Building Democracy After Conflict

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Building Democracy After Conflict

Stephen D. Krasner

Stephen D. Krasner is Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations and director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. His books include Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (1999) and Problematic Sovereignty (2001).

ne of the major foreign policy challenges of the contemporary era, indeed perhaps the major challenge, is how to encourage the development of well-functioning polities that provide security, social services, and opportunities for economically remunerative work. Democracy, a system of governance that allows citizens to express their views and, more importantly, hold government officials accountable for their actions, is the most effective although not the only way to achieve and sustain such a polity. The most important determinants of democratic development have been underlying socioeconomic conditions and institutional changes initiated by strategically calculating political elites. In countries that suffer from some combination of internal strife, poverty, limited governmental capacity, or a dearth of liberal institutions even if elections take place, the prospects for developing full-fledged democracy based solely on domestic resources and actors are poor—and the perverse incentives generated by the contemporary international environment often make matters worse. The fixity of borders, the near-absence of violent state death since 1945, and the availability of revenues from raw-materials exports and foreign aid have reduced the incentives for political leaders in badly governed and postconflict countries to craft deals with their own citizens that could give rise to self-enforcing institutions of the sort that improve life generally for a society and all those living within it. The leaders of today’s powerful democratic states have a large stake in promoting better governance in failed, failing, and postconflict countries. The disease, criminality, humanitarian crises, and terrorist threats that such countries tend to breed will not remain within their borders Journal of Democracy Volume 16, Number 1 January 2005



Journal of Democracy

forever. Indeed, in recent years such threats have led the United States, with support from other countries, to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and to grapple in each with the massive challenges of nurturing and supporting new structures of governance. To promote better governance up to and including democracy, policy makers need effective tools. The toolkit now on hand, alas, consists mostly of governance assistance and transitional administration, neither of which has proven particularly successful. Shared sovereignty would be a promising addition to the available set of policy options. Shared-sovereignty entities are created by a voluntary agreement between recognized national political authorities and an external actor such as another state or a regional or international organization. Such arrangements can be limited to specific issue areas like monetary policy or the management of oil revenues. The legitimacy of shared-sovereignty institutions would depend at first on their voluntary negotiation by internationally recognized national political authorities. Shared sovereignty is not something to be imposed. It is logically irrelevant, moreover, for a political entity (such as Kosovo) that lacks international legal recognition and with it any effective “sovereignty” to share. Over the long term, shared-sovereignty institutions would have to be self-enforcing; that is, neither the national nor the foreign signatory would have an incentive to defect from the arrangement. And this, in turn, would depend on the arrangement’s effectiveness. Shared sovereignty could contribute to better governance and democracy in several ways. For countries that have emerged from conflict sufficiently to hold elections that create...
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