Introduction: First Willy Brandt Summer School on Managing Fragility

by: Solveig Richter and Florian Hoffmann

Freedom from fear, conflict and violence is the most fundamental human right, and the essential foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies. At the same time, people the world over expect their governments to be honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs. We are calling for a fundamental shift – to recognize peace and good governance as core elements of wellbeing, not optional extras. This is a universal agenda, for all countries.

[United Nation’s Report of the High-Level Panel of

Eminent Persons on the Post-2015

Development Agenda, May 2013]



Welcome to the Willy Brandt School

Welcome the bulletin’s special coverage of the ‘1st Willy Brandt Summer School on Managing Fragility – Good Governance in Transition Contexts’ which, in its inaugural year, is dedicated to the complex theme of ‘Good Governance in Post-Conflict Countries – Consolidating Peace, Promoting Democracy ?’. Thanks to a generous grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) we have been able to set up this new Brandt School programme and to welcome fifteen young scholars and professionals from across the globe, who will, jointly with seven regular students of the School, participate in an intensive, two-week long study of how peace and (good) governance can be combined in the fragilized societies of post-conflict states. Twelve different lecturers will be examining the various facets of this complex theme in the course of the coming fourteen days, there will be a hands-on simulation exercise, an excursion to explore Germany’s own conflictual past, and a study trip to Berlin bringing in the policy practitioner’s perspective. In all we hope to offer particiants an intensive and in-depth experience that will not provide definitive answers but the capacity to ask the better questions. This approach is in line with the Brandt School’s overall take on the study of policy and governance, in general, and on conflict and post-conflict, in particular, namely to think outside cognitive boxes and, instead, to explore issues in a transdisciplinary, intercultural and practice-oriented way with a view to tailoring solutions to the specificities of different places, peoples, individuals, and horizons. We look forward to embarking on this short adventure jointly with you !


Fragility in Post-Conflict and Transition Societies

Recently, a report by the World Bank revealed “glimmer of hope”: an analysis had shown that despite enduring political and economic challenges, 20 fragile and conflict-affected states have recently met one or more targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – among them countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, and Gaza.

The report of the World Bank and the Post-2015 Development Agenda underline one of the major challenges of today’s peace and development policies: managing fragility in post-conflict and transition societies. Not only countries marked by extreme poverty and under-development but also politically and economically more advanced countries may face periods of upheaval and weak governance, as the case of Egypt strikingly demonstrates. In situations of high political fragility, there is a lack of consensus on legitimate norms structuring political decision-making processes. Even worse, in countries where state institutions and formal order completely collapsed, legitimate and effective governance is largely absent, extremely weak, or deeply contested, and people’s conception of a legitimate political order may be missing. Thus, managing fragility and helping countries to establish good governance is one of the main instruments to development and stable peace.


Good Governance in Fragile Contexts

Starting from a non-teleological understanding of ‘transition’, periods of rapid change are characterized by a high-level of contingency with regard to the pre-conditions of good governance. Two cross-cutting themes are traditionally highly relevant in post-conflict and transition contexts: legitimacy and effectiveness (a more recent strand of literature focuses on authority and state capacity instead of effectiveness). Legitimacy concerns the relations between the state (or state authorities) and society and implies the acceptance by the citizen that the state is the legitimate actor to enforce generally binding rules. In fragile contexts the monopoly on the legitimate use of force is often contested among various groups fighting for power. In addition, even if in autocratic or authoritarian regimes the state often has the monopoly to use force, the regime is rarely perceived as legitimate in the eyes of the population.  Effectiveness usually refers to the capacity of the state to respond to citizens’ needs and desires, provide basic public services, assure citizens’ welfare or support normal economic activity.

One of the major instruments to strengthen the legitimacy and the effectiveness of political order in transition contexts is the concept of ‘good governance’. Originally introduced by the World Bank it is argued that governance will lead to democracy, development and economic prosperity as long as it adheres to certain principles, mainly a participatory approach, accountability and transparency. However, contrary to well established democracies, fragile societies emerging from violent conflict pose special challenges for external actors and their efforts to support transition:  While local ownership is rhetorically a common goal by all stakeholders, its implementation often falls behind expectation. Also, while reforms in the political, the economic and the legal sector are often thought to reinforce each-other, dilemmas and trade-offs regularly occur. To give one example: Ideally, good governance in post-conflict transition goes hand in hand with democratization processes. Accountability as one principle of good governance more than often translates in the holding of regular elections. However, especially in post-conflict countries pre-conditions for successful elections such as free media and stable institutions are seldom met, so that early elections may lead to renewed violence instead of the installation of an effective and legitimate government. In addition to these core aspects of good governance, peace building and post-conflict transition also has to address the legacies of war and violence, among it transitional justice, security sector reform, human security, fight against corruption and free media.