Reconstruction from the Bottom-Up : Can it work? The UNCDF Intervention in West-Africa

Christel Alvergne, December 2009


  • State
  • Reconstruction
  • governance
  • economic development
  • international aid
  • West Africa
  • Sierra Leone
  • Guinea-Conakry
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Liberia
  • Ivory Coast
  • Chad
  • Central African Republic
  • Niger
  • Mauritania

The literature on the contribution of the State and good governance to development has grown considerably in recent years. In Africa, a rare consensus has emerged as to the pivotal, although limited, role of the State in providing for the institutional conditions for economic growth and on the importance of building inclusive governance regimes based on trust and the active participation of citizens. Overall, sub-Saharan African countries which perform reasonably well on the development front appear to do well also on the two others. Nevertheless, there is still little agreement on the specification of the “model”. Which comes first ? Governance? Economic Growth? How much “good governance” is enough?

Working out this consensus in the policy field has also remained elusive. What about industrialisation (is it still a condition for growth), urbanisation (can urban centres become “growth” machines), natural resources (sell them or keep them), agriculture (the subsistence or the market way). All these questions (and other) need to be answered rapidly, boldly if possible, in an environment which shows little tolerance for error and no assurance of irreversibility. Some sectors move more rapidly than others, health more than sanitation for example and some environments are more difficult to work in. Although the worst is not always inevitable, breakdowns do occur. How do you pick-up the pieces after thirty years of guerilla war or after an on-and-off civil war which has left a country without a functioning State and very little government? How do you rebuild public trust in situations where it has long ceased to exist? What role for international aid in those circumstances? These are the questions examined in this article. For simplicity, we will use the “Fragile/Post-conflict” (F/PC) expression to refer to a particular sub-group of such difficult situations, knowing full well that these three words forcefully associated in this acronym should probably be left alone.

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The full article can be found in the publication “Rethinking these Foundations of the State” (forthcoming 2010)