Today between forty and sixty nations, home to more than one billion people, have either collapsed or are teetering on the brink of failure. The world's worst problems--terrorism, drugs and human trafficking, absolute poverty, ethnic conflict, disease, genocide--originate in such states, and the international community has devoted billions of dollars to solving the problem. Yet by and large the effort has not succeeded.
Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart have taken an active part in the effort to save failed states for many years, serving as World Bank officials, as advisers to the UN, and as high-level participants in the new government of Afghanistan. In Fixing Failed States, they describe the issue--vividly and convincingly--offering an on-the-ground picture of why past efforts have not worked and advancing a groundbreaking new solution to this most pressing of global crises. For the paperback edition, they have added a new preface that addresses the continuing crisis in light of ongoing governance problems in weak states like Afghanistan and the global financial recession. As they explain, many of these countries already have the resources they need, if only we knew how to connect them to global knowledge and put them to work in the right way. Their state-building strategy, which assigns responsibility equally among the international community, national leaders, and citizens, maps out a clear path to political and economic stability. The authors provide a practical framework for achieving these ends, supporting their case with first-hand examples of struggling territories such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo and Nepal as well as the world's success stories--Singapore, Ireland, and even the American South.
Ghani and Lockhart, both former U.N. advisers to Afghanistan, spotlight the critical problem of failed states: countries where governments have all but collapsed, basic services go unprovided and terrorism and criminality reign unchecked or even abetted by a corrupt and predatory state. The authors do a fine job in emphasizing the centrality of a strong, accountable state in addressing poverty and underdevelopment. Unfortunately, their analysis suffers from its heavy reliance on management theory. Abstractions (such as the power of networks, flows of information and capital, webs of value creation ) and business-school truisms ( underlying a sound management system is an effective supply-chain management ) litter their turgid discussion. Fixated on New Economy conceits, they say little about the crucial task of quelling violence and lawlessness; instead they dwell on globalization-oriented development strategies drawn from Ireland, Singapore, Oregon and other regions that are not failed states. (Fatuously, they even liken Sudan's travails to those of troubled conglomerate Tyco International.) The authors do offer a persuasive critique of the ill-conceived, incoherent aid complex run by the U.N. and other agencies, which, they argue, undermines and supersedes weak states instead of stabilizing them. Aid officials could learn from these insights, but they don't amount to a comprehensive fix-it.