Chapter 18: Building on what works: local actors and service delivery in fragile situations
One billion people, including some 340 million of the world’s poorest, are estimated to live in ‘fragile states’, most of which are located in Africa (Collier 2007). They live in situations that Engberg-Pedersen et al. (2008: 6) describe as ‘institutional instability undermining the predictability, transparency and accountability of public decision processes and the provision of security and social services to the population’. This is standard knowledge to donors, but it nonetheless remains an important exercise to more fully understand how public services are delivered in unstable and fragile contexts, by whom they are delivered, and how international actors might best support improvement of service provision at the local level. As this chapter illustrates, there has been a tendency to discuss the central government and local actors in isolation from one another as if they constitute distinct spheres, and yet assume that focusing on and working with the former would automatically engender change in the latter and vice versa. This chapter argues for a systemic approach that focuses on centrally governed and local actors simultaneously. Up through the 2000s, the figure of the non-state emerged in international policy language to label the diverse set of actors that exist in contexts defined by fragile, weak and failing government. Actors such as traditional leaders and vigilante groups are considered the primary providers of justice and security in most fragile environments, and deal with an estimated 70 to 90 per cent of local disputes in Africa and Asia (e.g., Chirayath et al. 2005; OECD 2007b; UNDP 2009; USAID 2005).
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