Governance and Nationbuilding

Governance and Nationbuilding

The Failure of International Intervention

Kate Jenkins and William Plowden

Governance and Nationbuilding describes how aid donors have attempted to improve the performance of government in developing countries and countries in crisis. Kate Jenkins and William Plowden review the widespread lack of success, tracing the history of international government intervention, the roles of donors and recipient countries, the ways in which expert advice and support have been provided, and the donors’ own evaluation of their work.

Chapter 1: Nationbuilding and Governance

Kate Jenkins and William Plowden

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations, public policy, regulation and governance


In the early years of the twenty-first century two concepts moved from research theses and the learned journals to the mass media and into public discourse. ‘Nationbuilding’ is a term much used by apologists for the shambles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by their critics. It is relatively new, though the practice has a longer history. ‘Governance’, a term long familiar to political scientists, almost overnight in the summer of 2005 became central to public and political debate about poverty in Africa. These terms are linked, in the sense that success in achieving the first requires high standards of the second. They also have in common a deceptive simplicity, which conceals wide disagreement about what they actually mean, and remarkable reluctance on the part of many of those who use them to acknowledge the extreme difficulty of giving practical effect to the ideas behind them. Attempts to build nations, and to improve governance, are often regarded as being ‘new’ endeavours: in fact there is a long history of activities whose underlying aims and philosophy are strikingly similar, which have largely failed to realize their objectives – and from which much can be learned. That is the theme of this book. NATIONBUILDING Definitions Nationbuilding can be defined in different ways. It invariably involves intervention by an outside power in the internal workings of a state. It is frequently seen as being associated with some form of military activity and, often closely linked to this, with ‘regime change’ – the regime in question being...

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