash and manage the potential for change.


    Pilar Domingo from the Overseas Development Institute presented an approach paper on capacity development in fragile states.

    Diagnosing the Political Economy: Understanding the Country Context

    Pilar Domingo from the Overseas Development Institute pointed out that fragile states tend to have complex political systems often fraught with mistrust. Elite groups may be pitted against fragmented ethnic factions. Incentives to build consensus are weak, and fractured social cohesion militates against building demand for governance at the community level. There is the need for sound political analysis up front so that political elites and interest groups can be identified and multi-stakeholder alliances can be built.

    Leadership, Multistakeholder Coalititions, and State-Building

    Sarah Cliffe, Co-Director of the World Development Report 2011 on Fragile States, underlined the need to develop leadership in an environment where government institutions are extremely weak.  She also highlighted the importance of incubating innovative approaches, working with nongovernment stakeholders and building the capacity of the administrative services.  Nigel Roberts, the other Co-Director of WDR, noted that capacity development is an important theme of the WDR.

    Participants noted that given scarce capacity all around and the need to rebuild trust, a principal priority is to provide platforms for multistakeholder coalition building among government, private sector and civil society around resource use and service delivery.



    Supporting government capacity to manage incoming resources is especially urgent when multiple donor-funded contracts are being let for purchasing expatriate skills and service delivery. But the need to build basic administrative and management skills in-country is ongoing. Large cadres have to be trained on such topics as procurement, budgeting, public financial management, and project and program implementation skills. One of the few ways of achieving scale may be to wholesale skills training through partnerships with established local and regional learning centers.

    Operational Realities in Fragile States

    “You have to go outside the box and have a whole different mindset if you want to be effective,” said Jeff Gutman, Vice President of OPCS. “We need to think about how best to operate as an all-service Bank.”

    The Bank is changing its investment lending approach to reflect the realities of higher risk on the ground, and to set more realistic indicators of success. Loan processing and implementation must be quick, and must include in-country implementation support and institution building.


    Alastair McKechnie is the Director of the Banks’ Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group.

    Pillars of a Work Program for WBI

    Broad support emerged for WBI’s role in multi-stakeholder coalition building through South-South peer-to-peer exchanges and knowledge sharing, and working with nontraditional actors such as the media, academic institutions, and civil society groups that can help promote accountability mechanisms. “When government is not the best interlocutor, mobilize the voice of civil society,” suggested Alastair McKechnie, Director of the Banks’ Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group.

    Next Steps for WBI

    Wrapping up the workshop, Sanjay Pradhan suggested four preliminary components of a work program that emerged from the consultations.

    1. WBI will deliver a series of global events on capacity building in fragile states, starting with a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange event on capacity development in fragile states in Africa, to be delivered jointly with the Africa Region at the Bank-Fund Annual Meetings in Istanbul in October 2009. This will be followed by a stock-taking conference for a broad range of stakeholders in the Spring or Fall of 2010.

    2. As a first step in building a knowledge base on fragile states, WBI will organize a series of knowledge exchange activities among fragile states on specific topics to showcase and share successful approaches.


    Sarah Cliffe, Co-Director of the World Development Report 2011 on Fragile States.

    3. At the country level, a series of leadership and consensus-building activities on such topics as extractive industries, procurement, rapids results approaches, action planning, and social capital development. These would include South-South exchanges and peer mentoring, followed by intensive support to leadership teams for implementation and to measure results.

    4. A program to wholesale basic skills for selected countries in partnership with local and regional institutes and centers of excellence.

    Strategically aligned with partners and other Bank units, in particular OPCFC, the Regions, and the WDR team, WBI can have significant impact. “This workshop itself is an example of how we can all work together on this important topic of fragile states,” said Aki Nishio, WBI’s Director of Operations.

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