Management Development and Governance Division
Bureau for Development Policy
United Nations Development Programme


Governance Foundations for Post-Conflict Situations: UNDP's Experience

November 1999

Table of Contents



This interim report is a comparative global study of UNDP experience in supporting reconciliation and governance initiatives in countries in conflict or undergoing economic transition. The report examines the conceptual side of governance and conflict, analyses the different approaches employed by UNDP, and offers recommendations on approaches, modalities, resource mobilisation and aid co-ordination.

The decision to undertake this review arose from a partnership dialogue between the Management Development and Governance Division (MDGD) of UNDP's Bureau for Development Policy, and UNDP's Emergency Response Division (ERD). This is a report which resonates with importance for both divisions: for ERD, with its focal point role for crisis countries, and for MDGD, with its focal point role for policy development and technical support in the field of good governance.

The lead consultant and author of the study was Rajeev Pillay, General Partner of Abacus International Management, who has painstakingly poured over a considerable amount of material, and consulted widely to garner the widest range of data and insights enabling the articulation of the findings and lessons learnt brought out in this report.

The UNDP Task Manager for the finalisation of this study was Frank O'Donnell, Principal Advisor on Governance for Crisis Situations (MDGD/BDP) (and until recently Deputy Director of UNDP's Emergency Response Division). Invaluable support was provided throughout the formulation process by Jose Cruz-Osorio and Linda Maguire, both of whom have valiantly wrestled with verifying and fine-tuning information and providing substantive and editorial input.Other MDGD Advisors have also provided expertise in their areas of specialisation.

Special thanks must also go to several former and currently serving UNDP Resident Representatives, each of whom has simultaneously served as UN Resident Co-ordinator and usually as Humanitarian Co-ordinator as well. These were: Erling Dessau, Dominique Ait-Ouyahia McAdams, Paolo Lembo, Peter Schumann, Peter Simkin, and W. Bryan Wannop. They have provided substantive written inputs based on their extensive field experience.

This interim report is being distributed as a work in progress to solicit comments and suggestions.It will hopefully contribute to the ongoing discussions on UNDP policy related to crisis countries.Comments should be sent to Frank O'Donnell, Principal Advisor for Governance in Crisis Countries, Management Development and Governance Division Bureau for Development Policy, (Telephone: 212-906-6802/
Facsimile: 212-906-6471).

Executive Summary

This paper is an attempt to take stock of UNDP's efforts to support acutely vulnerable countries, those in crisis (or "special development situations"), in tackling the fundamental governance dimensions of crisis at the root, and laying solid foundations for sustainable peace, recovery, and development. The importance of governance, and the strengthening of key national institutions for political development, has gained increasing recognition in recent years, especially for the prevention and management of, and recovery from, deep-rooted systemic national crisis. The objective of most UNDP governance programmes for countries in crisis is to restore political and social stability and to create an enabling environment for economic recovery and sustainable human development. With some notable exceptions, lessons of experience so far have usually been piecemeal, anecdotal, scanty, and inadequately systematised.

Chapter I provides an introduction and background to UNDP's involvement in these special situations, and explains some of the underlying conceptual issues in relation to UNDP's evolving mandate.

Chapter II then proceeds to review some of the fundamental considerations that underlie conflict and its causality, and situates these within the broader context of changes in the social, economic, and political life of a society. It brings out the importance of obtaining a better understanding of a conflict's dynamics if one is to satisfactorily address its consequences, and in those cases possible, prevent a conflict from descending into violence.It also demonstrates the critical importance of developing better analytical capacities to underpin early preventive action.

Chapter III then proceeds to address experience gained by UNDP with governance programmes under a variety of interrelated headings. It clearly observes that early and sustained support for good governance and the re-establishment of the fundamental institutions of society are essential for stability, recovery and political, economic, and social development. This requires reconstruction of the framework of governance, restoration of law and order, revival of the legitimacy and credibility of government, public sector reform and decentralisation in favour of localised empowerment, and greater participation of civil society.Governance programmes must be integrated into broader frameworks that combine political, humanitarian, human rights, and development activities. The planning of governance activities must be carefully attuned to local situations. When peace is in sight, strategic governance initiatives must be taken at the earliest possible stage, often at the start of the post-war period, as an integral part of the overall immediate recovery process.Transition cannot be expected to have ended until several basic governance prerequisites are in place. Effective governance programmes have special process and management requirements that require continued nurturing; sensitive management of thorny and difficult issues in the transition process is crucial for stability.

Tomorrow's leaders are today's children. Programmes must be tailored to address the concerns and needs of youth, not just in terms of civic education and human rights, but also to promote healthy lifestyles, to wean away from drug involvement, and to cultivate social cohesion and inter-generational community values. Governance programmes should provide support over an extended period, often several years if not decades, for initiatives which promote a common social vision to emerge from the process of reconciliation within and between fractured communities. The following summary now focusses more specifically on the main subject areas of
Chapter III:

Political Reconciliation
Based on limited experience, the study indicates that UNDP support can be useful in facilitating parties towards accommodation by creating or sponsoringa forum for discussion; however, this may require more active mediation than UNDP may be able to engage in, hence UNDP cannot act alone, but rather within a wider political support framework. UNDP programmes can, however, help create an acceptable distribution of influence or power through institutional development projects which address the legal framework for the nation's polity to act. Programmes can also be designed to promote confidence-building through practical collaboration on rehabilitation, e.g. programmes which bring former adversaries together for the restoration of common cultural heritage.

This study points out, however, that in countries traumatized by human rights abuses and impunity, social renewal and reconciliation do not happen overnight; healing must start with social accommodation and confidence-building between affected communities. Systems of governance play crucial roles in forging settlement. The balance struck between prosecution and amnesty may hold the key not only to prolonged peace, but to developing a culture which prevents acts of impunity in the future; in this regard, Truth Commissions are an important form of social catharsis, without necessarily reneging on human rights, justice, or amnesty.

Elections and Democratic Transition
Elections are viewed as a means of legitimising a government on the grounds that it represents the view of the people expressed democratically and with the participation of all communities even those hitherto excluded from the political process. In practice, however, the degree of legitimacy conferred depends on the structure of the elections, and on the type of representation required.

Experience recounted in this review indicates that pressure to hold elections before basic institutions are in place can backfire on their credibility, and prevent addressing the fundamental institutional foundations for recovery and stability. Although it is crucial to hold elections early enough to legitimise new democratic power structures, some minimal institutional capabilities need to be put in place before one can expect elections to be conducted properly.The review suggests therefore that elections should not be heralded as the end of the transition, but rather as an entry-point for shifting focus and support to developing the capacity of governing institutions, amongst other priorities.

Legislative Systems and Legislature
As is increasingly widely recognised, substantive constitutional issues lie at the core of the process of reconciliation, usually needing reintroduction or revision to ensure separation of powers, accountability, equitable distribution of representation, protection of minority rights, manageable parliamentary procedures and transparency, and progressive legislative and policy review. The structure and management of parliamentary systems are crucial factors in the process of peace-building as they involve the distribution of political power. UNDP's involvement in this area emphasises the potentially close relationship between its involvement in governance and the broader, political functions of the United Nations in establishing a basis for lasting peace. This review comments that UNDP projects so far tend to emphasise the strengthening of administrative and management systems associated with running legislatures rather than focussing on the core of the political issues associated with the role, structure, and functions of parliament. Project interventions in constitutional, parliamentary and other governance areas have too often focussed on administrative and management systems; the latent opportunities to influence the substance of political development, as distinct from the form, should not be missed. A special emphasis should be placed on civil society access and participation in decision-making processes.

Judiciary and Civil Police
In extreme conflict situations, the legal infrastructure and the ranks of the judiciary are particularly vulnerable to deliberate destruction. This study reveals that UNDP's approach to strengthening the judiciary has been diverse and sometimes piecemeal, veering from physical reconstruction to legislative reform. Insufficient attention has been paid to restoring the legal social capital through training. UNDP assistance has in a few cases been hampered by the almost complete absence of even minimally trained lawyers (e.g. Rwanda, Cambodia).Special efforts are required in the post-conflict setting to restore the expertise and administrative capabilities of the justice system, including extensive new or re-training. Insufficient attention is given to restoring the legal social capital of devastated societies; a more consistent and long-term approach is needed for judicial revitalisation and reform.

Programmes should be designed to promote the independence and accountability of the judiciary. Promotion of the administration of justice must be based on rule of law, human rights, and international treaty obligations. Failure to ensure accountability of police forces results in renewed abuses in some post-war settings, hence public security reforms should develop civil police training focussing on human rights, community policing, and political neutrality, in addition to technical functions. Different donor country practices, ethics, standards, and techniques for civil police must be adapted to a recipient country's needs and not become the basis for confusion between technical advisors.

The study observes that the past history associated with police forces has often made UNDP hesitant to enter into police capacity-building programmes for fear that such assistance might merely strengthen the repressive capabilities of the police force and might irreversibly undermine its own long-term credibility. The latter, it is often feared, would damage UNDP's effectiveness and ability to perform in other areas more important to its longer-term mandate of strengthening national capacity for sustainable human development.

It is therefore essential that programmes geared to development of the police force not only concentrate on the normal areas of police training such as criminal investigation, traffic control and accident investigation and general management, but also on human rights, prison management, and community policing practices. Attention also needs to be paid to emphasising the importance of preserving the political neutrality of the police force. Assistance provided by UNDP to strengthen accountability through a variety of instruments must therefore ensure that the assistance gears them to work with police forces and the government to identify viable policies and solutions that are acceptable.

Macroeconomic Management
Transition periods following conflicts are potentially very unstable from an economic point of view. Yet economic stability is a crucial factor in securing long-term political stability and harmony and preparing a country for democratic elections and the formation of a legitimate government. Continuing tight management of the economy is therefore one of the most urgent and important responsibilities of a newly established government. Peace usually brings a huge influx of people, capital, competition, and opportunities; the influx can further distort the local economy if not properly managed, hence immediate macroeconomic assistance is usually needed to secure economic foundations of transition, and cannot wait for the Bretton Woods institutions - UNDP has to be more rapidly engaged.

This study confirms that economic rehabilitation requires a coherent macroeconomic framework for peace and recovery, possibly including budgetary support, rehabilitation of financial institutions, restoration of appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, including investment in key sectors, and creation of enabling conditions for savings and foreign investment, debt relief, and return of expatriate/emigre expertise.

Reintegration and Governance at Local Levels
Experience shows that the creation of capacity within community based institutions to absorb and manage incoming assistance, the inclusion of new target groups in decision-making processes and the participatory selection of sub-project activities, all contribute to maximising local ownership and commitment, increasing cost effectiveness and ensuring sustainability of project results. They also serve as an effective mechanism for strengthening civil society organisations in the absence of substantial government capacity. In order to deal comprehensively with needs such as these, especially the reintegration of returnees into host communities, UNDP has promoted integrated Area Development Schemes, and more recently, national and local Mine Action Programmes. Area Development Schemes are most successful when they start up in a measured way and focus at the outset on the creation of conditions that enable people to return and resume the management of their own communities and their development.

In this regard, the issue of land ownership is one that is of great importance in the reintegration and reconciliation process, and support for the legal resolution of disputes and the apportionment of land often forms an important part of the work of area development. Government capacity to ensure agrarian reform and the fair and equitable distribution of land is however often weak or non-existent.Reintegration assistance that is developmental must therefore not only be sustained over a longer period, but be started early enough to cover the resettlement and reintegration needs of returnee refugees, internal-displacees (IDPs), and demobilised ex-combatants, within the framework of assistance to local host communities.

Within the wider ambit of reintegration not only of refugees and IDPs, but also of ex-combatants, this study reviews demobilisation experience too. Demobilisation can fail due to complex factors: absence of political commitment to reconciliation, breakdown in trust, continuing foreign interference, inadequate independent monitoring and verification, failure in the extension of state administration to opposition areas, poor selection/training of decentralised staff, continuing criminal interests in illicit trading; hence again the need for comprehensive approaches, but also adequate resourcing through early funding and expertise needed to create a critical mass, and sustain a positive momentum in peace implementation. Excessive early emphasis on premature demobilisation in the absence of guarantees of benefits to participants may hamper conclusion and implementation of peace accords. This must be reconciled with the imperative to secure disarmament and restore public security - there are no simple solutions, but the risks must be borne in mind, and comprehensive approaches adopted that work on a broad integrated front to secure social peace.

Public Administration and Civil Service Reform

Public sector reform, including reform of the structure and functions of government at the national and local levels along with the structure, composition, policies and size of the civil service are all issues of central importance to the process of stabilisation and peace-building. In order to overcome political resistance and to drive forward the process of public administration reform, UNDP has often supported the creation of Public Service Reform Commissions in the most sensitive reaches of government. The impact of this political choice of placing programmes at the apex of government is unclear in the case of post-conflict countries, as no systematic assessment of beneficiary perceptions has been conducted. Some of the strategic priorities proposed under UNDP public administration reform programmes have addressed the economic requirements of the country without sufficiently considering the nature of the political entente being fostered at the national level.

Institutional foundations of crisis countries, already weak before, deteriorate further during crisis. Hence, decentralisation should be undertaken in tandem with revitalisation of the centre, otherwise centrifugal forces can rip the fabric of society asunder again.In most cases, the recurrent costs of maintaining the public sector form the largest portion of the national budget, but public administration reforms often fail to adequately take political considerations into account. Rapid downsizing can destabilise society in the absence of coping strategies. Politically sensitive public administration reform is an essential ingredient of economic rehabilitation.

Decentralisation, local governance and support to civil society organisations can empower people and local organisations to claim and exercise their rights and to govern themselves in a more equitable and effective manner. However, while it could be argued that decentralisation of administrative and budgetary authority can result in empowerment of groups previously excluded, the centrifugal forces at play in post-conflict situations can result in breakdown of the fabric of government if the centre is not sufficiently re-vitalised and consolidated, but in a way which allows it to be sensitive to the concerns of peripheral areas.Re-defining the role of the state is not easy, but the negotiation process for post-conflict recovery often offers unprecedented opportunities to reconfigure centre-periphery relations, and to apply the concept of subsidiarity, in at least some measure to internal governance.

Human Rights
Human rights play an important role in the outcome of the reconciliation and recovery process. Thorny and difficult issues concerning human rights crop up in the aftermath of conflict and are frequently cited in order to hold individuals or groups accountable for past wrongdoing. The way in which these issues are addressed often strikes at the very core of a peace process. Effective management of the process is crucial to the preservation of political stability. Restoration of the Rule of Law and respect for Human Rights must have absolute priority. Human rights must be understood as the spectrum of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights. Human rights must not become just one other compartmentalised aspect of recovery, but must be infused throughout all activities, "mainstreamed" in underpinning all recovery and development programming.Considerable effort must be invested in promoting human rights education and training across the spectrum of key actors in post-conflict transitions, and indeed in a broad-based approach across society.

Implications for UNDP

The final
Chapter IV then brings out a number of issues calling for a more focused corporate approach to crisis countries, especially in regard to UNDP's competitive advantage in the area of good governance:

  • Capacity-building, reform, and restructuring of key institutions and economic regimes must be central to the quest for lasting solutions.
  • Development considerations, especially governance, must feature as an important consideration in the UN's political discussions and decisions.
  • Governance programmes must be central to support to prevention and post-conflict transition.
  • Governance and capacity-building needs of countries emerging from crisis and conflict are different from those of other programme countries: they have common features that distinguish them from more "normal" ones.
  • This requires the development of product lines in each of the most commonly required areas, including some new and original work.
  • It also supposes a need to develop clearer corporate policies that lend credibility and a far more coherent and less fragmented approach on a global basis.

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